Sunday 17 May 2020

A Puzzle Improved by Being Metal - Yavuz' Chiasma

Yet again, this blog post nearly didn't happen because of the flakiness of my old computer - but luckily I have worked out that the Dropbox app is the cause of most of my woes - it is such a memory hog that it reduces everything to like wading through treacle. Once I had quit the app, everything returned to its normal level of slowness which is just barely tolerable rather than the totally intolerable level I had before. Phew! If anyone has any idea how to use Dropbox without the horrifically slow Mac app then please get in touch.

Back to my puzzling...

Up until a few years ago, I would regularly buy puzzles from my friends Alan and Leon Stein at PuzzleMaster but more recently I have been sidetracked by much more expensive and, one could say, I have fed my wood fetish (although many of the Pelikan puzzles can still be bought from them). They contacted me recently to ask if I would like to review a few of their more recent productions that they have commissioned in-house. I hesitated for a small microsecond and as you can imagine, jumped at the chance of having more beautiful stuff to try. I don't have a huge number of metal puzzles and am always keen to see what they can add.

Beautiful in wood
Their most recent release has been reviewed by a couple of the YouTube puzzlers and also by my friend Gabriel (one of the longest-running puzzle bloggers of all). I had to jump on the band-wagon as well but especially because this puzzle did ring a particular bell in my very feeble brain...I remembered that I had bought a copy of this from Jakub quite a few years ago and had completely failed to solve it. This gorgeous puzzle is a complex design by Yavuz Demirhan (who has designed and produced quite a few of my favourite puzzles and has reached my top 10 a few times). I recall vividly receiving the Chiasma in beautiful Walnut and trying lots and lots of very interesting movements but never managed to solve it and never reviewed it on the site. Having received another copy from PuzzleMaster, I really had to make an effort to solve this and write about it.

Chiasma is a board burr which consists of 4 identical boards interlocked into a rather attractive X shape. PuzzleMaster have commissioned it to be manufactured for them in Canada out of Aluminium and anodised in various colours. unlike their previous anodised puzzles, this one has been finished with a powdered texture which gives it a matt finish and makes it very nice to handle and, whilst less shiny, it is rather attractive. My copy is black and silver but it is also available in Black and Brown, Brown and Gold, Silver and Gold or a combination of all 4 colours. Either version will be lovely but the colouring will not help you solve it. It is pretty chunky too - it is 7.5 x 7.5 x 4.7cm and feels solid in your hands. The best part of this puzzle is that the individual boards are 9.5mm across and have very minimal beveling on them. The end result of this is that it seems to remain quite stable for a while until the pieces are well separated from each other - it does prevent inadvertent locking up by misalignment. Chiasma is nearly $100CAD but the quality is very high indeed.

This week I have had a little annual leave to give me a bit of relief from the catastrophe that is the NHS (and all other health services) just now and apart from having some gardening and some exercising to do, I could concentrate on spending some time with the present wife and also maybe solve a puzzle or two. I set to on Chiasma. Initially there are very few possible moves but after the first couple it suddenly opens out and there are a huge number of possibilities. My initial attempts, like those I tried back in 2013, involved mostly trying to keep all the pieces in symmetrical patterns in the hope that this was the secret of unlocking it gracefully.

At one point during my several days of attempts, I did discover a rotational shortcut which would allow a more rapid disassembly - if you have managed the proper disassembly then try and find this one as an extra challenge.

There is a rotation possible which allows a quicker solution
Unfortunately, Yavuz wasn't going to be nice to us by giving a puzzle with a lovely symmetrical logical solution! after a day or so of risking my life (Mrs S hates metallic clinking noises and this is quite noisy), I realised that I was going to have to abandon that approach and actually hunt for a release method by watching how the pieces move and aiming deliberately to get a piece released. The key feature (apart from the fact that they are all identical) is that the pieces have a single gap to allow them to lock and unlock together. The secret is to manipulate them in such a way as to allow the gap to line up on 2 pieces simultaneously. Sounds easy? Not for me it wasn't! The open shape allows you to see everything that is going on and, theoretically, make deliberate move decisions to advance to your goal. The disassembly level is 16.4.6 but it took me an awful lot more moves than that to find the sequence. The metal version was much easier to hold and manipulate stably than the wooden one.

On day 3 I had a breakthrough and suddenly I could see the final steps to line up the pieces and my first piece came out - Yay! I had 4 identical shaped pieces:

It is stunning despite being metal!
There was no way that I was going to get that reassembled from memory and I spent a nice happy half hour making a Burrtools file for it and then used that to disassemble my wooden version (I hope that you are impressed that I can find a single puzzle from 7 years ago?)

I had to make a second solution within Burrtools because the pieces can be assembled into 2 mirror images of each other and the wooden one was the other way around.

4 identical wooden pieces
I couldn't resist taking this photo comparing the 2 versions
If you did not manage to get a copy of the Pelikan version all those years ago then this is well worth picking up a copy of. It is a seriously tough challenge - I have to agree with PuzzleMaster's level 10 (Mind Boggling). Not really ideal for beginners but good for anyone with a bit of burr experience.


  1. I love the Puzzle Masters. Great Canadian Boys! Saskatchewan is on my radar as a possible retirement site: the Roughriders and PuzzleMaster are two of the greatest Canadian organizations, and I should be close to both of these favourites of mine. -Tyler.

  2. Can you please share the BurrTools file? Thanks! rhgrafix at gmail.

    1. If you send me an email using my contact page then I can share it with you.