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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
1m Eternity jackpot scooped

The game's inventor hoped it would take three years to solve
An unemployed mathematician has picked up a 1m prize for solving the Eternity game - two years before its creator expected anyone to crack it.

Alex Selby, 32, from Cambridge, was given the 209-piece jigsaw as a birthday present shortly after it was launched in June 1999.

The game has no pattern to follow, but all its pieces are the same colour and have between seven and 11 sides.

Mr Selby did not look at the puzzle until the following November - but then quickly realised he could crack it.

Now the puzzle's inventor - Christopher Monckton, a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher - says he will have to sell his 1.5m stately home in Aberdeenshire to find the cash for the prize.

Mr Selby said: "When I saw on the internet that quite a few guys had 200-plus pieces I felt fairly confident that Eternity could be solved.

Here's to Eternity
Eternity captured 20% of the British board game market within a month of its release
It features 209 jigsaw pieces which have between seven and eleven sides
All are the same colour and can be used on either face
Unlike normal jigsaws, there is no pattern or picture to follow
"I decided to use a computer but to give it a lot of help along the way.

'Blind alley'

"First we worked out the difficulty of each piece using a probability model. We then programmed the computer to start work on the harder pieces first.

"It took about two weeks to decide on the most promising possibilities.

"We then constantly improved and refined the computer program, although we did go up a few blind alleys and were lucky to solve it so quickly."

Mr Selby solved the game with help from a former colleague, Oliver Riordan.

Mr Riordan, 28, is one of the world's top mathematicians, but is living in halls at Cambridge University while he carries out research there.

He will share the winnings with Mr Selby, and is planning to buy a new home with his money.

Mr Monckton - the brother of Rosa Monckton, a close friend of the late Diana, Princess of Wales - was convinced it would be at least three years before anyone solved the game.

By this time, he hoped to have made enough money to cover the prize fund, with the rest coming from an insurance policy.

But he said: "I'm delighted it's been solved."

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02 Oct 00 | UK
The Eternity puzzle solved?
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