May 212012

There is a fiendishly difficult problem that’s a great way to while away a couple of hours on a chess board. Imagine that you have eight queens (and only eight queens – no other pieces), and that each can attack and take any of the others. How would you go about placing them on a chess board so that no queen can take any other?

This problem was devised by a chap called Max Bezzel, a German who specialised in the creation of chess problems. The problem was set in 1848, but it took two years before a chap called Franz Nauck came up with the first solutions.

Why did it take so long? Mainly because given that there are 64 squares on a chess board, there are over 4 billion possible combinations of 8 queens to be had. However, there are only 92 solutions to the problem. That means it was a very difficult puzzle to crack (until the last 10 years or so when computing power became cheap) even with a computer, and back in 1850 there weren’t any PC’s to be had.

It’s such a good puzzle that many top mathematicians have worked on it over the years, and that includes Carl Friedrich Gauss (one of the most famous contributors to both our understanding of maths and physics).

To make matters more complex still, whilst there are 92 solutions – many of these solutions are in fact identical (this is because you can use symmetry to reflect or rotate some of the answers to different positions on a fixed board). In fact there are only 12 truly unique solutions to be found when you eliminate the symmetrical overlap. We’ve given you one here to get you started. It’s best to set up this puzzle on a large chess set and study the problem thoroughly. Do you think you can find any of the others?

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  One Response to “The Eight Queens Puzzle”

  1. Excellent! This puzzle was also featured in a video game called, “The 7th Guest”, released in 1993. It has just recentlly become available again through (Good Old Games), a company that takes old computer games and updates the code so they will run on modern systems.

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