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A Powerful Little Number


November 2009

According to an Indian myth, Grand Vizier Sissa Ben Dahir invented the game of chess and gave the game to King Shirham of India. The king offered a reward of gold for the game, but the grand vizier stated that he would prefer to instead have some grains of wheat—one grain for the first square of the chessboard, two grains for the second square, four grains for the third, and so on—doubling the amount each time. The king granted this seemingly modest request. This myth became known as the Wheat and Chessboard problem.