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History of Shut-the-Box
So far as I can gather, Shut-the-Box originated in France, possibly as early as the 12c. The game involves a wooden box (hence the name Shut-the-Box) characterized by an arena to which dice are thrown and wooden sliders or shutters representing the numbers 1 thru 9. These sliders are closed, or shut, to arrive at the total shown on the dice. Play ends when the either the numbers have all been closed, or when the sum of the dice cannot be achieved by closing any combination of the available numbers. Variations of this ancient game exist for which the numbers up to twelve are represented as well.
Interestingly, there is a Chinese version of the game called, " Boc-Tin". It is unclear whether or not Boc-Tin and Shut-the-Box originated from singular or separate instances.
Lore tells fables of ancient Norman sailors playing the game in the moonlight as their ship bobbed and swayed across the sea. C.W. says this game was played in those days as it is most commonly played today, as a gambling vice.
Indeed, inside of pubs and other such places, people play Shut-the-box for money. When more than one player competes in the game, the winner is determined to be the one who attains the lowest score. The score is the sum of the remaining open numbers when an impossible dice roll occurs.
Fortunately, the game is used today for other leisures, as well. The wooden box set is sold by various purveyors of toys for children, and is touted by educators to be a useful game for teaching elementary mathematics to children.
Of course, mathematicians have also shown interest for the game. Aside from its foundation in elementary mathematics, Shut-the-Box presents and interesting, yet reportedly solvable, model for probability and best-strategy analysis. You can find such analyses at various websites; some of the links below will take you there.
Though the game may be a simpler statistical model than solitaire, it retains its entertainment value even today. Now, enjoy my programming efforts at the "Play ShutBox" link.