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Thursday October 26, 6:34 AM

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This press release is transmitted on behalf of Eternity.

PHOTOCALL: The £1m will be handed over at Hamleys (LSE: HYL.L - news) toy shop, Regent Street at 12.30pm on Thursday, October 26.

The winner Alex Selby will complete the puzzle again for the cameras.

An unemployed mathematician has won £1m by solving the 209-piece Eternity puzzle - and his astonishing success is forcing the inventor to sell his home.

Alex Selby, 32, whose main interest is computer programming, got help from former colleague Oliver Riordan, 28, one of the world's top mathematicians who is currently doing research at Cambridge.

When the puzzle was launched by distributors Racing Champions Ltd, experts said a computer working flat out would take 130 million billion years to solve it.

But the two men took only seven months to crack Eternity, Alex had worked full time on it for six months when he realised they could be first with a solution.

Now Alex, who lives in a rented house in Cambridge and says the cash will allow him to do what he wants with his life, will share his win with Oliver who lives in university halls of residence.

So, how did the two men do it? Alex said: "I was given the puzzle in June last year as a birthday present but didn't look at it until November.

When I saw on the internet that quite a few guys had 200-plus pieces I felt fairly confident Eternity could be solved.

"I decided to use a computer but to give it a lot of help along the way.

First we worked out the difficulty of each piece using a probability model.

We then programmed the computer to start work on the harder pieces first.

It took about two weeks to decide on the most promising possibilities.

"We then constantly improved and refined the computer programme - although we did go up a few blind alleys we were lucky to solve it so quickly.

It could have taken another two months." Oliver, who will use his share of the prize to buy a home, added: "It was a clever puzzle - just the right level of difficulty to be a real challenge." Their success means Christopher Monckton, 48, who spent 14 years developing Eternity and got insurance via underwriters by agreeing to contribute any royalties if the prize was claimed, will have to sell his early 19th century Fraserburgh house and estate, Aberdeenshire.

But he is undaunted.

"Eternity was the best-selling puzzle ever - a quarter of a million people bought it.

I'm delighted it's been solved." Since Eternity went on sale in June 1999 a group of enthusiasts have communicated via the internet, giving each other a helping hand.

Special computer solvers have been emailed all over the world.

And it was agreed that there were probably many correct ways in which Eternity could be put together.

The prize goes to the first correct solution and underwriters Gaebel Watkins & Taylor of London, say there were eight entries.

Note to Editors: A picture accompanying this release will be available in the PR Newswire Folder on the PA Bulletin Board from around 3:30pm.

There is no charge for using this picture.

UNS COMPANY: Eternity TOPIC: MONEY TOPIC: COMPETITION Contact: Christopher Monckton on 0035 75 632353 Suzanne Palladino on 07979 800897 Ends SM

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