Technology

The Result Of A Perfectly Played Game Of Checkers Is (Yawn) A Draw

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Checkers is decidedly less complex and high-brow than chess, but that doesn't mean it's not fun. Welp, fun-killing researchers are trying to take that away from the game, too. In 2007, it was discovered that a perfectly played game of checkers will always end... in a draw. Cool.

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Can't Get No Satisfaction

Jonathan Schaeffer, a computer games expert at the University of Alberta, is responsible for the death of checkers (also known as draughts). And, boy, did he ever want that puppy dead. Starting in 1989, Schaeffer spent 18 years on the problem. The problem was this: Can the outcome of a checkers match be correctly predicted from any position, assuming both players play perfectly?

At the height of the hunt, Schaeffer had as many as 200 desktop computers working on the problem at once (the proof required analyzing 500 billion billion checkers positions, after all). It was one of the longest running computations in history, finally coming to a head in 2007. The answer is yes, the game can be correctly predicted. Perfect play by both sides will always lead to a draw. Well, that's unsatisfying. But is it, really? The answer means that checkers can officially be described as a solved game. It is the most challenging popular game to be solved to date, roughly one million times more complex that Connect Four, reports Salon.

King Me!

Schaeffer's chess-playing machine, Chinook, can now beat any human. The best you can do against it is a draw. You're supposed to be able to play against Chinook here, but the site always seems to be down. Are you ducking us, Chinook? Come out and get your whuppin'.

While conquering Chess is a whole new, different beast that could take decades, A.I. is getting closer and closer. In May 2017, Google's A.I. program AlphaGo beat a top Go player at the notoriously complex, ancient game. It's obvious that machine learning is only going to keep getting smarter from here. And they may not stop until they've sucked the fun out of every game.

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