The history and development of draughts/checkers
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18.11.2017

The history and development of draughts/checkers

Draughts and checkers are one and the same. These games are strategy based games where two players compete against each other and move uniform pieces in diagonal directions and capture the opposite player’s pieces by jumping over them. The most popular board games are the international draughts that are played on 10 x 10 board followed by English draughts that are played on 8 x 8 board. There are other variants of the popular game as well which are played in different parts of the world.

The origin of the game can be traced back to Europe in the 16th century. There are several specimens of Egyptian boards used in draughts in the British museum. Earliest traces can also be found in Portugal and Spain where the game was called Damas. Damas refer to men that are promoted to the king’s position.
In terms of computer draughts, English draughts that are played on 8 x 8 boards. Arthur Samuel invented one of the first board game programs way back in 1950s. In the year 2007, scientists invented a draught computer program that is termed as virtually unbeatable. Hundreds of computers work behind the program and the result will end in a stalemate if neither player makes an error. English Draughts is the most complex draughts game to date.

The first computer English draughts program was developed by a researcher known as C.S. Strachey in the National Research Development Corporation in London in the 1950s. It was Arthur Samuel who built a second draughts computer program in 1956 in the research facility at IBM. It was adopted very quickly by people though it was one of the most complicated games to be ever developed for playing on the computer. As time passed, better and more complicated versions were introduced.

In the 1980s the strongest and the most complicated draughts program was called the Chinook. It was developed by a team of experts in 1989 who were studying at University of Alberta. World champion Marion Tinsley who was a world champion from 1975 to 1991 won the match against the computer program in 1992. There was a match again against the computer program in 1994. However he had to leave the match unfinished as he suffered from poor health. He died a few days later. There was a match arranged between Chinook and Don Lafferty. In the 32 match competition, the computer and Don were tied at 1-1. In 1996, Chinook won the competition against man with the widest margin ever. There has not been any man machine competition since then.

Today the computer programs developed for draughts are far more superior when it comes to playing against humans. The programs will never lose a game though some results can end in a tie.

The best computer programs of today are stronger than the best humans, and also stronger than Chinook which was the best at the time it won the man-machine title. In July 2007, Chinook’s development team made another announcement that the game had been solved and that the program cannot lose against humans. However the team has not perfectly analyzed all moves or positions yet.
March 11, 2008, 8:55 am


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