Solitaire: Recent Developments


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1 Solitaire: Recent Developments arxiv:0.0v [math.co] Nov 00 John D. Beasley September 00 Abstract This special issue on Peg Solitaire has been put together by John Beasley as guest editor, and reports work by John Harris, Alain Maye, JeanCharles Meyrignac, George Bell, and others. Topics include: short solutions on the board and the hole French board, solving generalized cross boards and longarm boards. Five new problems are given for readers to solve, with solutions provided. Introduction and historical update There has recently been a flurry of activity on the game of Peg Solitaire, and I have suggested to George Jelliss that The Games and Puzzles Journal [] might be a convenient place for people to report new discoveries. His reaction was that he would like to introduce the game to readers by dedicating a special number to it, after which he will consider contributions as they arise, and he has asked me to provide the material for this special edition. It updates the material given in my book The Ins and Outs of Peg Solitaire [] and what was given there will not normally be repeated here, but enough background will be given to put any reader not previously familiar with the game s development in the picture. The Ins and Outs is now out of print and will probably remain so, but it can be found in most academic and many UK public service libraries, and there appears to be a steady trickle of copies on the secondhand market. The 99 edition differs from the 9 only in the addition of a page summarizing intervening developments and discoveries, and I can supply photocopies of this on request. The game s historical background is now well known. It originated in France in the late seventeenth century (there are references in French sources back to 9), and it appears to have been the Rubik s Cube of the court of Louis XIV. I summarized its early history [, p. ] and little appears to have been discovered since, but one statement in the book now Original version at Converted to L A TEX by George Bell with minor modifications to the text, November 00. Try ABEbooks.com.
2 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September 00 needs modification. I took a very cautious view of a passing reference in a letter written by Horace Walpole in, fearing that it might have referred to a card game, but David Parlett, who has looked into the games of the period much more deeply and extensively than I, tells me that my fears were groundless: Patience dates from the late eighteenth century, did not reach England until the nineteenth, and was not called Solitaire when it did [, p. ]. So the spread of our Solitaire to England by the middle of the eighteenth century can be taken as established. There is one matter in which discovery remains conspicuous by its absence. It has frequently been written that the game was invented by a prisoner in the Bastille, but I reported in 9 that the earliest reference to this appeared to be in an English book of 0, and nobody has yet drawn my attention to anything earlier. An uncorroborated English source of 0 is of course quite valueless as evidence for an alleged occurrence in France over a century before, and anyone who repeats this tale without citing a French source earlier than 0 should regard himself as perpetuating myth rather than history. Sadly, the more picturesque a legend surrounding the origin of a game or puzzle, the greater the likelihood that somebody has invented it along the way. The x board: the work of John Harris I gave solutions to various problems on the board in the 9 edition of The Ins and Outs, and on page of the 99 edition I added a note that John Harris had found all possible move solutions, one by hand and the rest by computer. I refrained from giving details on the grounds that he might still wish to publish them himself, but to the best of my knowledge he has not done so, and others are beginning to reproduce his results. I therefore think I should summarize what he sent me in 9, if only to establish his priority. a b c d e f A B B C C D E F F G G H E F F G G H I J J K K L I J J K K L M N N O O P Figure : The square board divided into Merson regions A P. Robin Merson observed back in 9 that the holes of the board could be divided into regions such that only the first jump of a multijump move could open up a new region (Figure ); any later jump had to be between regions already opened. It follows that it takes at least moves to clear the board if the initial vacancy is in a noncorner square, and moves if it is in a corner (because the first move refills this corner and we are still left with
