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One Jump Ahead: Challenging Human Supremacy in Checkers Hardcover – April 24, 1997

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...We get a close look into the embarrassingly low-rent, codger-populated world of championship checkers... and a few painless lessons in the game itself... But the most memorable passages deal with Schaeffers's own bittersweet reactions. His brainchild does so well that he can see, all too clearly, its almost tragic effect on the cloistered society of checkers - and on his fellow human beings." Newsweek

" Schaeffer's personal involvement in the Chinook project, along with his engaging and open story-telling makes the book surprisingly gripping." A.K. Dewdney

About the Author

The scientists who developed Chinook rigorously proved that Chinook can never lose, i.e. computer checkers has been solved.  Author Schaeffer detailed the process on the web site of the journal Science in July 2007, and the story has since been reported in the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, USA Today, Discover Magazine, as well as on MSNBC and CNN, among others.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 1 edition (April 24, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387949305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387949307
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,530,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on March 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Once I started to read this book I found it difficult to put down. Granted I am addicted to playing checkers against my computer when taking breaks at work, but still.... This is very interesting material for checkers players and computer programmers alike.
However, I do have a couple of problems with the book. First, it is very poorly edited. There are a number of grammatical mistakes, [one right on the first paragraph], the author at times goes into unnecessary tangents and, in general the book is too long and repetitive. In addition, it bothered me that, perhaps because of the author's familiarity with chess, he decided to use chess notation to describe the games. This makes it more difficult for checkers players to follow the games while reading the book. The author/editor should have made the effort to use checkers notation or to provide better diagrams.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a biased reviewer since I was involved in the Chinook project and I'm mentioned a number of times in the book.
Others have already pointed out how this book reads like a thriller. I agree completely. Each time that I re-read this book (which is almost like a yearbook for me), I get a rush out of how effectively Jonathan takes the reader into his own mind, the (computer) mind of Chinook, and the minds of Chinook's opponents (often through their own comments and game annotations). I squirm at the retelling of how Chinook lost the first two matches in Hot Springs (1992) where I sat Poker-faced as I operated the computer.
Another strength of this book is how Jonathan fearlessly pulls no punches in presenting balanced portraits of the many people involved in the Chinook story. Don't expect a forgettable puff piece. Scientists and champions are not immune from human foibles. In dispelling that illusion, Jonathan tells a honest and valuable story. Nobody escapes Jonathan's (sometimes) sharp criticism: not myself (deserved), not some of the luminaries of checkers (accurate, in my opinion), and especially not Jonathan himself. But Jonathan balances this with genuine praise, affection, and respect in almost every case. Consequently, the book contains many insights on human nature, the nature of AI, and what happens when they cross paths.
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Format: Hardcover
This book tells the story of an ambitious computer scientist who sets out to write a program that can beat the World Checkers Champion. He succeeds, although it takes him six years to achieve his goal. On the technical side, the book describes how the checkers program works, and how much effort it took Schaeffer and his team to make it play well enough to beat the human Champion. On the human side, it tells the story of the amazing Dr. Tinsley, probably the best checkers player who ever lived, who had beaten all his opponents, who had become bored with the game, and who finds in the computer a fresh opponent that has no fear for him, that plays for the win, that is actually fun to play against.
The most intense passages of the book are the ones where Schaeffer, as the operator of his program, has to watch his creation make moves he doesn't trust, but cannot do anything about. The most intriguing aspect of the book is that the way in which Chinook calculates it! s best moves doesn't come close to how man does it. (Or how we think we do it.)
Chinook's is a fascinating story. The book is very well written, and reads like a thriller.
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Format: Hardcover
First off - i don't play checkers, and prior to reading this book, i didn't want to. Second - i do research in game AI (although significantly different than the type of work described here) and even went to a few conferences with the author, though we've never spoken (he had a reputation for being a bit of a jerk). So my review is from the point of view of a non-checkers playing engineer.

First off, the book is incredibly meticulous in keeping track of what happened when. The author apparently asked everyone he knew to email him about various events because he often quotes long passages from other people. For example, he might describe a game he won or lost and then ask the person he played against and the judge of the match to describe it in their own words.

Second, i thought the book was pretty easy to understand. i know computers so maybe i'm not a good judge there but he did a good job explaining checkers (and chess, which comes up) so that i understood what was going on.

Third, he makes checkers seem interesting, or at least as much as i think he can. Apparently normal checkers isn't interesting but in tournaments they play odd varieties like two ballot (explained in the book) which makes for a much more interesting game than i would have expected. He also makes it easy to understand why checkers is a hard game requiring a lot of skill, which i wouldn't have guessed before this book.

Fourth, the author lets you know that he is a jerk. He doesn't appear to do anything to hide his faults or make you like him. In the book he repeatedly apologizes to people for how he's treated them. Honestly, i liked the author a lot more after reading this book.
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