Checkers has been solved!

It has been mathematically proven that if two extremely skilled players engage in a game of Checkers together and make no mistakes, then the game ends in a tie. This may be underwhelming to some, but this ultimately means that the game of Checkers itself is perfectly balanced. This looks pretty obvious on a superficial level. Players have all of the same pieces and a perfectly mirrored setup. In other words, it is a perfectly symmetrical game.

Except that one player gets to go first.

This is often a concern with game design and game play. Does the first player have an advantage over the others because he or she sets everything in motion? Many modern games mitigate this problem with some luck-based mechanics. Dice and random cards means that no one has an advantage. Obviously, Checkers doesn’t fall back on mechanics like that. It’s a game based on single movements.

To a competitive community, this means that Checkers ultimately comes down to a battle of wits. It comes down to who knows the game better and can out think the opponent. It’s almost the perfect game.

I say “almost” just because there are people out there that like a bit of luck in a game. Luck means that you and your opponent don’t do better simply from having memorized a number of sequences or possibilities and instead need to not only overcome the opponent(s) but also circumstance itself. Luck also means newcomers have a better chance of being effective instead of simply stomped. But there’s a place for games featuring luck and games void of it.

I’m still waiting for Chess to be solved, though. With six different pieces, no matter how symmetrical the setup, it’s possible that the game suffers from first player advantage. Maybe we’ll find out in a decade or two.

About Gospel X

Media commentator who tries not to waste time - and often fails

Posted on September 18, 2013, in board games, games and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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