• Dinesh Lahoti

Play of math and chess

People who are fond of math are often a fan of chess (if they know how to play it) as well. Can you guess why? Well, there are n number of connections between both and if one goes into exploring that, one could find a huge treasure chest filled with jewels unknown to most.

For starters, one of the most striking features in both math and chess is about finding patterns and working with them to solve problems, and it doesn’t stop at that. From computing what the opponent is going to play - probability, to how many different variations of the same move order can play out and knowing which is the best one to choose - permutation and combination, to understanding which piece is worth how much in a situation, the list goes on. Even the moves in a game of chess are recorded in a certain mathematical order.

In chess, every piece has an inherent value but the worth of that piece might change in the game according to the position played out. Similarly, in math, we are all aware of how the positioning of numbers in an equation can change the whole equation altogether.

We need to understand that math tries to tell us an imaginary story based on abstract hypotheses. For example, 1+1=2, thus, here math tells the story of natural numbers. This is one of the foundational reasons why mathematics is interwoven in strategic games like chess, Go, etc. Because these games are based on simple rules and the players come together to form a story on the board with these tools.

There is a famous story of Akbar and Birbal, where Akbar was so pleased with Birbal that he offered Birbal a reward of his choosing and Birbal asked for one grain of rice for the 1st square, two grains of rice for second, 4 for the third, 8 for the fifth and so on.

Akbar agreed. How many grains of rice do you think Akbar had to give Birbal in order to fulfil his wish?

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