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"Good company's a chessboard."
BYRON'S Don Juan, xiii. 89.

A chessboard is essentially a square plane divided into sixty-four smaller squares by straight lines at right angles. Originally it was not chequered (that is, made with its rows and columns alternately black and white, or of any other two colours), and this improvement was introduced merely to help the eye in actual play. The utility of the chequers is unquestionable. For example, it facilitates the operation of the bishops, enabling us to see at the merest glance that our king or pawns on black squares are not open to attack from an opponent's bishop running on the white diagonals. Yet the chequering of the board is not essential to the game of chess. Also, when we are propounding puzzles on the chessboard, it is often well to remember that additional interest may result from "generalizing" for boards containing any number of squares, or from limiting ourselves to some particular chequered arrangement, not necessarily a square. We will give a few puzzles dealing with chequered boards in this general way.


I recently asked myself the question: In how many different ways may a chessboard be divided into two parts of the same size and shape by cuts along the lines dividing the squares? The problem soon proved to be both fascinating and bristling with difficulties. I present it in a simplified form, taking a board of smaller dimensions.

It is obvious that a board of four squares can only be so divided in one way—by a straight cut down the centre—because we shall not count reversals and reflections as different. In the case of a board of sixteen squares—four by four—there are just six different ways. I have given all these in the diagram, and the reader will not find any others. Now, take the larger board of thirty-six squares, and try to discover in how many ways it may be cut into two parts of the same size and shape.



The young lady in the illustration is confronted with a little cutting-out difficulty in which the reader may be glad to assist her. She wishes, for some reason that she has not communicated to me, to cut that square piece of valuable material into four parts, all of exactly the same size and shape, but it is important that every piece shall contain a lion and a crown. As she insists that the cuts can only be made along the lines dividing the squares, she is considerably perplexed to find out how it is to be done. Can you show her the way? There is only one possible method of cutting the stuff.



We will here consider the question of those boards that contain an odd number of squares. We will suppose that the central square is first cut out, so as to leave an even number of squares for division. Now, it is obvious that a square three by three can only be divided in one way, as shown in Fig. 1. It will be seen that the pieces A and B are of the same size and shape, and that any other way of cutting would only produce the same shaped pieces, so remember that these variations are not counted as different ways. The puzzle I propose is to cut the board five by five (Fig. 2) into two pieces of the same size and shape in as many different ways as possible. I have shown in the illustration one way of doing it. How many different ways are there altogether? A piece which when turned over resembles another piece is not considered to be of a different shape.



Once upon a time there was a Grand Lama who had a chessboard made of pure gold, magnificently engraved, and, of course, of great value. Every year a tournament was held at Lhassa among the priests, and whenever any one beat the Grand Lama it was considered a great honour, and his name was inscribed on the back of the board, and a costly jewel set in the particular square on which the checkmate had been given. After this sovereign pontiff had been defeated on four occasions he died—possibly of chagrin.

Now the new Grand Lama was an inferior chess-player, and preferred other forms of innocent amusement, such as cutting off people's heads. So he discouraged chess as a degrading game, that did not improve either the mind or the morals, and abolished the tournament summarily. Then he sent for the four priests who had had the effrontery to play better than a Grand Lama, and addressed them as follows: "Miserable and heathenish men, calling yourselves priests! Know ye not that to lay claim to a capacity to do anything better than my predecessor is a capital offence? Take that chessboard and, before day dawns upon the torture chamber, cut it into four equal parts of the same shape, each containing sixteen perfect squares, with one of the gems in each part! If in this you fail, then shall other sports be devised for your special delectation. Go!" The four priests succeeded in their apparently hopeless task. Can you show how the board may be divided into four equal parts, each of exactly the same shape, by cuts along the lines dividing the squares, each part to contain one of the gems?



Once upon a time the Lord Abbot of St. Edmondsbury, in consequence of "devotions too strong for his head," fell sick and was unable to leave his bed. As he lay awake, tossing his head restlessly from side to side, the attentive monks noticed that something was disturbing his mind; but nobody dared ask what it might be, for the abbot was of a stern disposition, and never would brook inquisitiveness. Suddenly he called for Father John, and that venerable monk was soon at the bedside.

"Father John," said the Abbot, "dost thou know that I came into this wicked world on a Christmas Even?"

The monk nodded assent.

"And have I not often told thee that, having been born on Christmas Even, I have no love for the things that are odd? Look there!"

The Abbot pointed to the large dormitory window, of which I give a sketch. The monk looked, and was perplexed.

"Dost thou not see that the sixty-four lights add up an even number vertically and horizontally, but that all the diagonal lines, except fourteen are of a number that is odd? Why is this?"

"Of a truth, my Lord Abbot, it is of the very nature of things, and cannot be changed."

"Nay, but it shall be changed. I command thee that certain of the lights be closed this day, so that every line shall have an even number of lights. See thou that this be done without delay, lest the cellars be locked up for a month and other grievous troubles befall thee."

Father John was at his wits' end, but after consultation with one who was learned in strange mysteries, a way was found to satisfy the whim of the Lord Abbot. Which lights were blocked up, so that those which remained added up an even number in every line horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, while the least possible obstruction of light was caused?



Into how large a number of different pieces may the chessboard be cut (by cuts along the lines only), no two pieces being exactly alike? Remember that the arrangement of black and white constitutes a difference. Thus, a single black square will be different from a single white square, a row of three containing two white squares will differ from a row of three containing two black, and so on. If two pieces cannot be placed on the table so as to be exactly alike, they count as different. And as the back of the board is plain, the pieces cannot be turned over.



I once set myself the amusing task of so dissecting an ordinary chessboard into letters of the alphabet that they would form a complete sentence. It will be seen from the illustration that the pieces assembled give the sentence, "CUT THY LIFE," with the stops between. The ideal sentence would, of course, have only one full stop, but that I did not succeed in obtaining.

The sentence is an appeal to the transgressor to cut himself adrift from the evil life he is living. Can you fit these pieces together to form a perfect chessboard?


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