Sunday, 2 August 2020

A Bimagic Queen's Tour

On the 6th July 2020, enclosing notes written by Joachim Brügge, Awani Kumar sent an e-mail to our circle of magic square enthusiasts, asking whether a bimagic queen's tour might exist on an 8 x 8 or larger board, and invited us to "settle the question." I was intrigued by this interesting challenge, and after a first analysis of Joachim Brügge's approach, and exchanging e-mails with him, I decided to search for a solution.

Some Important Definitions

A standard chess board is an 8 x 8 square grid upon which the queen can move any number of squares, either orthogonally, or along ± 1 / ± 1 diagonals. A queen's tour is a sequence of queen's moves in which she visits each of the 64 squares once. If the queen ends her tour on a square which is at a single queen's move from the starting square, the tour is closed; otherwise the queen's tour is open. Here it is useful to clarify the definition of a bimagic queen's tour, which is different to that of a bimagic square: In chess literature, as confirmed by George Jelliss, the term magic is commonly used for all tours in which the successively numbered positions of the chess piece in each rank and file add up to the same orthogonal total (the magic constant S1), and should the entries on the two long diagonals also add up to the same magic constant, the tour is deemed to be diagonally magic. (In fact, it is now known, thanks to the work of G. Stertenbrink, J-C. Meyrignac and H. Mackay, who have completed the list of all of the 140 magic knight tours on an 8 x 8 board, that none of these have two long magic diagonals). Extending the above definition of a magic tour to that of a bimagic queen's tour, not only the successively numbered positions of the queen in each rank and file should add up to a same orthogonal total (the magic constant S1), but also the squared entries of each rank and file should add up to an additional total which is the bimagic constant S2.

For a N x N board, when N = 8, the magic constant S1 = 260.

For a N x N board, when N = 8, the bimagic constant S2 = 11180.

More information about how the magic and bimagic constants are calculated can be found in the website of Christian Boyer.

The First Hypotheses

Before beginning the search for a solution to the bimagic queen's tour question, the following hypotheses were considered:

Firstly, it seemed logical to privilege diagonal queen moves that would be less likely to perturb the orthogonal bimagic series of the ranks and files.

Secondly, it seemed pertinent to make selections from the 240 immutable bimagic series of order-8; series named this way by Dwane Campbell, who identified and listed these some years ago. 192 of these series have the advantage of having a regular distribution, with each of their eight numbers coming from different eighths of the sequence 1 to 64.

Thirdly, it seemed probable that by using symmetric arrays of bimagic series, this would be beneficial for overall balance, and increase the chances of success.

The First Trials and Observations

Although I was at first unable to find a complete bimagic queen's tour, testing the above hypotheses gradually produced encouraging results. On the 18th July I was able to write an e-mail to Joachim Brügge announcing that I had found several broken bimagic queen's tours, with 4, 3, and even 2 separate sequences.

In all of these broken tours, because of the characteristics of the bimagic series that were tested, the sequence breaks occurred precisely at certain junctions between the different quarters of N², and it was of utmost importance to find a regular sequence that could negotiate these obstacles with valid diagonal queen's moves.

Also during these early trials I noticed that when certain diagonal moves "exited" the board they "re-entered" it in cells that were no longer directly accessible to the queen. The following diagram shows how this occurs:

How some diagonal moves become inaccessible to the queen after "leaving" and "re-entering" the chess board
How certain diagonal moves break the queen's tour

In order to improve the chances of success of a queen's tour, which was necessarily limited to the board, I realised it would be best to use ± N/2, ± N/2, i.e. ± 4, ± 4 diagonal queen's moves as illustrated below. The advantage of such moves was that when they "left" the board they always "re-entered" it in cells that the queen could once again access, even if along an alternative diagonal.

When ± N/2, ± N/2 diagonal moves "leave" the chess board, they always "re-enter" it along a diagonal accessible to the queen.-
± N/2, ± N/2 diagonal moves never break the queen's tour

In order to optimise the ``convergence" effect of these ± N/2, ± N/2  i.e.  ± 4, ± 4 diagonals, they should be used once every two moves.

