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Checkers (Atari VCS, Jul 1980, Activision)



Checkers (Atari VCS, Jul 1980, Activision)


“Chess is like looking out over a vast open ocean; checkers is like looking into a bottomless well.” -Marion Tinsley


Marion Tinsley was the World Champion of Checkers from 1950 to 1990.

Other people only gained the title if Tinsley didn't show up to play.

He won the World Championship whenever he chose to play for it.


Jonathan Schaeffer was a computer scientist.

He lead the team that developed Chinook.

Chinook is the computer program that plays checkers.


Their story is a great story which I would love to tell you.

Instead, I'm going to tell you the short and crappy version of that story.


Chinook almost beat Tinsley in 1992.

In 1994 they played against each other again.

They played six games to a draw.

Tinsley had to stop playing because he was in a lot of pain.

The pain was cancer.

He died a few months later.

Chinook never defeated Tinsley.

Tinsley's death inspired Schaeffer.

Schaeffer's computer program "solved" Checkers in 2007.

What that means is that the computer knows all the ways to play the game so that it either wins or draws.


A much better version of that story can be found here:  https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/07/marion-tinsley-checkers/534111/


I don't really have anything to say about Activision Checkers.

It's a good version of Checkers. It's easy to play.

The graphics look fine.

There are a total of four games on the cart.

Three games against the computer. (Novice, Intermediate, Expert)

The Novice game takes about 15 minutes.

The Expert game can take about 2 hours because the computer takes longer to think.

The Intermediate game takes more time to play than the Novice game and less time to play than the Expert game.

I bet you already knew that part about the Intermediate game.


The fourth game is a two-player game.

For the two-player game I needed to find another person.

Every person I tried to drag into my house ran away from me.


I decided I would cheat by having another computer program choose my moves for me.

I chose the website MathIsFun, which has a Checkers game.

I put Activision Checkers on Novice.

I put MathIsFun Checkers on Hard.

Activision Checkers won.

Apparently that website is for kids, so don't be impressed.


You might have thought I was going to have Chinook play against Activision Checkers.

That would have been smart, but I didn't think of it until just now.


Chinook is here: https://webdocs.cs.ualberta.ca/~chinook/play/

Let me know if you win.



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