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Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
Posted on Friday, July 20, 2007 - 7:36 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Since it's been a while I posted any puzzle with a Latin title, I thought to myself, what the heck, I'll throw one in. So enjoy! :D




Title: Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas

Difficulty: Easy to Medium

Type: True Story

Story:
Not worth it anymore.

To Solve:
What's not worth it anymore? And why?

Specialized Knowledge needed:
None needed.

Good luck!
Crazypalpig (Crazypalpig)
Posted on Friday, July 20, 2007 - 7:47 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Everything is vanity? Is Eclesiates relevant? "it" living? Used to be? A task? a mineral? oil? a liquid? a solid?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
Posted on Saturday, July 21, 2007 - 4:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Crazypalpig

Everything is vanity? Yes, the puzzle title is taken from the Latin Vulgate version of Ecclesiastes 1:2. Is Eclesiates relevant? Not really, except as the source of my puzzle title. "it" living? No Used to be? No A task? A few people I know do consider "it" a task, but in my opinion, this is highly misleading. a mineral? oil? a liquid? a solid? "It" is composed of several pieces of solids.
Rabrab (Rabrab)
Posted on Saturday, July 21, 2007 - 6:10 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Is "it" money? getting money?
Something that a person makes? a food item? a garment? a useful item?
Sixtyeight (Sixtyeight)
Posted on Monday, July 23, 2007 - 4:06 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

worth it to obtain? achieve? desire? purchase? make?

is this from personal experience?
it used to be worth it?
something has changed so now its not worth it?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
Posted on Monday, July 23, 2007 - 4:29 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Rabrab

Is "it" money? No getting money? No, but good thinking.
Something that a person makes? Well, a person can make "it", and in the past, this was certainly true. For more modern times, though, I think we use machines do the job. a food item? No a garment? No a useful item? This would be subjective opinion. Maybe you want to elaborate on what you mean by "useful".

Sixtyeight

worth it to obtain? achieve? This is closeset desire? purchase? make?

is this from personal experience? No -- I read about it in a newspaper.
it used to be worth it? For the purposes of this puzzle, yes.
something has changed so now its not worth it? Yes indeed!
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Monday, July 23, 2007 - 11:40 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

"Useful" as opposed to "purely decorative." Does it serve a purpose besides looking nice?

Is the subjectivity of "useful" because some people wouldn't consider it to be useful, while others would? Like shopping-bag carriers, or lighted eyebrow tweezers?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 4:56 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Rabrab

"Useful" as opposed to "purely decorative." Does it serve a purpose besides looking nice? Put in this way, yes, it does.

Is the subjectivity of "useful" because some people wouldn't consider it to be useful, while others would? Yes Like shopping-bag carriers, or lighted eyebrow tweezers? But not these two examples.
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 10:45 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hmmm.

Some people may consider it a "task" but others don't. What would these others consider it? a thing? a need? a desire? a goal? a characteristic?

Is the reason that "it isn't worth it" anymore:
It's cheaper to do without it?
it's cheaper to let someone? something? else do it? provide it?

Same questions for "it's easier..." please?

The two "it"s in the puzzle statement:

The first "it": something that could be (possibly misleadingly) described as a task, which is subjectively useful, right?

The second "it":
the cost in money?
in time?
in physical effort?
in mental effort?
emotionally?
in good will of others?
in respect?
in status? or social standing?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - 10:57 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hmmm.

Some people may consider it a "task" but others don't. What would these others consider it? This is not a yes/no question. :P a thing? a need? a desire? This is closest a goal? a characteristic?

Is the reason that "it isn't worth it" anymore:
It's cheaper to do without it?
it's cheaper to let someone? something? else do it? provide it? None of the above. *evil cackle*

Same questions for "it's easier..." please? Where did I make a reference to "it's easier"?

The two "it"s in the puzzle statement:

The first "it": something that could be (possibly misleadingly) described as a task, which is subjectively useful, right? Yes

The second "it":
the cost in money?
in time? This one
in physical effort?
in mental effort? And this one too
emotionally?
in good will of others?
in respect?
in status? or social standing? Possibly elements of the last three come into play.
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 12:14 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)


quote:

Same questions for "it's easier..." please? Where did I make a reference to "it's easier"?


