Saturday, March 28, 2009

Have you played Arimaa?

I found a wonderful new game called "Arimaa". It's a turn-based game, vaguely similar to chess, with an 8x8 board and different classes of pieces. It's one of those well designed games that is rather easy to learn, but challenging to master. There are many aspects of the game to discover and explore; I've only just started.

Arimaa was actually created for AI research purposes in response to the defeat of world chess champion, Gary Kasparov, at the hands of IBM's Deep Blue chess computer. Arimaa has many more choices per turn and some other interesting properties. As a consequence, the best computer "bots" cannot currently defeat the best human players. There is a prize of $17,000 for the first bot that can. Naturally, I hope the winning bot will be written in Cobra. :-)

Omar Syed, the creator of the game, is a computer engineer trained in artificial intelligence. He runs a great site with instructions, wiki, forums, internet game room, bot API, etc. You can even order a physical game set.

Given Arimaa's design goal of challenging AI researchers, I was expecting that it might be boring, but it was just the opposite! Arimaa is fun in and of itself.

You can learn more about it at: