Sunday, February 13, 2011

History of Humans vs. Computers

Deep Blue, Chinook, Quackle, Polaris, Huygens, and BKG 9.8 are the names of computer programs which have emerged victorious against top human competitors in games of strategy. Each of these programs were also recently referred to in a CNN article about the upcoming match between human Jeopardy champions and the computer Jeopardy program called Watson.

Deep Blue is IBM's computer chess program which famously defeated the world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, in a 1997 match. This defeat of the reigning world chess champion is not without controversy, however.

Chinook, written by Jonathan Schaeffer and his team at the University of Alberta, defeated long-time world checkers champion, Marion Tinsley. Visit the Chinook project website and play the program which made history. I also recommend Schaeffer's book, One Jump Ahead - Computer Perfection at Checkers, for those interested in the story surrounding the creation of the unbeatable program which always plays perfect checkers.

BKG 9.8 was a Backgammon program which, in 1979, defeated the reigning world backgammon champion, Luigi Villa. BKG 9.8's defeat over Luigi Villa is considered to be the first time that a sitting human world champion of a board game was defeated by a software program. Villa, however, was only recently crowned world backgammon champion when he was defeated by BKG 9.8 and Villa was handicapped with inferior dice rolls. Dr. Hans Berliner, the author of BKG 9.8, is also known for his popularization of the Option Principle which has been a topic of discussion at this blog and within the Open Encyclopedia of Chess Openings wiki.

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