You didn't. I did. However, since either I'm being particularly unclear, or you're being particularly picky, ;) I will type it all out...

Is the reason that "it's not worth it" anymore that it's easier to do without it?
to let someone? or something? else do it? provide it?

Hmm. Cost in time, mental effort and possibly elements of good will, respect, status and/ot social standing...

Anything to do with reading? studying? other means of gaining information?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 3:54 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Rabrab

You didn't. I did. However, since either I'm being particularly unclear, or you're being particularly picky, ;) I will type it all out... Probably a combination of both...I was quite lost with that question.

Is the reason that "it's not worth it" anymore that it's easier to do without it? No
to let someone? or something? else do it? provide it? Not really any of these.

Hmm. Cost in time, mental effort and possibly elements of good will, respect, status and/ot social standing...

Anything to do with reading? studying? other means of gaining information? No to all.
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 5:09 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Is doing "it" out of favor now, as opposed to in the past?
In the past, when "it" was worth it, was "it" a necessity? a preference? a choice? for the people who did it?

Could "it" be bought? hired? when it was worth it?

Is "it" an action, but not a task? (driving a car is an action, going to the store is a task?)
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 9:43 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Rabrab

Is doing "it" out of favor now, as opposed to in the past? No...and maybe a hint of a FA here.
In the past, when "it" was worth it, was "it" a necessity? a preference? a choice? This is closest for the people who did it?

Could "it" be bought? hired? when it was worth it? Not really, though in the course of doing "it", one must necessarily interact with some objects that must be bought or otherwise procured in some manner.

Is "it" an action, but not a task? (driving a car is an action, going to the store is a task?) Hmmm...tough to answer. People did "it" for the sake of "it" itself, but I don't think you can really classify that as either an action or a task.

btw...are we ever going to see that WWII puzzle of yours? =)
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 4:09 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The one I mentioned in Crazypalpig's puzzle? It's not a WWII puzzle, but I'm about ready to put it up -- got a little more background I need to dig up...

I think I need to concentrate on what's not worth it anymore. I'm very confused. SBQ's and sledgehammer...

The "it":
A tangible item?
More than one similar? or matching? tangible items?
More than one different tangible items?
A set of items? "Set" defined as a group of items typically bought, sold, and/or used together (A set of living room furniture, a set of encyclopedias, a chess set...)

Foo. I can't think tonight. 8-( I'll be back tomorrow...
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 3:37 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Amazing what a good night's sleep can do, isn't it? I feel much better...

Back when "it" was worth it, if I were talking about it, would I say:
I do it?
I feel it (emotionally)?
I feel it (physically)?
I experience it?
I learn it?
I buy it?
I have it?
I make it?
I see it?
I get it?
I think it?
I write it?
I read it?
I watch it?
I take part in it?
I practice it?
I play it?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 4:38 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Rabrab

The one I mentioned in Crazypalpig's puzzle? It's not a WWII puzzle, but I'm about ready to put it up -- got a little more background I need to dig up... Ah, I see. And yes, I meant that one. I must have confused Crazypalpig's theme with what you wrote.

I think I need to concentrate on what's not worth it anymore. I'm very confused. SBQ's and sledgehammer...

The "it":
A tangible item?
More than one similar? or matching? tangible items?
More than one different tangible items?
A set of items? YES -- good question! "Set" defined as a group of items typically bought, sold, and/or used together (A set of living room furniture, a set of encyclopedias, a chess set ...and this last one is VERY close to what "it" is!...)

Foo. I can't think tonight. 8-( I'll be back tomorrow... Be that as it may, you have uncovered some pretty critical information with you latest set of questions. Good call.

Rabrab again

Amazing what a good night's sleep can do, isn't it? I feel much better...

Back when "it" was worth it, if I were talking about it, would I say:
I do it?
I feel it (emotionally)?
I feel it (physically)?
I experience it?
I learn it?
I buy it?
I have it?
I make it?
I see it?
I get it?
I think it?
I write it?
I read it?
I watch it?
I take part in it?
I practice it?
I play it? This one -- good question.
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 5:14 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

OoooooooooKay, then...

