Banach–Mazur game

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In general topology, set theory and game theory, a BanachMazur game is a topological game played by two players, trying to pin down elements in a set (space). The concept of a Banach–Mazur game is closely related to the concept of Baire spaces. This game was the first infinite positional game of perfect information to be studied. It was introduced by Mazur as problem 43 in the Scottish book, and Mazur's questions about it were answered by Banach.

Definition and properties

In what follows we will make use of the formalism defined in Topological game. A general Banach–Mazur game is defined as follows: we have a topological space , a fixed subset , and a family of subsets of that satisfy the following properties.

We will call this game . Two players, and , choose alternatively elements , , of such that . The player wins if and only if .

The following properties hold.

Many other modifications and specializations of the basic game have been proposed: for a thorough account of these, refer to [1987]. The most common special case, called , consists in letting , i.e. the unit interval , and in letting consist of all closed intervals contained in . The players choose alternatively subintervals of such that , and wins if and only if . wins if and only if .

A simple proof: winning strategies

It is natural to ask for what sets does have a winning strategy. Clearly, if is empty, has a winning strategy, therefore the question can be informally rephrased as how "small" (respectively, "big") does (respectively, the complement of in ) have to be to ensure that has a winning strategy. To give a flavor of how the proofs used to derive the properties in the previous section work, let us show the following fact.

Fact: has a winning strategy if is countable, is T1, and has no isolated points.

Proof: Let the elements of be . Suppose that has been chosen by , and let be the (non-empty) interior of . Then is a non-empty open set in , so can choose a member of contained in this set. Then chooses a subset of and, in a similar fashion, can choose a member that excludes . Continuing in this way, each point will be excluded by the set , so that the intersection of all the will have empty intersection with . Q.E.D

The assumptions on are key to the proof: for instance, if is equipped with the discrete topology and consists of all non-empty subsets of , then has no winning strategy if (as a matter of fact, her opponent has a winning strategy). Similar effects happen if is equipped with indiscrete topology and .

A stronger result relates to first-order sets.

Fact: Let be a topological space, let be a family of subsets of satisfying the two properties above, and let be any subset of . has a winning strategy if and only if is meagre.

This does not imply that has a winning strategy if is not meagre. In fact, has a winning strategy if and only if there is some such that is a comeagre subset of . It may be the case that neither player has a winning strategy: when is and consists of the closed intervals , the game is determined if the target set has the property of Baire, i.e. if it differs from an open set by a meagre set (but the converse is not true). Assuming the axiom of choice, there are subsets of for which the Banach–Mazur game is not determined.


  • [1957] Oxtoby, J.C. The Banach–Mazur game and Banach category theorem, Contribution to the Theory of Games, Volume III, Annals of Mathematical Studies 39 (1957), Princeton, 159–163
  • [1987] Telgársky, R. J. Topological Games: On the 50th Anniversary of the Banach–Mazur Game, Rocky Mountain J. Math. 17 (1987), pp. 227–276.[1] (3.19 MB)
  • [2003] Julian P. Revalski The Banach–Mazur game: History and recent developments, Seminar notes, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France, 2003–2004 [2]