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Checkers

Board Game

Checkers is a board game. It is played on a 8×8 board containing 32 white squares and 32 black squares. It is customary to use only the black squares. Each player has 12 pieces (of an assigned color). The pieces can only move one step forward. The exception is when a piece reaches the other player’s end and is promoted to a “king”. A game ends when all the pieces of one player has been captured by the opponent. A game may also end in a tie (or draw).

Kyar

The Burmese call the game “Kyar” or “Set Hnit Kaung Kyar“.

In Mandalay, there was a champion player known as “Kyar Bayin” (King of Checkers). “Kyar” Ba Nyein — a cousin uncle of Saya Allen Htay (C58) — was a mentee of the Mandalay “Kyar Bayin”. “Kyar” Ba Nyien was also a National Boxing Champion. Since “Kyar” also means tiger, he used the Tiger as a symbol for his boxing club, which trained boxers to become National Boxing Champions.

Ludu Daw Ah Mar wrote a book “Mandalay Thar and Mandalay Thu” about distinguished residents of Mandalay. The book has a chapter on Kyar Ba Nyein.

Variant and Trick

There is a variant. The player who loses all the pieces win. It is not trivial to win.

There is also a trick used on novices. A novice is given a choice to have 12 pieces or one piece. The rules are “The player with 12 pieces make the first move. The one who loses all the pieces win.”

Checkers playing computer program

Arthur Samuel (IBM) was not a renowned Checkers player, but he developed a system (algorithm and data base) to play against human opponents (with rising level of competence). His program remembered “bad” moves and “good” moves. Over time, the program was able to beat a reasonably good Checkers player.

It was one of the early projects for Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI

Deep Blue was developed by IBM to compete against Gary Kasparov, World Champion in Chess. Chess has many more possible moves than Checkers, but IBM hired three CMU (Carnegie Mellon University) graduates who developed Deep Thought (Computer Chess Champion that outplayed other chess programs). One graduate designed and implemented a special chip capable of fast multi-level pruning. The other two, who are knowledgeable in Chess, helped with the software (e.g. database of games and strategies).

Computer History Museum (CHM) had an exhibit on the evolution of Computer Chess and a panel discussion including AI experts and Computer Chess Pioneers.

The complexity of “Go” — which surpasses that of “Chess” — challenged AI researchers (e.g. Deep / Machine Learning) to develop “Go” systems capable of beating experienced human players.

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