Despite the inconvenience of their spreading beyond the edges of the board, a large use of ± 2, ± 2 diagonal moves often produced complete, though irregular bimagic queen's tours, such as the one below, observed on the limitless surface of a semi-bimagic torus:

A massive use of ±2, ±2 diagonal moves often produces a bimagic queen's tour on a torus board.
An open queen's tour on a torus board

The First Bimagic Queen's Tour

Finally, on the 23rd July 2020, after revising the selection of immutable bimagic series, the following method proved to be successful:

The tables below are doubly-symmetric arrays of immutable bimagic series, specially created for the x and y coordinates of a suitable semi-bimagic torus. Arranged in groups of four, the eight colours that represent the x (file) and y (rank) coordinates can be freely attributed the values of 0 to 7:

Doubly-symmetric arrays of immutable bimagic series, specially created for a bimagic queen's tour
Tables of coordinates for the Bimagic Queen's Tour Torus

However, to construct a bimagic tour we need a regular sequence that satisfies the ±1 / ±1 diagonal constraints of regular queen's moves, and in order to make the queen's tour "converge" on the board we need to use as many ± 4, ± 4 diagonals as we can; the optimum being once every two moves. Additionally, we need to check that the x and y coordinates selected for the first eight positions of the queen will also allow for regular diagonal transitions between each quarter of N² at the moves 16-17, 32-33 and 48-49... Once these verifications are complete we can then use the approved coordinates to plot the successive positions of the queen on the semi-bimagic torus shown below, starting with the first position 1 at coordinates (0x, 0y) in the lower left-hand corner:

A semi-magic torus that, after translation of the board viewpoint, reveals a bimagic queen's tour
The Semi-Bimagic Torus Before Translation

When constructed, the semi-bimagic torus appears to only contain a broken tour; but after a translation of the 8 x 8 board viewpoint, as shown below, a complete open bimagic queen's tour is revealed:

The first bimagic queen's tour and probably the first bimagic tour of any chess piece!
The First Bimagic Queen's Tour

Displaying beautiful symmetries, this is apparently not only the first bimagic queen's tour, but also the first-known bimagic tour of any chess piece!

In each rank and file, the orthogonal total of the successively numbered positions of the queen is the magic constant S1 = 260, and (as can be verified in the squared version below), the orthogonal total of the squares of the successively numbered positions of the queen is the bimagic constant S2 = 11180.

The squared version of the bimagic queen's tour has an orthogonal bimagic constant of 11180.
The Squared Bimagic Queen's Tour

Observing the bimagic queen's tour path we can see the symmetries of the four orthogonal moves (8 - 9, 24 - 25, 40 - 41, and 56 - 57). Thirty-two out of the sixty-three queen's moves are ±4, ±4 diagonal.

The path of the first bimagic queen's tour shows that only 4 orthogonal moves are used.
The Bimagic Queen's Tour Path


It is probable that many other examples exist, and that these will include closed bimagic queen's tours. However, it is an open question as to whether or not a diagonally bimagic queen's tour can be found on an 8 x 8 board! *

For those who are interested, a PDF file of "A Bimagic Queen's Tour" can be downloaded here.

* The answer to the open question has been given by Walter Trump on the 3rd August 2020. Please refer to the "Latest Developments" below!

Latest Developments!

The Answer to the Open Question!

On the 3rd August 2020, Walter Trump was already able to answer the "open question" that I had formulated in my conclusion! He ran a computer check on the complete set of bimagic 8x8 squares that he had previously found with Francis Gaspalou. Walter found that on an 8x8 board there are no diagonally bimagic queen's tours (or diagonally bimagic knight's tours for that matter, although it was already known that none of the 140 magic knight's tours were diagonally magic). The longest possible queen's tour on a bimagic square of order-8 consists of 21 moves, as illustrated in his PDF file below:

106 Bimagic Queen's Tours on an 8x8 Board!

On the 8th August 2020, testing a program that he had devised on the first bimagic queen's tour, Walter Trump found a second example, which turned out to be a complementary bimagic queen's tour. On the 11th August 2020, continuing to search with his program, Walter Trump was able to find a total of 44 closed and 62 open bimagic queen's tours!

