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Hops And Slides But Never Square

Problem

A horizontal row comprising of $2n + 1$ squares has $n$ red counters placed at one end and $n$ blue counters at the other end, being separated by a single empty square in the centre. For example, when $n = 3$.

A counter can move from one square to the next (slide) or can jump over another counter (hop) as long as the square next to that counter is unoccupied.

Let $M(n)$ represent the minimum number of moves/actions to completely reverse the positions of the coloured counters; that is, move all the red counters to the right and all the blue counters to the left.

Prove that $M(n)$ can never be a perfect square.

Problem ID: 372 (07 Aug 2010)     Difficulty: 3 Star

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