9.11. The Knight’s Tour Problem

Another classic problem that we can use to illustrate a second common graph algorithm is called the “knight’s tour.” The knight’s tour puzzle is played on a chess board with a single chess piece, the knight. The object of the puzzle is to find a sequence of moves that allow the knight to visit every square on the board exactly once. One such sequence is called a “tour.” The knight’s tour puzzle has fascinated chess players, mathematicians and computer scientists alike for many years. The upper bound on the number of possible legal tours for an eight-by-eight chessboard is known to be \(1.305 \times 10^{35}\); however, there are even more possible dead ends. Clearly this is a problem that requires some real brains, some real computing power, or both.

Although researchers have studied many different algorithms to solve the knight’s tour problem, a graph search is one of the easiest to understand and program. Once again we will solve the problem using two main steps:

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