CSc 180 -- Fall 2010
Intelligent Systems

2010 Tournament Results - "Schmesh"

The 9th Annual CSc-180 Two-Player Strategy Board Game Programming Contest
took place the first week in November.  It featured 25 programs battling
it out in the game of "SCHMESH", a newly-invented game patterned loosely
after the old Milton Bradley game of "Smess" from the 1960s.  Players try
to capture their opponent's king on a 5x8 board -- more importantly,
every time a piece moves, it changes to another type of piece.
The two-day competition included programs written in Java, C, and C++.

For only the second time in 9 years, the contest was won by a program
written in Java.  Mitch Heer's "Chubs" won a clear first in a nail-biting
finish, which came down to the final game.  Going into the very last round
against the instructor's program "Numbskull", Chubs needed only one win
out of two games to secure a victory.  But Numbskull won the first game,
and the outcome was to be decided by the result of their second game.
Chubs pulled it out with a complex combination which had onlookers
saying "he'll win, no he'll win" ... back and forth before Numbskull
first reported that with correct play it should lose.  Chubs played
the winning line, and became the 9th champion, much to the relief of
Mitch, who had grown understandably nervous!  Tied in the final round
with Numbskull, but one game off the pace in the quarters, was Michael
Braden's "a.out", a clean program with fewer heuristics but written
in C and built for speed.  Finishing in 4th, having been in the lead
right up until the final round was David Bettencourt's "Saternine".

Chubs was arguably the program which employed the most heuristics
among the competitors, utilizing minimax and alpha-beta pruning,
iterative deepening, sophisticated move ordering, killer move,
key squares heuristics, and aspiration windows to search 9+ plies deep.
Besides Numbskull, only two other programs managed to get a game off
of Chubs ("a.out" and "Zelduck").

There were many other strong programs.  Of particular note were two
entrants which "evolved" their heuristics - Abe Sturman's "Random Champ"
and Daniel Chally's "Schmeschmaster", which battled for 5th with Shawn
Blakesley's "Brain Muncher".  Al Bueche's "\{^_^}/" featured a spectacular
graphical user interface with selectable skins and sound (and retro-Smess
pieces!).  It also played well, winning individual games against
Numbskull and a.out before ultimately finishing in 8th place.

The "most improved" program during the two-day contest was Chris Rippel's
"Fainting Goat", which went from playing miserably on day one, to nearly
winning the quarter-final consolation bracket.  Chris improved his program
immensely during the intervening day off, and captured the tournament's
coveted "Grand Hamster" award.

Here are the complete results, showing prelims, quarters, semis,
and finals, as well as consolation rounds:

      Program        Author         F   S   Q   P  cons rds  total
 1.   Chubs         (Heer)         4-2 3-1 4-0 4-0           15-3
 2    Numbskull     (Gordon)       3-3 4-2                    7-5
 3.   a.out         (Braden)       3-3 3-3 4-0 4-0           14-6
 4.   Saternine     (Bettencourt)  2-4 5-1 4-0 4-0           15-5
 5    Schmeshmaster (Chally)           3-3 3-1 4-0           10-4
 6.   Brain Muncher (Blakesley)        4-2 2-2 3-1            9-5
(tie) Random Champ  (Sturman)          3-3 3-1 3-1            9-5
 8.   \{^_^}/       (Bueche)           2-4 3-1 4-0            9-5
 9.   Skittles      (Hansen)           2-2 2-2 4-0            8-4
10.   Zelduck       (Donnelly)         1-3 2-2 4-0            7-5
11.   Ame           (DelaCruz)         0-6 3-1 2-2            5-9
12.   Cortana       (Khoury)               0-4 2-2  4-0 4-0  10-6
13.   Fainting Goat (Rippel)                   0-4  3-1 2-2   5-7  [GH]
14.   Foxbat        (Kudelich)             4-4 2-2  3-1       9-7
15.   Vizzini T.S.* (Bryant)               0-4 2-2  2-2       4-8
16.   Seppuku       (Martine)              0-4 2-2  0-4       2-10
17.   W.O.P.R.      (Landsborough)             0-4  6-2       6-6
18.   PGEOM         (Truong)                   0-4  3-3       3-7
19.   Real Bad      (Tsukiji)                  1-3  2-2       3-5
(tie) The Rope      (Acheson)              0-4 1-3  0-4       1-11
21.   Betsy         (Davidek)                  0-2  0-2       0-4
(tie) WashedUp      (Reynolds)                 0-2  0-2       0-4
(tie) Gainford God  (Gainford)                 0-2  0-2       0-4
(tie) Game Over     (Luc)                      0-2  0-2       0-4
(tie) Epic Fail     (Jonsson)                  0-2  0-2       0-4

* Vizzini's full name was "Vizzini The Sicilian".

We had many spectators for Thursday's final rounds including several
students checking out the 180 class, as well as Dean Emir Macari and
department chair Cui Zhang.

A HUGE thanks to Dwayne Alexander (author of 2008 Grand Hamster "The Tick")
for generously volunteering his time both days.  He basically ran the
tournament from start to finish.  The event ran smoothly largely because
of Dwayne's help, and he received a well-deserved round of applause from
the room full of competitors at the end of the week!

Thanks also to students Andrew Merkner for proctoring "Numbskull", and
John Tran for proctoring "Skittles".

The game of Schmesh turned out to be a tense, tactical one, with sudden
and often unforseen forced wins requiring deep search.  There were many 
disagreements regarding whether it was an advantage to move first or
second.  And, although the top 15 or so programs all regularly defeat
their authors, as of yet the game of Schmesh remains - unsolved.


2009 results