Walter Trump conjectures that, up to symmetry, there are no further bimagic queen's tours to be found on an 8x8 board. The program searched within the semi-bimagic 8x8 squares which were found by Walter Trump and Francis Gaspalou in 2014. Essentially different means up to symmetry and permutations of rows and columns. Unique means up to symmetry. Considering that there are more than 715 quadrillion unique semi-bimagic squares of order-8, the 106 unique queen's tours are quite rare!

These different tours are now listed and indexed in “106 Bimagic Queen’s Tours on an 8x8 Board;” a paper co-authored with Walter Trump which is available below:

Other Publications about Bimagic Queen's Tours!

On the 9th August 2020 Greg Ross published an article entitled "A Bimagic Queen's Tour" in his excellent Futility Closet - An Idler's Miscellany of Compendious Amusements. Many thanks Greg!

On the 24th August 2020, Walter Trump created an excellent web page entitled “Closed Bimagic Queen’s Tours on an 8x8 Board” which provides some interesting additional information!
On the 4th September 2020, Bogdan Golunski published 510 semi-bimagic squares of order-8 with open bimagic queen's tours which were calculated using a program that he had devised. His list includes rotations and reflections of the previously-known 62 open bimagic queen's tours, and although no new tours have been found, his program is shown to yield good results!

In a German book co-authored with Hans Gruber, entitled "Schach als Sujet in den Künsten und der Wissenschaft", and published on the 1st April 2022, Joachim Brügge has included a chapter "Die erste Darstellung einer semi-bimagischen Damenwandering von William Walkington (2020)." The chapter relates the discovery of the first bimagic queen's tour, and also that of the other bimagic queen's tours on an 8x8 board which were later found by Walter Trump.


I am indebted, not only to Awani Kumar, for initially bringing the subject to our attention and for his appeal for a solution, but also to Joachim Brügge, for having had the idea of a bimagic queen's tour in the first place, and for his kind encouragements during my research.

My thanks also go to Dwane Campbell, for publishing his findings on immutable bimagic series; series which proved so useful in the search for the bimagic queen's tour. Dwane has informed me that Aale de Winkel was the first to recognize that component binary squares could be bimagic, the basis of immutable series; so my thanks to Dwane go indirectly to Aale as well.

I am also most grateful to Francis Gaspalou, for editing and sending our circle of magic square enthusiasts an "Analysis of the 240 Immutable Series of order 8" in 2018, and for sending me the full list of all 38 069 bimagic series of order-8 when I asked him for information about these in July this year.


  1. Logic made beautiful ... a nice contribution to the human experience... thanks William !

  2. Your kind comment means a lot!...especially coming from an expert like you... Many thanks Craig!

  3. A great achievement William; really a great achievement!


    Can we have a diagonally bimagic queen tour on, say, 10x10 or 12x12 board? Please look into it. My gut feeling is that it should be there on 12x12 board.
    Tour of knight is also a classical puzzle over a millennium old and magic tours exist on 4mx4m board for m>=2. Can we have bimagic knight tours? The problem is indeed very challenging. First we may look for semi-bimagic tours (where either all the rows or all the columns but not both are magic) and then may go for bimagic tours. Based on my experience on knight's tour, my guess is that semi-bimagic knight tours probably exist on 32x32 board and bimagic tours on 48x48 board. The problems seem intractable but as it is said, "Journey of thousand miles begins with a single step." You have the caliber; just take the first step.
    Again, congratulations for the great achievement.

    Awani Kumar, INDIA

  4. Many thanks for your kind words, Awani! I'm sure there can be bimagic knight tours on larger boards. The main difficulty will probably reside in the sorting and selection of suitable bimagic series, which are numerous in higher orders... Thanks again!


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