Piercing the chessboard

Gergely Ambrus
Imre Bárány
Péter Frankl
Dániel Varga
13 July 2023

We consider the minimum number of lines $h_n$ and $p_n$ needed to intersect or pierce, respectively, all the cells of the $n \times n$ chessboard. Determining these values can also be interpreted as a strengthening of the classical plank problem for integer points. Using the symmetric plank theorem of K. Ball, we prove that $h = \lceil \frac{n}{2} \rceil$ for each $n \leq 1$. Studying the piercing problem, we show that $0.7 n \leq p_n \leq n-1$ for $n \geq 3$, where the upper bound is conjectured to be sharp. The lower bound is proven by using the linear programming method, whose limitations are also demonstrated.