Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CLV. Stories My Grandmother Told Me (7 of 10)

The inventor of chess

In antiquity, in Persia, a man called Aref (means wise or intelligent) settled in the capital of this fabled empire. Aref lived up to his name: He was sage, versatile, and knowledgeable in so many things. It was not long before people came in droves to seek his advice.

The powerful king that ruled this empire was bound to, sooner or later, hear about this phenomenal individual. Not surprisingly therefore he was summoned in his presence.

The king was duly impressed, and Aref became one of his most trusted advisers.

One day, the king told him: “Aref, despite my numerous duties, there are times when I need to relax, could you invent a game that is so captivating the players can forget about the whole world?”

Aref worked for months; at the end of his travail, he came up with a game called shatarang, the game we call today chess.

To say that the king, his entourage, and indeed all of Persia was totally entranced by this new game would be to narrow the field. Shatarang spread across all the known world, and remain to this day a very beloved game.

Years went by. Both the king and Aref were getting old. One day the king told Aref: “It occurred to me that I have never rewarded you for inventing the game of shatarang. What would you like to have?”

Aref asked for a few weeks to think of a worthy present and the king granted him the time.

When his choice was made, he asked for an audience with the king, and it was granted.

Aref brought with him a chessboard, and in the presence of the high officials of the government, he pointed out at the first square on the board and said: “Your majesty, I would like one grain of wheat on the first square, on the second square, I would like two, and then four on the third square, and keep on doubling until your reach the 64th square of the shatarang board.”

The king was totally astounded. “You invented a game for the ages, and all you’re asking from me is a handful of wheat?” All present were also shaking their heads.

“Your majesty you have richly rewarded me over the years, that indeed is all I want for inventing shatarang,” said Aref.

And so the king ordered that the wheat be gathered.

It soon became apparent that Aref’s request was far from being a modest one. When the wheat counters did their calculations, they realized that there was not enough wheat in all the kingdom to fulfil the king’s promise.

The king was faced with a terrible dilemma. As the sovereign of an empire, he had to keep all of his promises. The only way out was to execute Aref! You owe nothing to a dead man!

The king gathered some of the wisest men in the empire, they offered no solutions; indeed they said there were none.

Finally, he called the one person who could possibly find a way out of this impasse, Aref himself.

There are many endings (that allowed Aref to keep his head on his shoulders) to this story. After all these years, I remember only one, the one that at the time appeared to me as the most logical one.

“Your majesty,” said Aref, “above all, I am a teacher. When I invented shatarang, I showed that a battle can be carried out on a small board of 64 squares; and it’s all done without the loss of human life. My request for the wheat was to teach that things are rarely what they appear to be. I admit that I didn’t realize that so much wheat would be needed. Nevertheless, my intention was, and always will be, to teach. When you granted me what I asked for, you allowed me to teach, why even I learned an important lesson here.”

The king gathered again the sage men of the kingdom. They unanimously agreed that Aref had made a good case for himself, and that there was no loss of face for the king provided that Aref accepted another gift instead.

The king then decreed that Aref’s life would be spared, but that he needed to select another present.

Aref selected a slave to help him, for he was becoming old and feeble. He lived for many years after the passing of the king. And it said that his wisdom still reverberates down the centuries any time two people get together to play a game of chess.

[How much wheat would that be if we keep on doubling the original grain until we arrive at 64?

I was able to find the answer and the total is astounding.

2 doubling to 64 – 1 = 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains of wheat or 18 quadrillion and change!]


Math Forum: Ask Dr. Math FAQ: Doubling Pennies

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