177. Tenalirama and the Chessboard



Tenalirama's latest poem delighted King Krishnadevaraya.
"Name your reward!" the king proclaimed.
Tenalirama pointed to the king's chessboard. "Just put one sesame seed here," he said, "and then two seeds on this square; four seeds here; then eight, and so on. That will satisfy me!'
The king laughed. "That's too small a reward for such a great poem!"
"Not at all!" Tenalirama replied, smiling.
The king quickly discovered that Tenalirama was correct: it would bankrupt the whole treasury to cover the chessboard with sesame seeds that way. The whole world did not contain enough sesame!
Again, Tenalirama had delighted the king.

Inspired byFix Your Problems the Tenali Raman Way by Vishal Goyal
Notes: This story is on p. 23 of the book; it is told about rice, but I changed it to sesame seeds. This story is also told about Akbar's minister Birbal. You can find out more about "the chess number" at Wikipedia in the article about Powers of Two and also in the article about the Wheat and Chessboard Problem. Carl Sagan tells the story of "The Persian Chessboard" in Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium. You can also see a version of the story as told by the 9th-century historian al-Yaqubi in Murray's A History of Chess.



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