Say I have an eleven by eleven chessboard, so there's 121 squares total. I remove the centermost piece so there's 120 pieces. I want to tile the chessboard with 1x4 or 4x1 pieces in a way that none of the pieces I place hang off of the board or overlap with one another. I also want the entire chessboard to be covered. Can it be done? I heard this problem from a friend and looked up a lot of domino tiling theory but can't figure it out still.

Any answers? Even incomplete answers or thoughts would be useful.

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    $\begingroup$ As a general note, this kind of problem just screamed 'coloring proof' at me when I read it. There a different ways to color your board and in general for these kind of problems, either it is relatively straight forward to find a tiling or there is a coloring proof why it is impossible. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Dec 2, 2022 at 9:12

3 Answers 3


The answer is



grid with 2×1 vertical dominoes alternating
Each 1×4 covers exactly two red cells, but there are 61 red cells total.

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    $\begingroup$ Corollary: by applying the same coloring in four ways, we can conclude that there are exactly 4 cells ((4,4) and rotations) that admit such a tiling after removal. $\endgroup$
    – Bubbler
    Dec 2, 2022 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Bubbler it only shows that we can't say "no" with this technique, right? Unless, of course, you have an example tiling showing it done with (4,4) removed. $\endgroup$
    – justhalf
    Dec 2, 2022 at 4:15
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    $\begingroup$ @justhalf Yes, you're right. Constructing such a tiling is left as an exercise to the reader. :P $\endgroup$
    – Bubbler
    Dec 2, 2022 at 4:24

A non-coloring solution:

No, it's impossible (every $v_n$ variable is the number of the vertical blocks starting on row $n$):

enter image description here

11 can be written as $4k+3$ and 10 as $4k+2$, with each horizontal block taking up 4 squares on a row. The rest are vertical blocks.

Row 1: $v_1 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 2: $v_1 + v_2 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 3: $v_1 + v_2 + v_3 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 4: $v_1 + v_2 + v_3 + v_4 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 5: $v_2 + v_3 + v_4 + v_5 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 6: $v_3 + v_4 + v_5 + v_6 ≡ 2$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 7: $v_4 + v_5 + v_6 + v_7 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 8: $v_5 + v_6 + v_7 + v_8 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 9: $v_6 + v_7 + v_8 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 10: $v_7 + v_8 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$
Row 11: $v_8 ≡ 3$ $(mod$ $4)$

This leads to the contradiction where $v_3+v_4+v_5+v_6$ should have been 2 modulo 4 based on the middle row, but is actually divisible by 4.

Taking away a square:

Let the single square be below the middle row. Then $v_1$ and $v_5$ can be written in the $4k+3$ form. $v_2, v_3, v_4$ and $v_6$ can be written in the $4k$ form. Rows 8 and 9 (from top to bottom) give different results, so it's on Row 8 because its mod 4 sum is 1 lower. Same goes for the column. Row 8, column 8, rotations are welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ Probably correct but not the clearest explanation! $\endgroup$
    – Florian F
    Dec 6, 2022 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, is it clearer now? $\endgroup$
    – Nautilus
    Dec 7, 2022 at 6:16

A tiling with a different square removed, using @Bubbler's comment:

enter image description here
The empty square can be moved into any of the three other admissible positions by sliding tiles, as well.


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