Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Interesting: Differences between American and British pocket billiards

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Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2018 at 9:44 am

Posted in Games, Video

Twitch played Go

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Pretty cool. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2018 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Go

Game over: The impact of a computer program’s “solving” a game

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Tom Whipple writes in 1843 Magazine:

IN THE YEARS following the publication of J. Sturge’s canonical “Guide to the Game of Draughts” in 1800, the world of serious players was wracked by argument. Number 105 of Sturge’s “140 Striking Situations” had asked readers to demonstrate that with the pieces in a given position white could always win. An expert claimed in a rival publication that Sturge was wrong: the position was a draw. Another countered that it was a win for white – but not for the reasons Sturge suggested. Arguments would continue for the entire reign of Queen Victoria until a consensus was finally reached: it was a win for white.

This most controversial conundrum in the history of draughts became known as the Hundred Years Problem. The name was a little premature.

In 1997, a grandmaster showed the Hundred Years Problem to Jonathan Schaeffer, professor of computer science at the University of Alberta, who is by his own admission a rather mediocre player. Minutes later, Schaeffer announced that the result was a draw. This time, there was no controversy, because although Schaeffer is a mediocre draughts player he is an excellent computer scientist who had spent the previous decade working on a program, Chinook, designed to “solve” draughts.

It so happened that in the same year the computer Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov at chess – an event that Newsweek dubbed, “The Brain’s Last Stand”. In the battle of man versus machine, machine had won a great victory.

In draughts, though, the brain’s defeat has been much more comprehensive. By 1994 Chinook was already good enough to draw a championship match 6-6 with the world number one draughts player, Marion Tinsley. Three years later, it conquered the Hundred Years Problem. Ten years after that, it defeated the game itself: a paper published in the journal Science showed that Schaeffer’s program could play a “perfect” game of draughts. Whatever its opponent did, it would respond with the strongest possible play. While in theory a better computer program than Deep Blue could come along, the best any future human or computer could hope to do against Chinook was to draw. The game contained no further mysteries.

To many players, Chinook’s victory was the game’s loss. Before a game is solved a skilled player can be considered an artist, driven by inspiration and creativity as much as by cold logic. Afterwards the player is a fallible human – imperfectly striving to do what a computer has already done. The success of Chinook was as if overnight portrait painters had to cope with the invention of photography, calligraphers with the printing press.

Tinsley was untroubled. He said the program made him feel young again: for decades he had been unbeatable and at last he had a worthy opponent. But some draughts players took it badly. “They said I was going to destroy the game, to ruin it – that no one was going to play,” says Schaeffer. He received hate mail. Some players argued that the computer’s ability to draw on a database of moves, rather than computing best play each time, was cheating. Others considered Schaeffer had besmirched the name of Tinsley, who over a 40-year career lost fewer than ten games. In particular, they objected to the fact that the program won against him by default, because he discovered he had terminal cancer halfway through. “Chinook couldn’t hold a candle to Tinsley,” complained one angry player in a letter to Schaeffer. Another accused him of “trumpeting an unjustified victory against a sick old man”, a third of “engaging in intellectual dishonesty”. A fourth just called him “despicable”.

This upset Schaeffer, who in the course of developing the program had formed a friendship with Tinsley. “He was as close to perfection as you could imagine a human being. What some human players were upset about is we now were better than him.” Schaeffer uses the collective noun a couple of times when referring to him and Chinook. “He was truly outstanding, but he wasn’t quite perfect. He would make a mistake. It may have been only once every 10-15 years, but he would make a mistake.”

Schaeffer is one of a small group around the world trying to solve the world’s games. Last year, a colleague of his published a paper in which he solved a simplified version of poker. It ended by quoting Alan Turing: “It would be disingenuous of us to disguise the fact that the principal motive which prompted the work was the sheer fun of the thing.”

THERE ARE AROUND 26,830 days in the average life. If you walked 26,830 miles you would cover the entire circumference of the equator, and still have enough distance left to go from Paris to Moscow. There are also 26,830 possible permutations in the first major game to be solved by a computer. That sounds like a lot, but this is a game so simple that in America there is a family of animal trainers that raises chickens to play it against humans as a casino attraction: noughts and crosses.

Most humans have solved noughts and crosses, and the solution is a draw. Writing a program to play a perfect game of noughts and crosses is now a basic undergraduate assignment.

A bigger number is 4,531,985,219,092. There have been roughly 4.5 trillion seconds since humans evolved. When Victor Allis, a computer-science student, contemplated the number in 1988, he realised it was too big for any computer to handle. It is, however, the number of possible permutations in Connect 4. “Computers then were pretty small,” says Allis.

