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Hatch, match and despatch

We don't normally encourage children to play with matches, but safe headless ones are worth investing in for games and puzzles.

One of the most famous of all matchstick games is Nim, an old verb meaning "to take".

To play Nim you need two players and 15 matchsticks. The matchsticks are placed next to each other like railway sleepers and players take it in turns to take one, two or three matches.

The player who picks up the last match loses. It's a simple enough game but can children find a way of winning every time? Success is assured by leaving first 13 matches, then nine and then five for their opponent to pick from.

An extension of this game is called Nimbus. This is just like Nim except you need a row of 21 matches.

To be sure of winning in this game children will discover that they must always leave an uneven number of matches for their opponent to pick from

John Dabell is a teacher at Lawn Primary School in Derby

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