This Was Going to Be Easy

  • Jonathan Schaeffer


“Jonathan, what ever happened to computer checkers?”


Chess Player World Championship Checker Program Strong Player Weak Player 
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  1. 1.
    Jonathan Berry writes in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, August 26, 1995, p. 12: “Chess is fully 25% of the Challenging Mathematics curriculum in Quebec and New Brunswick, for grades two through six. A 1993 study reported that Quebec math scores were 15% ahead of the national average. A detailed study in New Brunswick revealed that, although their computational skills matched the control group before and after, participants in Challenging Mathematics showed 19% greater improvement in problemsolving and in problem comprehension after two vears.”Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Further Reading.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t use the name Prodigy again. Six months after the North American championship I was startled to see an advertisement for a chess computer named Prodigy. I wrote to the manufacturer asserting my prior claim to the name. They wrote back stating that they had done a trademark search on the name and found no matches. Therefore they would appreciate it if I would stop using their name. They left no doubt about the legal implications of their request.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Alan Bierman, “Theoretical Issues Related to Computer Game Playing Programs,” Personal Computing, September 1978.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    There are actually several definitions of “solving.” The simplest one is knowing the result of a game played without any mistakes (knowing that tick-tack-toe, in the absence of errors, is a draw). A harder problem is to be able to play a game without making a mistake (never lose a game of tick-tack-toe). The hardest problem is to always make the “best” moves—never make a mistake, and always select your move to maximize the likelihood of the opponent erring (increase your chances of winning at tick-tack-toe).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Billion is used in the North American sense of 109, not the British 1012.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    A sabbatical is an important perk of being a university professor. Every six years you can take a one year leave (at reduced salary, of course) to further your research. I prefer the alternative option, where after three years you can take six months off.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Zugzwang occurs when one side must make a move, but the player would be better off if he could just forfeit the move (not possible in chess or checkers, but legal in other games such as go).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    The Internet is a computer network that allows computers from all over the world to talk with each other. These network capabilities are often called the Information Superhighway, since it allows an enormous amount of information to be easily accessed. The World Wide Web is a popular interface for accessing this information. Many of the facts in this book were verified by using the World Wide Web to search for the answers to my questions.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    As David Kramer points out, the term goes back at least a century. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1889 newspaper quotation that said, “Mr. Edison, I was informed, had been up the two previous nights discovering a bug in his phonograph.”Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    In the vocabulary of many game-playing people, a “fish” is often used to refer derogatorily to a weak player.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    The Canadian Encyclopedia, Hurtig Publishing Ltd., 1985.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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