Allis now runs Quintiq, a large Dutch software company. But he still enjoys talking about Connect 4. Unlike Schaeffer and draughts,  . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2018 at 11:01 am

Stockfish takes apart a classic chess problem, blowing up the accepted solution

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Worth watching if you like chess:

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Chess, Games

The Secret Behind the Greatest Upset in College Basketball History

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In the Atlantic Freeman Hrabrowski, president of UMBC, explains the university culture that led to the upset victory:

People now know the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as the ultimate Cinderella, an overnight social media sensation, the team that magically emerged as the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. But our story is far less fairy tale than it is classic American dream. Our magic comes from questioning expectations, putting in the hard work, and staying focused.

The nation saw the results on the court Friday night. My colleagues, students, alumni, and their families came to the game knowing the team would give the game their all. Our men’s basketball team embodies our definition of grit. We knew the players were bringing both passion and preparation to the game. We knew that they would listen to the guidance of head coach Ryan Odom, support one another, give their individual best, and get tougher and tougher as the game went on.

Nevertheless, like the rest of the world, we were stunned—not only by the outcome but by their execution to the end. Everybody thought it couldn’t be done because it hadn’t been done. And then we did it.

I’m not embarrassed to say that I know much more about mathematics than basketball, and I continue to learn about the game from coach Odom, my mentee Jairus Lyles, and others. What impresses me about this team is its can-do attitude—one that said that even though they had lost 23 games in a row to Vermont, we could win the 24th and the America East Conference championship. An attitude that said that, despite the odds, they could beat Virginia, an outstanding team from one of the oldest, wealthiest, and most-respected public institutions in the country.

What makes our story so appealing is that the players not only have a strong sense of self, they have hope. It is not idle hope, and that showed on Friday, too. Even the few people who thought we had a chance to win never thought we would do so by 20 points. Our win wasn’t a fluke. We won convincingly because we had worked hard to be ready. Rigorous preparation can lead people to reach goals they didn’t think were possible.

We’ve defied the odds before. Three decades ago, nobody believed you could close the achievement gap between white and underrepresented minority students, who were disproportionately likely to be lower-income and to be less academically prepared, without adjusting academic standards. But UMBC and the philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff didn’t believe it had to be that way. We believed you could set high expectations and, with appropriate support, not only help minority students succeed but also excel in some of the toughest fields. We started the Meyerhoff Scholars Program to support, challenge, and mentor underrepresented minority students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Today, the university is a top producer of African-American graduates who go on to earn PhDs in the sciences, and is the leading producer of ones who go on to earn MD-PhDs. The lessons learned have spread across the campus and across disciplines, and we are now graduating students of all races and of all socioeconomic backgrounds who go on to earn PhDs and join the faculties of some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, from Harvard to Duke. In fact, in the audience Friday were three alumni who are on the Duke medical faculty, two of whom were UMBC athletes. In just the past two years, we produced a Rhodes Scholar, and we saw a researcher and exemplary mentor to students elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Even as a young research university, we’re in the top 20 in funding from NASA, and numerous humanities faculty are receiving prestigious national and international awards. Everybody thought it couldn’t be done because it hadn’t been done. And then we did it.

This week has been a mountaintop experience for the UMBC community. On Monday, I accepted a lifetime achievement award on behalf of the university from the American Council on Education. The award honored the careers of so many people on campus who have transformed the lives of thousands of students. I reflected on my TED talk on the four pillars of college success in STEM and how my thinking over the years has evolved. I’ve come to appreciate that the pillars are true not only for science, but also across academic disciplines and in other aspects of education: setting high expectations; building community; having experts draw people into the work and building relationships; and evaluating results and revising strategies. We saw Coach Odom and the team demonstrate that on Friday—and throughout the year. It’s no coincidence that two of our strongest players, Jairus Lyles and Joe Sherburne, earned 4.0 GPAs this fall, or that Joe was just named a First-Team Academic All-American.

In other arenas, we continue to tackle seemingly intractable problems. Our Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program trains . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Education, Games

“The Surrounding Game” now available on iTunes, Amazon Video, and YouTube

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I highly recommend the documentary. It live on  iTunes, Amazon Video, and YouTube!

It’s a terrific documentary. The first third is sort of a history and high points of Go, which provides a context for the viewer who doesn’t play Go, and then the documentary really hits its stride and gets better and better.

Here’s the trailer:


Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2018 at 10:48 am

Posted in Games, Go, Movies & TV

Cool Go game: Player thinks aloud in a live game against an AI

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Very instructive.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 March 2018 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Games, Go, Video

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