Friday, September 25, 2009

Next-Gen Chess

Here's another chess-type variant. We've seen multi-layered chess, Fischer Random, multi-player chess, crazy and bughouse and who knows how many others. Now comes Arimaa. It's been around 7 years, but I heard of it for the first time today.

AI computers have yet to soundly beat humans at this game. The inventor of the game, Omar Syed, has offered a $10,000 prize to the computer developer who can design a program that can beat a human at this game.

The reason computers have a hard time winning is because of the incredible branch factor in Arimaa. According to the wikipedia article, "the average branching factor in a game of Chess is about 35, whereas in Arimaa it is about 17,281." WOW!

You don't have to buy the game to play it. You can simply use a standard chess board and pieces to play. But if you really want the real deal, the game is finally being published.

Have any of you heard of this game before? Have any of you played?

4 comments:

  1. I've heard of this game before, but never tried it.

    One of the annoying things about computer chess superiority is that the AI isn't really "smart". Chess computers win because they can calculate a lot of positions very quickly.

    I like what this game is trying to do: advance AI by forcing computers to exhibit some more features of intelligence than mere calculation.

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  2. Tom Chivers responded about Arimaa, "I didn't feel anything like the hook that plunged into me for life the first time I picked up a chess piece." That's a fair reason to choose a game to play, but not necessarily a commentary on the inherent quality of a game. For example, I don't think most chess addicts would care to argue that chess is fundamentally a better game than Go, merely that chess is what they most love to play and that Go didn't grab them.

    But, OK, apart from discussing whether Arimaa is a deep game, a strategic game, a rewarding game to study, and a game with long-term staying power, one can ask also whether it is addictive. From statistics on Arimaa.com, of new players who sign up and play at least one game, 3.8% go on to play over 100 games. That's the kind of retention chess might have, but very few new games can boast of.

    In short, although no game is going to catch everyone hook, line, and sinker, Arimaa definitely catches a high percentage of people that way, myself included. I'm still learning something new every game after playing 1,500 times. The question that seems most relevant to me is whether Arimaa would still be fun and interesting after 10,000 plays, after it has been dissected by millions of gamers, after it has been around for decades? For chess, of course, the answer is yes. For Arimaa it is way too soon to know, but I believe Arimaa has a legitimate shot.

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  3. Tom Chivers responded about Arimaa, "I didn't feel anything like the hook that plunged into me for life the first time I picked up a chess piece." That's a fair reason to choose a game to play, but not necessarily a commentary on the inherent quality of a game. For example, I don't think most chess addicts would care to argue that chess is fundamentally a better game than Go, merely that chess is what they most love to play and that Go didn't grab them.

    But, OK, apart from discussing whether Arimaa is a deep game, a strategic game, a rewarding game to study, and a game with long-term staying power, one can ask also whether it is addictive. From statistics on Arimaa.com, of new players who sign up and play at least one game, 3.8% go on to play over 100 games. That's the kind of retention chess might have, but very few new games can boast of.

    In short, although no game is going to catch everyone hook, line, and sinker, Arimaa definitely catches a high percentage of people that way, myself included. I'm still learning something new every game after playing 1,500 times. The question that seems most relevant to me is whether Arimaa would still be fun and interesting after 10,000 plays, after it has been dissected by millions of gamers, after it has been around for decades? For chess, of course, the answer is yes. For Arimaa it is way too soon to know, but I believe Arimaa has a legitimate shot.

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  4. I had a look at the website and I'm very interested. Will give it a try soon.

    ReplyDelete