Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A Warnsdorf Tour with Minimum Ambiguity

In his 1823 book H. C. von Warnsdorf published a rule for constructing a knight's tour of the chessboard. This was to place the knight on any cell and to move it always to a cell from which it has the fewest exits (to cells not yet used). If there are two or more cells with the same number of exits an ambiguity occurs and you may choose any of the moves with fewest exits.

I've not seen Warnsdorf's book, but it is cited in many later publications. There are copies listed in the catalogues of the British Library, the Cleveland Public Library (USA) and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Netherlands). I also found a copy for sale on ABE Books from a dealer in Italy who was asking over £500.

I have been making an enumeration of Warnsdorf tours on the 8 by 8 board by hand with diagrams drawn on a computer. I suspect someone must have done it using a computer program, but I've not seen any results published. So far I've reached the fifth ambiguity and 255 diagrams.

Taking a couple of the more promising diagrams I have followed them through to the seventh or eighth ambiguity, and the tour shown here is the first closed tour I have found. So this probably has the minimum ambiguities (shown by the white cells). I don't count the initial move d4-c2 as an ambiguity, since the choice d4-b3 would merely reflect the tour in the diagonal.

I should have mentioned that d4-e2 (and its reflection d4-b5) is an alternative first move, leading to different tours. So perhaps d4 should be counted as an ambiguity as well.

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