I have been doing some research into artificial intelligence and I came across a 2007 paper titled "Checkers is Solved" on the game of checkers being solved by AI techniques after more than 16 years of trial. A solution to the game is defined by the team as "determining the final result in a game with no mistakes made by either player". The search for a solution started back in 1989 and it was finally found in 2007. Of what importance is this to the field of AI?
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When you explore AI, you do so first with a problem space that is relatively small and bounded by specific rules, so that you can prove your techniques.
Checkers is such a space. It therefore makes an ideal playground for AI explorations. This is also true of chess, although checkers is a smaller problem space, and therefore is more suitable to simpler explorations of AI. Board games like chess and checkers are easily modelled in a computer using a two-dimensional array.
As your knowledge improves, you can begin to alter your techniques and apply AI to more complex and non-deterministic domains, like human interactions.