One Jump Ahead

I finished reading One Jump Ahead : Challenging Human Supremacy in Checkers, which was rather interesting book. It’s written by Jonathan Schaeffer, who designed Chinook, the first computer program to win a human world championship. Chinook played Checkers, a traditional and intriguing game that hides in the shadow of Chess.

The book is also about Marion Tinsley, who was the best Checkers player ever. Actually, his supremacy is so vast that there are probably very few players in any sport that can compete with his dominance. Between 1951 and 1995 (when he passed away), Tinsley lost just five games. Five games, and he must’ve played hundreds of games. He was simply unbeatable. Even Chinook couldn’t beat him — it would’ve, though, had Tinsley lived longer. Forget Kasparov, Tinsley’s my new game-playing hero.

These days Checkers computers beat human grand masters. Checkers is still not solved, though. Makers of Chinook have computed all board positions with up to 10 pieces on board, but there’s still way to go, as the game starts with 24 pieces on board. There’s an estimate that Checkers will be solved by 2010. It will happen, as computing power continues to grow in rapid pace.

The book is highly recommended, especially for those interested in Checkers or game AIs. The book can be enjoyed without extensive knowledge on either topic, but of course familiriaty with Checkers or the quirks of computer programming makes the book even more interesting. (One Jump Ahead: Challenging Human Supremacy in Checkers in Amazon.co.uk.)

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