Start by placing 12 counters in three rows as shown. Players take turns
removing any number of counters provided they are all in the same row. The
player who removes the last counter wins.
The Nim History
possibly originated in China, but a similar game
is mentioned in the
1500's by Luca Pacioli, an Italian mathematician. Children play it with bits of
paper, while adults can be found playing it with coins on the counter of a bar.
was given its name by a Charles Bouton who named it after an
archaic English word meaning to steal or to take away. Bouton was an associate
professor of mathematics at Harvard University. In the year 1901 Bouton published
a full analysis and proof containing a winning strategy for Nim
. His strategy was
based on the binary number system. Since the native language of a computer is
based on the binary system, the creation of a Nim
playing computer was inevitable.
The first Nim
-playing computer, called the Nimatron, was created in 1940.
This one ton machine was built by the Westinghouse Electrical Corporation and was
exhibited at the New York Worlds Fair. It played 100,000 games
and attendants, and won an impressive 90% of the games
. Many of the loses came at
the hands of the attendants who had to show the incredulous spectators that the
Nimatron could be beaten.
In 1951 a Nim
-playing robot, called Nimrod, was exhibited at the Festival
of Britain, and later at the Berlin trade fair. The machine was so popular that
spectators entirely ignored a bar at the other end of the room where free drinks
were being offered. Eventually the local police had to be called in to control