The Last Problem


Many years ago, when checkers was played by man and by man alone, for there were no computers nor would there be for almost two centuries, a legendary person created a 9x9 checker problem that challenged the best players of the day; and yet they solved the problem despite its depth, trickery, and unusual nature. The creator of the problem was said to be named Hink, or perhaps it was The Hink, or perhaps it was someone else, for no one really knew, and yet the problem was known as Hink's Problem.

Down through the ensuing generations, Hink's Problem entertained and baffled, yet still, the best in each generation would solve it with enough thought and reflection.

And then came the time of the computers.


The earliest, created by a researcher at a large corporation, did not play checkers very well and of course could not solve Hink's Problem.

More computers arrived and more checker engines were created, and though they bore names like Fiend and Giant and Mountain Wind, and even Crowning Touch and Cookie--- the latter two being the greatest of their day--- still they could not solve Hink's Problem while the masters and grandmasters, all of them fully human, were able to succeed.


And so arose the Checker Question: Would, one day, computers solve Hink's problem?

More time passed and more generations came and went, and computers became universal, and beyond the comprehension of man, so incredible was their power. Men no longer designed new computers; the computers themselves did that until they became seemingly omnipotent. Yet still, they could not solve Hink's problem, while human masters--- the few that there still were--- would do so.


Millennia turned into millions of years and millions of years turned to billions, and the computers merged into one great Omnicomputer that integrated with the very fabric of the universe. But Hink's Problem remained beyond them. There were no humans left to solve it, for they had all moved into a higher plane of existence, but had there been any, they would surely have found the solution.


Finally, the universe began to darken. The Omnicomputer had long known that the omega constant was less than one and the universe would eventually face heat death.

The last star winked out, and still Hink's Problem was beyond the Omnicomputer. It was the last unsolved problem that the great engine faced, and it could not shut down until the solution was found.

Finally, after so long that time no longer had any meaning, the Omnicomputer said, "It cannot be done" and this so upset the Omnicomputer that it erupted from its containment in the hyperdimensions, creating a New Big Bang that would give rise to a new universe, perhaps one in which the laws of logic would differ enough for Hink's Problem to be solvable, not just by humans, but by a mere Omnicomputer.


With apologies to Isaac Asimov, whose classic The Last Question inspired this story,

Hink's Problem
White to Play and Win


The Omnicomputer couldn't solve this one and had the cyber equivalent of a nervous breakdown. Can you solve it? It's probably at grandmaster level, but it's fascinating and worth your time. Just don't get so upset that you explode! After all you can always give your mouse a big bang on Read More to see the solution.20050904-symbol.gif


The problem, solution, and notes were generously provided by grandmaster problem composer Brian Hinkle.

14-17 22x29 17-22 18x25 11-7 2x11 12-16 11x27 13-9*---A 1-5 9-6 5-9 6-2 9-5 28-24 to a White Win.

White will crown the piece on 24 and then corner the Black king in order to force the piece on 4 into the block position and then finally kill the Black king.

A---28-24? 1-6 24-19 4-8* 19-16 8-12* 16-11 6-10* 11-8 10-15 8-3 15-19---B 3-7 19-24 7-11 24-20 11-15 20-24 15-11 24-20 11-15 20-24 13-9 12-16 15-11 16-19 9-6 24-20 6-2 20-24 2-6 24-20 6-10 20-24 11-16 24-20 16-11 20-24 11-16 24-20 16-12 20-24 12-16, a fortress draw. Will your checker software find this draw?

B---15-11 also draws by the same fortress.

Brian notes: "Ed Atkinson, at age 83, solved this 9x9 from the starting position without touching the pieces--- a very impressive accomplishment!"

We hope you enjoyed our presentation of a checker problem by one of the great contemporary masters, a problem that indeed will be enjoyed down through the generations.

05/28/22 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
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