Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Below is the story about the origin of chess that you might have heard or read it before, maybe in different versions.

The Story
The Grand Vizier, the principal adviser to the King, had invented a new game. It was played with a moving pieces on a square board comprised of sixty four red and black squares. The most important piece was the King. The next most important piece was the Grand Vizier - just what we might expect of a game invented by a Grand Vizier.

The object of the game was to capture the enemy King, and so the game was called in Persian, shahmat - shah for the King, mat for dead. Death to the King. In Russian it is still called shakhmat. In English there is an echo of this name - the final move is called 'checkmate'. The game, ofcourse, is chess.

Why a King should delight in the invention of a game called ' Death to the King' is a mystery. But, so the story goes, he was so pleased that he asked the Grand Vizier to name his own reward for so splendid an invention. The Grand Vizier had his answer ready. He was a modest man, he told the Shah; he wished for only a modest reward. Gesturing to the 8 columns and 8 rows of squares on the board he invented, he asked that he be given a single grain of wheat on the first square, twice that on the second square, twice that on the 3rd and so on until 64th square. 1 wheat for 1st square, 2 wheats for 2nd square, 4 wheats for 3rd square, 8 wheats for 4th square and so on...until 64th square.

The Shah protested because that reward is too modest. Why don't you take palaces, jewels, girls etc? offered the King.

Grand Vizier refused that all. He only want wheats (in that order) and only wheats.

OK said the King. As you wished

The Questions

  1. What is the titled of the book that i quote above story (with some amendments)?
  2. How much grain will Grand Vizier finally get (if he managed to get it at all)?
  3. What happened to Grand Vizier?
The Answers

  1. It is not a chess book. It is actually a science book written by the astronomer Carl Sagan titled "Billions and Billions: Thought of life and death at the brink of the new millenium" A very good book.
  2. Carl Sagan did calculate it and the figure is...more than 18 quintillion of grains weighted about 75 Billion metric tons or about 150 years of the world's grains production!
  3. Nobody knows. King might have gave him the Kingdom since the King failed to fulfill his 'modest' promise of reward. Unlikely. King might become suspicious and terrified with his Vizier he may ordered Viziermat. Death to the Vizier...and replaced the second most powerful piece on the board from Vizier to Queen (Likely)

1 comment:

  1. Ilham,
    My mum went to Tehran and she bought for me a Persian Chess set (made of metal)! Without me asking her! (Because she knew in my family, I was the Gila Chess person) That was in the 90's.. :)