The Challenge of Checker Problems

We've been corresponding recently by email with Brian Hinkle, a highly skilled checker problemist and analyst. We send Brian problems that he solves in a few minutes; he sends us problems that we know we will never solve but we try nonetheless. We end up feeding them to a world-class computer program such as Cake or King's Row for analysis. The computer solves them without missing a beat.

That brings up the question that is often heard about checkers being "dead." The best computer programs today are at an extraordinarily advanced level, very likely beyond the best human players. Computer programs were always relatively good in checker tactics; but now, with enormous opening databases of half a million to a million positions, endgame databases which comprehensively solve endgames of up to 10 pieces, computer programs seem to know just about everything about checkers. The University of Calgary has as its goal the complete "solution" of checkers, and they think they will do this in the next few years. We believe that they will, in fact, accomplish this feat.

But does the fact that a "solution" for checkers exists (or will exist) mean that the game is "dead"? We think that is only true if you are playing against the world-class computer programs that know the "solution." In a game between humans, especially an over the board game, checkers is not and will never be "solved." There is too much challenge and enjoyment in the game as played by mere mortals.

What has this got to do with checker problems? It's simply that these problems, especially the better and more clever or entertaining ones, show the depth of the game. Struggle with a couple of these gems and you'll see what we mean. You'll find that there's a lot left for you personally in the grand old game. Visit Jim Loy's site and start with his beginner's problems. You'll quickly understand.

12/03/04 - Category: Problems - Printer friendly version
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