Draughts champion feels chill of defeat

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The Independent Online
A CHILL wind named Chinook blew through the world of intellectual games yesterday when a computer bearing that name defeated the world draughts champion.

Before yesterday's game, Dr Marion Tinsley, who has been the strongest draughts player in the world since 1955, led the match by one game to nil with six draws. In 18 earlier games between man and machine Tinsley had scored one win and 17 draws.

Until yesterday, it was beginning to look as though the machine, for all its computing power, would never defeat the human brain. But yesterday's game changed everybody's conceptions when, for the first time, a machine defeated an acknowledged world champion in an official competition. There are still 32 games to be played in the contest.

Chinook, which is based at the University of Alberta in Canada, works by a combination of intense calculation and huge memory. Whatever the position, it analyses about three million moves every minute, stretching its investigations usually some 20 moves deep. At the end of its calculations, the resulting positions may be referred to its database, which includes every possible position with seven or fewer pieces.

In the fifth game of the match, Dr Tinsley, who between games of draughts is a mathematics professor, calculated variations 30 moves deep to out-think the computer. Yesterday, Chinook's calculations stretched far enough to link up to its comprehensive endgame knowledge and man had no chance against the machine.

Meanwhile, IBM in the United States is funding Deep Thought, a computer programme designed to defeat Garry Kasparov, the world chess champion. After Chinook's success, the company's computer programmers will be much more optimistic.