A game set?
A deck of cards?

Playing Solitaire with real cards? I can't remember the last time I played Solitaire that wasn't on the computer...
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Monday, July 30, 2007 - 8:20 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

OoooooooooKay, then...

A game set? Yes, for svv of "game set".
A deck of cards? No

Playing Solitaire with real cards? So no to this as well. I can't remember the last time I played Solitaire that wasn't on the computer... I, on the other hand, can perfectly "recall" this occasion, since I have never done it before in my life. :D
Sixtyeight (Sixtyeight)
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Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 1:35 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

so, to recap what I can from the above attempts to define "it"s..... something close to a chess set is not worth..time/mental effort.......ish?

or is the first "it" meant to be the playing of that game-with-a-set?
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 5:53 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

svv of "game set":

a set of equipment for some sport?
a set of items used in playing music?
a set of items used in some form of gambling?
a set of items used primarily in a game, but which can also be used for something else, non-game-related?
a set of items primarily used for something non-game-related, but which can also be used to play a game?


Does the set consist of:
a board? (like Monopoly or Chinese checkers?)
a base unit? (like pachinko?)
a foundation piece of some nature? (like pool or foosball?)
a goal? or target? piece? (like darts or croquet?)

A single movable playing piece per player? (Monopoly again?)
multiple playing pieces per player? (dominoes? backgammon?}
multiple playing pieces shared between the players? (Scrabble?)
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Thursday, August 16, 2007 - 5:58 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I believe that the first "it" (The It that's no longer worth it,) is the playing of something using a game set, and the game set is the item that must be interacted with in the course of doing it.
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 - 4:25 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

My apologies for my late reply, but I had been dealing with a family tragedy.

Anyway, onto happier topics, such as finally getting this puzzle moving! :D


Sixtyeight

so, to recap what I can from the above attempts to define "it"s..... something close to a chess set is not worth..time/mental effort.......ish? This one. And congratulations for hitting the nail on the head with regards to the "it" in my puzzle statement.

or is the first "it" meant to be the playing of that game-with-a-set? No...your first statement was much more accurate.

Rabrab

svv of "game set":

a set of equipment for some sport?
a set of items used in playing music?
a set of items used in some form of gambling?
a set of items used primarily in a game, but which can also be used for something else, non-game-related? This one, though mostly it's used for game (I'd be hard pressed to think of non-game-related uses for an average person. Lateral puzzle regulars, I'm sure, can easily think of something. :D)
a set of items primarily used for something non-game-related, but which can also be used to play a game?


Does the set consist of:
a board? Yes (like Monopoly or Chinese checkers? But not these two, though the last one comes awfully close!)
a base unit? No (like pachinko?)
a foundation piece of some nature? No (like pool or foosball?)
a goal? No or target? No piece? There are several pieces, yes -- see below. (like darts or croquet?)

A single movable playing piece per player? No (Monopoly again?)
multiple playing pieces per player? Yes (dominoes? backgammon?)
multiple playing pieces shared between the players? No (Scrabble?)

Rabrab again

I believe that the first "it" (The It that's no longer worth it,) is the playing of something using a game set, and the game set is the item that must be interacted with in the course of doing it. Close...see my reply to Sixtyeight.

And since I've been gone for so long, here's a...

******* RECAP *******

"Not worth it anymore"

The puzzle statement can be expanded to "It's not worth it anymore." The first it is a reference to a game that's played on a board of some sort, with multiple playing pieces per player. The exact identity of this game has yet to be determined, though "Chinese checkers" is by far the closest guess.

The second "it" in the expanded puzzle statement refers to the fact that the game it not worth the time or effort to play anymore. Why this claim is being made is the heart of this puzzle. Needless to say, identifying the game in question will help immensely.

