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Checkers Solved

August 14, 2007

After eighteen years of work, scientists have designed an unbeatable checkers computer.


An invincible checkers computer. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It took eighteen years and hundreds of computers, but a team of scientists has finally solved the game of checkers. Led by computer scientist Jonathan Schaeffer of the University of Alberta in Canada, they’ve made a checkers-playing computer program that can’t possibly lose.

JONATHAN SCHAEFFER (University of Alberta):
So for example, if the computer makes the first move of the game, you have seven different moves. And for each one of those seven moves, the computer has a response ready.

In theory, checkers has 500 billion billion possible board positions. But in order to crunch the numbers in less than a lifetime, Schaeffer’s team developed an algorithm that disregards irrelevant positions and choices. He says the algorithm could help other artificial intelligence programs find the best possible strategy for a complex task. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.