Samuel's and The Duke Checkers Programs

Here are interesting facts about two checkers programs developed in the 1950s. The stories are amazing testimonies of the prowess of the human mind to innovate and improve.

In 1952 Arthur L. Samuel composed a program for checkers made solely for checkers instructions. The program did not contain anything for playing checkers but only for tips and lessons for learning the game. However, after a few years, he managed to put together a program for both instructions and genetic analysis.

Samuel produced two copies of his program and managed to pit the two copies against each other. The result was an analysis of the weaknesses and strengths of his program. He decided to get rid of its weak features and the resultant synthesis was a breakthrough. Then Samuel came up with a better idea.

Samuel thought that with a second round of the pitting and analysis process he did the first time, he would come up with a better version of his program Thus, he repeated the whole process and came up with a more powerful version of the program for checkers. With enough promotion Samuel was able to project a strong image for his checkers program so that many deemed it a master-phase program.

In fact, Samuel's program was able to defeat checkers player Robert Nealey in a much publicized game. As it turned out, though, the player from Connecticut, Nealey, was blind and not really that good in the game. Later, Samuel's program was no much when pitted against Derek Oldbury and Walter Hellman in 1966. The program was defeated in 8 consecutive games.

But we have to consider that in those times computers did not yet work as fast as they do today. Notwithstanding this, we must admit that Samuel's work was a major contribution to computerized checkers and human wit in modern technology. The Samuel checkers program could operate with minimal human involvement.

However, in the 1970s Samuel's program defeated by a program some University people had developed. The experts from Duke University made the Duke program and demolished the Samuel program. The Duke team was composed of Eric Jensen, Alan Bierman, and Tom Truscott. But the Duke program later also lost to Elbert Lowder, suffering 2 losses and gaining just a win.

Later the Duke team tried to use the program against world champion Marion Tinsley but the game never materialized and the Duke program was never again used or resurrected. Both programs for checkers left a memorable legacy to checkers history.