Balloted Openings

At the turn of the twentieth century 8×8 American and English Draughts (“Checkers”) players realized the game was being exhausted. Given their choice, most players with Black (first player) would open with one or two of the seven legal moves and their opponents would respond in similar narrow veins. At the top level the game was effectively drawn. The intervening century cooked a few endgames and forced minor re-evaluations, but the best players knew the main lines to the mathematical endpoint.

The result starting in 1900 was the America two-move restriction followed in 1934 by the American three-move restriction. Tournament players were balloted openings from a set of acceptable two (half-)move sequences, B-W, and then three (half-)moves, B-W-B.

Balloted openings did two things for Checkers

  1. It forced topflight players to know the whole game
  2. It revealed lines previously disregarded and even thought lost which have hidden resources in the weaker position.

The first result was practical, the second bespoke itself of the beauty of the game. Computers have performed a similar service for Chess in that they have awakened long-discarded “quiet” lines.

Apology : I was not accurate previously in this blog in blandly stating that draughts had been computationally solved. The particular problem claimed to be solved is, “Does the game end in a draw with best play?”  which was answered in the affirmative without exhaustive calculation of inferior lines.

Watch this interview with Alexander Moiseyev the 6th world 3-move checkers champion:

Jacques Delaguerre