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Checkers Championships - The World Man-Machine Checkers Championship

The World Man-Machine Checkers Championship has had an interesting beginning, which can be traced back to the now famous Chinook computer checkers program. Chinook was actually the first computer program to ever win a world championship title in a checkers competition against a human being.

Chinook won the right to play in the checkers World Championship in 1990 by placing second in the U.S. Nationals after Marion Tinsley. Both the American Checkers Federation and the English Draughts Association were initially strongly opposed to the participation of a computer in a human checkers championship. Tinsley protested this decision, which led to his giving up his title as world champion. The ACF and the EDA then decide to create The World Man-Machine Checkers Championship, and the game continued as planned. Tinsley performed admirably in the event, winning four games against Chinook's two, with 33 games ending in a draw.

A rematch was subsequently rescheduled in which Chinook won an astounding victory and was crowned winner of The World Man-Machine Checkers Championship in 1994 with six drawn games. The event was unfortunately marred by Tinsley's withdrawal from the rest of the series due to pancreatic cancer. This means that while Chinook managed to win the title of world champion, it had never actually defeated Tinsley, who was by most accounts the best checkers player of all time, and who was far ahead of even his closest rival in the game.

The World Man-Machine Checkers Championship would later proceed with Chinook defending its title against Don Lafferty. Chinook did not fare so well in this game, losing one game, winning one, with 18 games ending in a draw. After the match, Chinook’s developer Jonathan Schaeffer decided to withdraw the program from further competition and instead decided to dedicate the program to solving checkers problems. Chinook retired with a rating of 2814.

The program algorithm of Chinook includes an opening book, a library of opening moves that were derived from games that were played by checkers grandmasters; an extensive search algorithm; an excellent move evaluation function; and an end-game database for all possible positions with eight pieces or less. Chinook's knowledge of the game was actually programmed by its developers, as opposed to being learned through artificial intelligence.

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