Good luck!
Sixtyeight (Sixtyeight)
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Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 1:15 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

chess? checkers? go?
is it relevant to what capacity you play the game? like league play? internet play? club play?
or is playing this game in any form not worth it anymore?
does this have to do with another player?
or a change in life? so you have no more time for games? or are you frustrated about your improvement in the game?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 3:01 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Sixtyeight

chess? checkers? This one -- well done! go?
is it relevant to what capacity you play the game? like league play? No internet play? club play?
or is playing this game in any form not worth it anymore? Yes
does this have to do with another player? No
or a change in life? No so you have no more time for games? or are you frustrated about your improvement in the game? Nothing like this -- I'm not personally involved in this puzzle.
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 3:47 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Sorry to hear about the family tragedy; you and yours will be in my prayers...

"Playing checkers is not worth the effort anymore." Right?

And now we have to find out why it's not worth the effort...

Are computers relevant?
The increased pace at which people expect things to happen? (Checkers was always a sort of leisurely game where I grew up. Cutthroat, but leisurely. 8-) )
Too few people still play, so it's not worth the effort to try to find an opponent?
Checkers' reputation as an Auld Pharts game?
Zenith (Zenith)
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Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 1:52 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Chinook
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 4:02 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Rabrab

Sorry to hear about the family tragedy; you and yours will be in my prayers... Thanks...my family could definitely use them.

"Playing checkers is not worth the effort anymore." Right? Yes

And now we have to find out why it's not worth the effort... Yes

Are computers relevant? YES -- good question!
The increased pace at which people expect things to happen? No (Checkers was always a sort of leisurely game where I grew up. Cutthroat, but leisurely. 8-) ) It's not very often that one sees "cutthroat" and "leisurely" being used to described the same thing at the same time. :-)
Too few people still play, so it's not worth the effort to try to find an opponent? No
Checkers' reputation as an Auld Pharts game? No

Zenith

Chinook YES -- and I think it's safe to say that you seem to already know the answer!

I should pause to add at this point that googling "Chinook" and "checkers" would most likely spoil the solution for you, so please refrain from doing that. :-D
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 4:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Never heard of Chinook. So I will slog onward...

Is the relevant Chinook a game? a program? a club/group? the helicopter? the weather pattern?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - 5:44 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Rabrab

Never heard of Chinook. So I will slog onward...

Is the relevant Chinook a game? a program? This one a club/group? the helicopter? the weather pattern?
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - 6:15 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Then I suppose that it makes a little sense to try to figure out what it's for, and how it relates to checkers....

What sort of program:
An OS?
a video player? video editor?
a game program?
a spreadsheet?
a word processor?
a financial program of some nature? (budgeter? checkbook?)
a firewall?
an anti-virus?
a spamkiller?
an audio player? audio editor?

Something that I'd be likely to put on my home computer?
something that I'd be likely to have on my office work station?
something that the admin? IT department? would be likely to have but Joe Cubicle isn't?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - 2:00 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Then I suppose that it makes a little sense to try to figure out what it's for, and how it relates to checkers....

What sort of program:
An OS?
a video player? video editor?
a game program? This is the closest, though not very close at all.
a spreadsheet?
a word processor?
a financial program of some nature? (budgeter? checkbook?)
a firewall?
an anti-virus?
a spamkiller?
an audio player? audio editor?

Something that I'd be likely to put on my home computer? No
something that I'd be likely to have on my office work station? No
something that the admin? No IT department? No would be likely to have but Joe Cubicle isn't? Yes

Or just to make sure my answers are clear: an admin, the IT department, and Joe Cubicle are all highly unlikely to have this program.
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - 9:58 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

AArrrrrrrrrrrrghhhh! ;-D

Are the Chinook program and checkers directly related?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2007 - 5:52 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

AArrrrrrrrrrrrghhhh! ;-D While a simple yet remarkably effective way to release stress, yelling will not help you solve this puzzle. :-D

Are the Chinook program and checkers directly related? Yes
Rabrab (Rabrab)
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Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2007 - 8:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

OK, then, lets go for the obvious: Is Chinook a checkers-playing program, like Deep Blue is for chess?

If so,
Is it no longer worth the effort to play checkers the old-fashioned way, because you can no longer be the best checkers player?
because you can now play on the computer?
Because Chinook can always beat you?
Haenlomal (Haenlomal)
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Posted on Friday, August 24, 2007 - 12:51 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

OK, then, lets go for the obvious: Is Chinook a checkers-playing program, like Deep Blue is for chess? YES

If so,
Is it no longer worth the effort to play checkers the old-fashioned way, because you can no longer be the best checkers player? Yes
because you can now play on the computer? I believe one could have found checkers on the computer well before Chinook.
Because Chinook can always beat you? This too.