3 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September 00 regions to be opened). Harris found a move solution to the problem vacate a and play to finish there back in 9, and Harry O. Davis subsequently found move solutions to the problems vacate c, finish at f ; and vacate c, finish at f. All these are in The Ins and Outs. That to start and finish at a ends with an elegant eightsweep loop. Subsequently (letter to me dated August 9) Harris found a move solution to the problem vacate c, finish at c : cc, ac, db, fd, aace (), aa, c aacc, db, cca, ecaac (0), ffdd, ff, dddffd, fd, aceecc. Don t know how to find these, he wrote, just copied a Davis beginning and got lucky. Harris then attacked the problem by computer, and by August 9 he had found move solutions to all the problems with noncorner starts apart from start and finish at c. His computer proved this to require moves. The remaining cornerstart problems, vacate a, finish at a or d had been solved in moves by Davis, and his solutions had appeared in the instructions to Wade Philpott s 9 game SWEEP. Harris s solution to start and finish at c used single jumps, then double jumps, then jumps from corners: cc, ac, db, dd, dd (), fdd, bdd, fdd, ee e, cce, acc (), aaac, fdbbbdd, fffdd, aceec. This has to be my favorite solution, he wrote. Readers who revel in the power of modern computers may care to note that all this was done on a TRS0, which if memory serves me right offered a mere Kb of RAM for operating system, program, and data together, backed up by a single Kb disc drive. Harris s results have recently been confirmed by JeanCharles Meyrignac. Solutions on the classical hole and hole boards The classical hole () and hole () boards offer no simple test for minimality such as is provided by the need to open up each of Merson s regions on a board, and there is usually a gap of two or three between the length of the shortest solution actually discovered and the number of moves that can be proved necessary by simple means. This gap can be filled only by an exhaustive analysis by computer.. The hole board In the original 9 edition of The Ins and Outs, I listed the shortest solutions found by Ernest Bergholt and Harry O. Davis to the singlevacancy singlesurvivor problems on the standard hole board, and I reported some lastminute computer calculations by myself which demonstrated them indeed to be the shortest possible. However, this was proof of nonexistence by failure to find despite a search believed exhaustive, and to achieve it on the machine at my disposal I had to resort to some fairly complicated testing to identify and reject blind alleys. I therefore took the view that the proof should be regarded as provisional
4 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September 00 pending independent confirmation. No such confirmation had been reported to me when the 99 edition went to press, but on October 00 JeanCharles Meyrignac reported [] that he had programmed the calculation independently and had verified that the solutions of Bergholt and Davis were indeed optimal. My 9 machine offered only Kb of RAM for program and data together, even less than that provided by Harris s TRS0, though I did have two 00Kb disc drives. Meyrignac, with a more powerful presentday machine at his disposal, had no need for complicated restriction testing and could perform a complete enumeration, reproducing all known solutions as well as demonstrating that there were none shorter.. The hole French board (see Figure a) Although this was historically the first board to be used, minimal solutions on it appear to have received less attention than those on the hole board, and in The Ins and Outs I could only report some relatively recent findings by Leonard Gordon and Harry O. Davis. Four of Gordon s solutions were subsequently beaten by Alain Maye (work dating from 9 but only recently brought to my notice), and I would have reported this in the 99 edition of The Ins and Outs had I been aware of it. Meyrignac has now performed an exhaustive enumeration by computer, which shows that the problem vacate c, play to a single survivor can be solved in 0 moves irrespective of which of the holes b/e/e/e is chosen to receive the survivor (Gordon and Maye had got each case down to ), and proves the remaining solutions of Gordon, Davis, and Maye to be optimal. Table below has been proved by Meyrignac to be definitive. Vacate Finish Length Investigator e 0 c b 0 e 0 Meyrignac (by computer) e 0 d Gordon d a Davis d Maye d 0 Gordon d a 0 Gordon d 0 Maye Table : Summary of shortest solutions on the hole French board. Maye s solutions: Vacate d, finish at d: dd, bd, dd, fd, ee (), cc, ac, ddb, ge, me. The report on his web site merely said All solutions, but he has clarified the matter in an to
5 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September 00 aac (0), bbdf, gge, db, bb, cc (), cc, ffdbbdf, ee, ff, ee (0), dddffd. Vacate d, finish at d: bd, cc, cc, acc, ecc (), ecc, bb, db, ccc, ac (0), ee, fd, ge, eccceee, df (), ge, geec, ac, ecc, dbbdd. The most interesting of Meyrignac s is vacate c, finish at e, which ends with an eightsweep: ec, dd, bd, cc, cc (), ecc, fdd, bd, gee, ge (0), ac, ff, dffdb, cee, ac (), ee, ddf, ge, bd, acee cccee! All Maye s and Meyrignac s solutions can be found on Meyrignac s web site []. Generalized cross boards and longarm boards. Generalized cross boards George Bell has been studying a class of boards he calls generalized cross boards. These have a similar cross shape to the standard hole board, but the four n arms are allowed to have different lengths n, n, n, n (including zero). The standard hole board is of course such a board (n = n = n = n = ), as is Wiegleb s hole board (n = n = n = n = ). Shown in Figure is a hole example with n =, n =, n =, n =. n n n n Figure : The hole generalized cross board n =, n =, n =, n =. All these generalized cross boards are built up from rows of three, so they are automatically nullclass boards. We can therefore hope that singlevacancy complement problems, where we play to leave a single peg in the hole initially vacated, will be solvable, and we shall describe a board as solvable at X if the problem vacate X, play to finish at X is solvable on it. Making extensive use of the computer for investigation, George has shown that there are exactly generalized cross boards which are solvable at every location. Table lists all such boards they range in size from to holes, and of course they include the standard
