Chinook has no chink in its armor
Computer scientists based at the University of Alberta have laid claim to building a computer program that is invincible when it comes to playing checkers, and will at worst draw with a human player who plays the perfect game. Dr. Jonathan Schaeffer was the brainchild behind this computer after spending the better part of the last 18 and a half years going through 500 million trillion checkers positions in order to ensure it will never suffer the ignominy of defeat in another checkers game ever again. The program has been dubbed Chinook, and Dr. Schaeffer claims that his team has pushed the envelope way further than anything that has been done before.
Chinook was originally created to exploit the superior processing and memory capabilities of computers in order to study the best possible method of incorporating artificial intelligence principles when it comes to a game of checkers. Dr. Schaeffer has enlisted the help of a few top-class checkers players and programmed heuristics (also referred to as “rules of thumb”) into a computer software program, learning all forms of checkers moves, be they successful or not. This effort required the use of approximately 50 computers to compute the knowledge required by Chinook, and during peak times, the number of computers rose fourfold at the very least to over 200.
Dr. Schaeffer and his team had the responsibility to constantly monitor and tweak Chinook as the processing went on day after day. This labor of love has finally ended, and Dr. Schaeffer can take a well deserved break since Chinook no longer needs new heuristics – in essence, it is the complete package when it comes to a game of checkers. Since checkers is so much less complex than chess, it is no wonder that it is first out of the stables. It will take a long while more before you get the invincible chess playing machine, but we’ll get there eventually IMHO.