26 JANUARY 1962, Page 11


Snt.—I saw the much-discussed film L'A tat& derniere a Marienbad the other day (a whole lot of twaddle, if you ask me) and am now going slowly mad. May I appeal to your readers to save my sanity? Running . through the film there is a game (simpler variants of which I have come across before) which I have been playing ever since, without ever discovering the formula which enabled the man who introduced it in the film to win every time. Two players fay out four rows of matches: seven in the first row, five in the second, three in the third, one in the fourth. They then pick up matches alternately : the only rule is that they may take as few or at many matches as they like (a whole row if they wish) but from only one row at a time. The object of the game is to leave your opponent with the last remaining match.

I have now become sufficiently proficient at this imbecile and lime-consuming pastime to beat any novice at it indefinitely. But there must be, some- where; a formula which puts it on a scientific basis —for it makes no difference whether the expert has first pick or second—and enable me to know why. There are clearly certain winning combinations which arise quite early in the game; what I seek is the ' rule which will make winning beyond doubt from the start. Does anybody know it? Or can anybody work it out for me? Yours with a slight twitch,

London, NW8