6 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September 00 hole board (but not Wiegleb s board, which is not solvable at the middle square at the end of an arm). n n n n Holes Symmetry Comment 0 Lateral Rectangular Diagonal 0 0 Square The standard hole board Lateral 9 Rectangular semiwiegleb 9 Diagonal Lateral Table : The generalized cross board solvable at every location. Most of these problems are easy, but some are not. Perhaps the hardest is given by the middle square at the end of a long arm on the 9hole board,,,, which has two standard arms and two Wiegleb arms. This is presented as a problem to solve in the last section, and its solution is unique to within symmetry and order of jumps []. No generalized cross board other than these twelve is solvable everywhere. George demonstrates this by applying conventional analysis to show that no such board with an arm of length or more can be solvable everywhere (via the same technique as he uses for the general arm case below), and then performing a relatively simple and quick computer analysis of the remaining cases. However, the computer analysis must be laboriously run over each case individually, and he stresses that the results await independent verification. His analysis of Wiegleb s board confirms my own [, p. 99 0].. Boards with longer arms The investigation above showed that no generalized cross board with an arm longer than three was solvable everywhere, but George wondered what would happen if a longer arm were attached to a board of some other shape. He came up with the hole mushroom board (Figure ), which proved that a board with a arm could be solvable at all locations, in particular at the middle of the end of the arm (always likely to be the most difficult square). For convenience, we invert the mushroom so that this key square is at the top, and we continue to call it d, adding a zfile to the left of the afile. The dcomplement on this board can be solved by dd, dd, bd, ddd, fd,
7 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September 00 z a b c d e f g h Figure : The hole mushroom board with a solvable dcomplement. ddd, ee, ee, eee, hf, gge, bd, ecc, cc, bd, zb, aa c, cccee, ceee, ffddd. The acomplement is another tricky one (it fails if the arm is only of length, or is absent altogether), but the other singlevacancy complement problems are not difficult. This board has only lateral symmetry, but it is not difficult to construct arm boards solvable everywhere that have square symmetry. One example is the 9hole board obtained by taking a 9 9 square and attaching a arm to the middle of each side. Initial experimentation suggested that any board with a arm would be unsolvable at the midend of the arm, but a proof covering all cases was elusive and eventually we found a 90hole board which was solvable there. Subsequent exploration brought the number of holes down to, and further reduction may be possible. The hole board is shown in Figure. 9 0 x y z a b c d e f g h i j k Figure : A hole board with a solvable dcomplement.
8 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September 00 and the dcomplement problem solves by dd, dd, dd, fd, ee, ee, ee, eeee, ge, ce, e9ee, ig, ii, jhf, ggee, kige, ee9e, g9e9, g0e0ee, ceeee, kig, h0h, d0dddd, bd, j9h9hf dd, cc, cc, ccc, zbdd, xz, yya, zzb, aac, bbd, dd0, bdd9, b0d0d, b9d9dddd. This board has no symmetry whatever, and we have not investigated the solvability of problems other than the dcomplement. It appears to us that the squaresymmetrical  hole board obtained by attaching arms to the sides of a 9 9 square is not solvable at the midend of the arm, but the hole board obtained by doing the same to a square is solvable everywhere. A arm is the limit. A board with a arm is unsolvable at the midend of the arm whatever the size and shape of the rest of the board. The proof is in two stages: (a) identifying every combination of moves which refills d and clears the rest of the arm, and (b) showing that each leaves a deficit when measured by the golden ratio resource count developed by Conway to resolve the problem of the Solitaire Army (see [, chapter ]). Five new problems for solution Table shows the symbols used to describe which holes are required to be full (a peg is present) at the start and finish of each problem. The same symbols are used in The Ins and Outs []. A marked peg is one specifically identified, and generally not allowed to jump until near the end, when it sweeps all remaining pegs off the board. Symbol Start Finish (none) Empty Empty Full Empty Marked Empty Empty Full Full Full Marked Full Table : Symbols used to describe peg solitaire problems. Problem On the hole board, possibly by myself [John Beasley] : Vacate d, mark the pegs at a and g, and play to interchange these pegs and clear the rest of the board (Figure a). I am reluctant to make an unqualified claim to this, because vacate d, finish at a and g is a natural problem to try on the hole board and it must have occurred to somebody to see if it could be done interchanging the pegs originally in these holes, but I haven t seen it anywhere else.
