Valuable Lessons

  • Jonathan Schaeffer


In the last frantic days before going to the Computer Olympiad, we were able to address the two biggest weaknesses in the program’s play: the openings and endgames. If we didn’t solve these problems the program would be easy prey for any master.


Oxford English Dictionary Opening Book Valuable Lesson World Championship Checker Program 


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  1. 1.
    With perfect play, the game is a draw. See Ralph Gasser’s Ph.D. thesis (see Further Reading).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The straw that broke the camel’s back was Lewis Stiller’s work on the six-piece endgame king, rook, and bishop versus king and two knights. He showed that the hardest position required the winning side to play 223 (perfect) moves. No one wanted to defend such a difficult position for so many moves. See Scientific American, November, 1991, p. 38. He did himself one better, in the endgame of king, rook, and knight versus king and two knights. The hardest position requires 242 moves to win. See Lewis Stiller’s Ph.D. thesis: Exploiting Symmetry on Parallel Architectures, Johns Hopkins University, 1995.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See the Ph.D. theses of Ralph Gasser and Victor Allis (see Further Reading).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The Turing Award, judged by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), is the highest award one can receive in computing. It’s named after Alan Turing, a pioneer in the computing field. Of interest is that Turing was one of the first people to work on computer chess. He didn’t have the computing resources for his first chess program, so he would simulate the computer and figure out what its move would be. In this manner, Turing’s paper “program” lost the first game between a computer and a human in 1951.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Checkers, October 1989, p. 13.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Schaeffer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Computing ScienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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