The above is more than enough for me to justify posting the...

**************** SPOILER *****************

The original link to the article is http://www.thestar.com/sciencetech/article/237777

However, since I'm not sure if it's active anymore, I'll repost the text here.

ALBERTA RESEARCHERS CRACK CHECKERS CODE
Scientists solve every possible game using 200 computers over 18 years


Jul 19, 2007 02:50 PM
Joseph Hall
Health Reporter

The game of checkers has been crowned.

After 18 and a half years of work - running as many as 200 computers at a time - University of Alberta scientists have developed a program that can win or draw every single time it plays the ancient board game.

The achievement - which represents the “perfect” mastery of a computer over the most complex game yet - was reported Thursday in the academic journal Science.

“This is a huge advance on the state of the (artificial intelligence) art,” says Jonathan Schaeffer, head of the Edmonton school’s computer science department and lead study author.

“What it does is push the boundary and give a vivid demonstration of what computing technologies can do.”

Schaeffer says the computational problem of solving checkers was “10 million times bigger” than any application previously conquered.

But why spend all that time and artificial intelligence on … well…checkers?

“If you asked my wife she’d give you a different answer than me,” says Schaeffer, 50. “But I guess there’s a technical story here and a personal story here.”

The personal saga began back in the 1980s when Schaeffer, an international leader in artificial intelligence, created one of the world’s best chess playing programs. Then, IBM’s powerful Deep Blue computer arrived on the scene and set about trying to defeat the top grand masters on Earth.

“The writing was pretty much on the wall for my program,” Schaeffer says.

“So, being a competitive person … I switched to checkers, because all of the research problems in artificial intelligence that I was trying to address were the same in checkers as they were in chess.”

Indeed, soon after switching to the more lowly game, Schaefer realized that a “perfect” checkers program could be had, if the computing technology would allow it. In 1989, however, that technology was nowhere near up to the task.

Undaunted by the contemporary lack of computer speed and memory, Schaeffer set out to create a program, later dubbed Chinook, to win the world checkers championship.

“And by 1994, we’d achieved our goal, we’d won the human world championship, but that ended in an unsatisfactory way,” he says.

The “unsatisfactory” conclusion to his 1994 triumph had a human name: Dr. Marion Tinsley, a septigenarian who had ranked in checkers circles for decades as the undisputed king of the game.

A gentle and personable “human computer,” Tinsley could play the 5,000-year-old game like no other human before or since.

“Tinsley for all his warmth and gentleness and kindness was almost more computer than any other human I have seen,” Schaeffer says. “In a span of 41 years he only lost three games. He played checkers almost to perfection.”

But by 1994 Tinsley had become too feeble to play at the world-class heights that Schaeffer’s Chinook had surmounted. Tinsley died the next year.

“And I always had these checkers players saying, `Oh, you never could have beaten Tinsley. Tinsley was the best’,” he says. “And it always rankled me that these people would always say these types of things.”

So Schaffer, an “awful” checkers player himself, set out to prove he could make Chinook even better than the great Tinsley. And to do that, he had to make his program incapable of “zero error whatsoever.”

With computer power improving by the month in the late 1990s, Schaeffer decided to use the brute force of the burgeoning technology to tackle what, in essence, was a number crunching problem.

“I said let’s just do it and lay all this nonsense to rest.”

Using some bought, begged and borrowed computers - with an average of 50 running at a time - Schaeffer set out to sort through the 500 billion checkers positions and determine which led to “wins, losses and draws.”

Originally he plugged rule of thumb (heuristics in artificial intelligence language) tips from top checkers players into his program. Then he let it run, tweaking, updating and fixing errors on a daily basis.

The program ran continuously from 2001 until April 29 of this year, when Schaeffer was able to claim that it had “solved” the game.


Thanks to all for playing, and a major star goes to Rabrab for the final kill. May you win all your future games in checkers. :-D

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