Wisdom story: The king, the con artist, the chessboard and rice

4 min readNov 25, 2018

Once upon a time, there was a con man who made chessboards for high-end clients. It just happened to be that one of his clients was a king who loved chess. The con artist had great craftsmanship skills. His chessboards were very special and unique. No one put so much detail in them, and almost every chessboard had different pieces which made the con artists work collectibles. When he previously dealt with the king he noticed that the king wasn’t that good at math, but was a very proud man that thought of himself as the wisest man on earth. Knowing the kings’ weakness the con artist devised a plan to trick the king into handing over an enormous fortune with the help of a chessboard and rice as a means of payment.

So the next time when the king wanted a new chessboard the con artist said to the king, “Your Highness, I don’t want money or jewels for this chessboard. All I want is a little rice.” The king who thought of himself as a clever man responded “Hmm, I’ve got rice. How much rice?” The con artist replied, “All I want, is for you to put a single grain of rice on the first square, two grains on the second, four on the third, eight on the fourth, and so on and so on and so on, for the full 64 squares.”

“A chessboard full of rice, I can do that,” said the king, not thinking how much rice that actually was. So he ordered his granary to pay the man for the chessboard. The king soon discovered that his promise based on “the chessboard and rice” turned out to be more than a little difficult to follow through. It was impossible. The first few squares on the board cost the king one grain, then two, then four … by the end of the first row, he was up to 128 grains, which meant nothing to him.

In the second row, things got out of hand as the last square would get 32.768 grains. By the 21st square he owed over a million grains and by the 41st, it was over a trillion grains of rice, which was more than he, his subjects or any king anywhere has. The con artist eased the king’s worries by suggesting “Dear king, don’t worry about the rice if you don’t have enough of it. You can pay me the value of the missing rice in gold or land.” Right then the king realized he’d been tricked.


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