Your 11-year-old nephew has just challenged you to chess and thinks he will beat you in no time. You suddenly realize it has been ten years since you last played chess. Damn. You claimed that you were a chess champ in your childhood. Your family shouldn’t laugh at you for being a little prick.
You secretly read the rules of the game while you wait (shit; how can you do that big casting again? Let’s have some fun counting the possible matches. Although it won’t help your win, you will have a humorous anecdote that you can tell to make up the difference.
The white player has 20 options at the beginning of the game (the eight pawns that can advance one or more squares and the exit of a knight, each with two possibilities). Black player, on the other hand, has 20 options. 20*20= 400 possible moves are available just for the first move. So far, so good.
The second round is upon us. The movement possibilities are immediately complicated (and directly depend on the first move… logically). The researchers have estimated that there are 20,000 possibilities. There are 20,000 possible movement combinations. It’s alright.
The human brain cannot calculate the total number possible. This is evident from the third round. The figure is average, but it becomes almost astronomical!
We are now blocked from the third move… Claude Shannon, a mathematician, was more potent than us and completed the calculations. You will be dizzy by his conclusions: 10,120, many possible games. This is a 1 with 120 zeros left… I won’t insult you by writing all of it down! It bears the name the Shannon number, in homage to the mathematician that performed this research (deceased in 2001).
1 Googol is billions of trillions of times smaller than Shannon’s number (Ah! The magic of the power of 10 …)
This surprising result can be summarized: the average number of moves per game is 40. Every time a player is allowed to move a piece of furniture, he has an average of 30 options. That’s a good thing, as (30×30 40) is precisely equal to the Shannon number…
There are only 10 80 Atoms in the Universe… which is 1 billion, trillion, billion, and billion times smaller than the possible chess game! Impressive, right?
– Uncle! What are you doing? Do you want to be a part of the game?
“Shut down, little con. You’re seriously beginning to break them with all your stupid failures.”, you think very loudly.
– Yes, Kevin, I’m coming, two seconds!
Your temples are soaked in sweat. You know you’re going to have a hard time.
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