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THE PROBLEM

By Sarvadh Sathiaram – VII D

Often people regard Chess as a calculating game. But, can you imagine it being associated with rice?
You might think I am joking but there is a relationship (actually a very old one!) which is known as
the “Rice and the Chessboard problem”. In some ancient tales, it is sometimes referred to as the
wheat and chessboard problem.
Legend has it that once a king was very bored with the routine activities in his court. He wanted to
spice things up a little and put up a challenge to all his men. “Whoever would defeat him in a game
of chess would get whatever he wanted”, he proclaimed.
An astute young man accepted the challenge. He played well and defeated the king in the chess
game. The king upholding his promise asked the young man for what he wanted; expecting the
young man to ask for riches and power. Instead he asked the king to provide enough rice grains to
fill the 64 squares in the chess board starting with 1 grain in the 1st square and doubling the number
of grains in each square as they progressed through the 64 squares. The king thought it was a
simple and foolish thing to ask and without thinking through accepted the wish.
As they completed the 1st row, the king grew worried. What started as 1 grain in the 1st square
quickly became 511 grains when they reached the 8th square. It slowly dawned on him that to
complete the wish, he had to arrange for 18.4 x 1018 or 18.4 quintillion grains in total. This number
ended up being much more than the number of grains that were available in the royal granaries
throughout the kingdom. He had to accept defeat and conceded the throne.
So how did the young man outsmart the king?
If we consider T64 to be the total number of grains in the 64th square. Then,
T64 = 1+2+4+8+32+64+128+256+…. 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 = 18,446,744,073,709,551,615
grains!!!
Or in other words T64 = 20+21+22+…263
This is a perfect example of how 2 seemingly unconnected things (such as rice and chess in this case)
are connected with a third unexpected thing - MATH. This shows that math can be present even in
the most unusual places and can have a monumental impact on many things.
This only reinforces the fact that it is time for all of us to put our heads down and “FOCUS ON
MATH WITHOUT SULKING!!!”