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Northwest Chess — Chess News from Washington, Oregon and Idaho

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An Inconvenient Chessic Coincidence?

In the August 2008 NWC magazine, business manager Eric Holcomb published a mathematically-oriented article, "So How Many Chess Board Positions Are There?" which discussed various calculations of the number of possible chess board positions, and promised an interesting coincidence involving one of the calculations! Readers were challenged to identify the coincidence before the second article was published. One response was received, however the respondent's guess was incorrect.

In the September 2008 NWC magazine, Eric published his second article, "An Inconvenient Chessic Coincidence?" in which it's revealed that "the number of carbon dioxide molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere is nearly equal to a reasonable upper limit on the number of chess board positions that can be constructed without resorting to pawn promotion to gain extra pieces! The 'magic number' is about 4.1529 x 1040, where 1040 is the number '1' followed by 40 zeroes – a very large number indeed!" Thus we have an interesting coincidence between chess and global warming!

Eric's "Chess Carbon Limit" graphic! (Click on image for full-size version.)
© 2008 J. Eric Holcomb.