9 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September 00 9 a b c d e f g 9 a b c d e f g a b c d e f g h Figure : (a) Problem on the French board. (b) Problem on the semiwiegleb board. (c) Problem on the square board. Problem On the 9hole semiwiegleb board, by George Bell: Vacate d, and play to finish there (Figure b). This was discovered in the course of the investigation described in Section.. George s computer originally threw out a solution in moves, my solution by hand took ; a subsequent analysis by computer to find the shortest possible solution got the number down to. Problem On the board, by John Harris, 9: Vacate d, play to finish at h (Figure c). Here is something I found with poker chips and a chessboard. John does it in moves, only one more than the number immediately established as necessary by the version of Merson s region analysis. Problem On the hole diamond board, by John Harris, 9: Allowing diagonal jumps, vacate c, mark f, and play to finish at b with a sweep (Figure a). Can the cell board be cleared in less than moves? Probably. Is a longer sweep possible on this board? Don t know, it is possible to set up a peg sweep, but not if you start with a single vacancy. Problem On the board, by John Harris, 9: Allowing diagonal jumps, start and finish at b, solving the problem in moves and ending with a symmetrical sweep (Figure b). John s proof that moves are required: each of the Merson regions around the edge requires a first escape, and the first jump has to be by a centre peg. It is so simple, maybe
10 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September a b c d e f g h i a b c d e f Figure : (a) Problem on the hole diamond board. (b) Problem on the square board. even a computer could do it! There could be a peg sweep, move game by starting with the vacancy somewhere else, but it is unlikely to be symmetrical. Readers are requested to try to solve the problems for themselves. This is the best way to gain a full understanding of any problem. Problems, and are best solved indirectly first try to determine the board position before the final sweep(s). Then, start from the complement of this board position and attempt to reduce the board to one peg at the location of the stating vacancy (see the timereversal trick [, p. ]). George Bell has created an interactive JavaScript puzzle [] where you can try all five problems. References [] J. Beasley, The Ins and Outs of Peg Solitaire, Oxford Univ. Press, 99. [] G. Bell and J. Beasley, New problems on old solitaire boards, Board Game Studies, (00), arxiv:math/009 [math.co] [] E. Berlekamp, J. Conway and R. Guy, Purging pegs properly, in Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays, nd ed., Vol., Chap. : 0, A K Peters, 00. [] D. Parlett, The Oxford History of Board Games, Oxford Univ. Press, 999. [] G. Bell, [] G. Jelliss, The Games and Puzzles Journal, published online [] J. C. Meyrignac,
11 The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue, September 00 Solutions Solution to Problem (Figure a) dd, bd, dd, fd, cc, ec, cc, ac, cc, cc, ge, ee, ee, cc, ac, cc, cc, db, ee, ge, ee, ee, ddf, after which the board position of Figure a is reached, and the rest is easy. a b c d e f g h i a b c d e f g a b c d e f 9 Figure : (a,b,c) The final sweep positions for Problems, and. Solution to Problem (Figure b) I originally played dd, dd, bd, cc, cc, ccc, ec, ac, db, aacc, eccc, ccc, bdd, ee, e9e, eee, ge, ddf, gge, c9e9ee, ee, fd, fddd. This was the result of a detailed analysis of debts and surpluses using pencil and paper, and had George not told me that the problem was solvable I would have assumed it wasn t; indeed, at one point I was sure I had proved it. George s computer subsequently reduced the number of moves to by playing dd, dd, fdd, bd, ee, ee (), cc, c9c, b d, ee, cccc (), ac, ge, df, ddb (), aac, eeee, e9c9cce (), ggee, ceee, fddd. Solution to Problem (Figure c) fd, ce, ffd, cce, ac (), db, hfddf, gee, ggg, aac (0), eg, hf, ceg, dd, aaccee (), bd, cc, aacc, ac, dbb (0), fffddd, fddf, hhff, hffh, hhfdbbbbdfhh h. Move (gee) is the one that is not an initial exit from one of the Merson regions. Solution to Problem (Figure a) ec, ce, fd, ge, hfd (), ceg, e9c, bd, ige9c, ace (0), ec, and we are set up for the sweep in Figure b, fhffdfddbbddbddfdff hhfdb. Solution to Problem (Figure b) db, ac (), bdb, aac, aac, db, ac (), fdb, cac, ece, ff, ff () and we are set up for the sweep in Figure c, fdbbddbbdfffdf ddb. John uses a binumeric notation in order to bring out the symmetry.