Posts

Are You Really Sure?

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Several users requested a confirmation dialog when starting a new game in Chess for Android to avoid resetting a game in progress by accidentally hitting the new game button. Therefore, I just posted v1.5.5 at the Android Market that adds this feature, illustrated below.


Although not directly requested, I have added this feature to both Checkers and Reversi for Android as well.

Math Worksheet Generator

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My daughter just started to learn addition and subtraction in school. Like a true nerd, I wrote a Java applet to generate math worksheets, so that I no longer have to write out exercises by hand.

To try it out, go to math worksheet generator.

Click on the top-right +/- buttons to increase and decrease the level of difficulty, click on the ADD/SUBTRACT button to toggle between additions and subtractions, or click anywhere to generate new exercises. Feel free to print the math worksheets for your own use (unfortunately, this may not work for some browsers).

Reversi for Android Update

I made minor improvements to the reversi move generator and evaluation function in version 1.5.5, hopefully resulting in stronger play. Unfortunately, in my excitement I forgot to add a new internal state to the save/restore functionality, which could introduce wrong play if a game was exited and later resumed. This has been fixed in version 1.6 of Reversi for Android. Many thanks to Patrick Barnes for reporting the bug (with a screen shot as illustration!).

Android Updates: Save on Exit

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I just posted version 1.5 of Chess, Checkers, and Reversi for Android at the Android Market, all with the much requested "save on exit" feature. If a user exits a game in progress, the game is automatically saved and later restored when the application is restarted. Even if the interrupt happened while the engine was thinking about its move, the game will restart in that state (albeit taking the full allocated time again). Apologies to all users who have been requesting this feature for a while, I just needed to find some time for it.

Dutch Royal Attack

With tears in my eyes I read the news and watched the pictures of the senseless attack on the Dutch royal family by a man who crashed his car through the crowd during the annual Queen's Day celebration. I pray for the victims and those who mourn.

Chess for Android Update

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Version 1.4 of Chess for Android is now available at the Android Market with the following new features:
Two improvements in the engine: removed unnecessary restriction on search depth and fixed bug that could cause an out-of-bounds exception.
The engine now detects draw by a simplified form of three fold repetition. The detection is not complete, since only limited game history is kept; but at least this new feature avoids some very annoying repetitions. Draw by the fifty move was already implemented.
A new level "Auto-play" has been added (press the Menu button). If this level is selected, then the next time the engine takes control (make either a move or touch "Reverse sides"), the game is played automatically.

ChessWar and WBEC Ridderkerk

Due to all Android distractions, it has been a while since I posted on BikJump. It recently ended at a somewhat disappointing 54th place in OpenWar 5th Edition. Version 2.01 is now playing in the final of the 5th Division WBEC Ridderkerk edition 16.

A New Checkers Engine: BikMove

I ported the Java source code of the engine in Checkers for Android into C++ and implemented the parts required to form a plug-in engine for Martin Fierz' CheckerBoard application. The result is BikMove (with an obvious wink to my UCI chess engine BikJump). I also added the ability to query checkers endgame databases based on Martin Fierz' probing code (used with his kind permission). The main features of BikMove are listed below:
Checkerboard compliant checkers engine.
Iterative deepening, alpha-beta pruning.
Queries endgame databases during search.
The engine needs some more work to become competitive with others checkers engines, but it already plays what looks to me like decent checkers. Give it a try if you are interested!

Perft for Reversi

As can be seen in previous postings, the perft method is useful to verify the correctness of a move generator. The method traverses the game tree up to various, increasing depths to count all leaf nodes. The results are compared with pre-computed values to isolate bugs. Although the method originated in the chess programming community, the same debugging principle can be used for any board game with deterministic rules. So far, I have used perft to verify the move generation of Chess for Android and, thanks to Martin Fierz, also for Checkers for Android. I was unable to find pre-computed perft numbers for reversi, however.

Therefore, here is what is probably the debut of perft for reversi from the initial position, hopefully useful data for aspirant reversi programmers (at depths 9 and up, "passing" moves start to occur; at depths 11 and up, higher leaf nodes in which neither player can move start to occur).

DEPTH #LEAF NODES
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1 …

Checkers Move Generation

I was able to make a small improvement in the checkers move generator (written in Java for the Android SDK). The following table shows run times of several perft depths before and after optimization when run on the emulator (which should mimic actual run times on the phone quite well).

DEPTH #LEAF NODES ORIGINAL OPTIMIZED
TIME TIME
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7 179740 2.9s 1.9s
8 845931 14.2s 9.7s
9 3963680 66.3s 45.6s
10 18391564 294.6s 208.7s

P.S. Runtimes for a C++ checkers move generator on a 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo are given at my checkers page.

Perft for Checkers

Martin Fierz kindly extended his engine Cake with a perft feature. Luckily the numbers reported by Cake match the numbers reported by Checkers for Android exactly. Below the numbers from the start position are shown, hopefully useful data for aspirant checkers programmers.

DEPTH #LEAF NODES
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1 7
2 49
3 302
4 1469
5 7361
6 36768
7 179740
8 845931
9 3963680
10 18391564
11 85242128
12 388623673

CheckerBoard

If you are looking for a checkers program for Windows, I can highly recommend Martin Fierz' CheckerBoard, consisting of a checkers GUI that features game databases, opening books, endgame databases, and various checkers engines (including the capability to plug in your own as DLL). I have used his engine Cake as "sparring partner" to test the correctness and strength of Checkers for Android. Needless to say, Cake won, but the games at least assured me that my Android version plays correct checkers. Martin also kindly responded to my request for adding a perft feature to Cake, which will enable verifying the correctness of my move generator against his.

Yet Another Update

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I am on the roll with updates! Version 1.3.2 of Chess for Android uses a larger font for the move list and highlights the last moved played by the engine (controlled by the already existing "show valid moves" button).



I am thinking about a version 2.0 with a completely new board layout to use the limited screen space more effectively. As usual, keep an eye on this blog if you are interested.

More Android Updates

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Two minor updates at the Android Market.

Version 1.3.1 of Checkers for Android has a slightly improved search and evaluation in the checkers engine. Some users complain the engine plays too strong, others say it is too weak. Needless to say I enjoy the challenge of making a strong engine more. I also added an "undo" feature for this game.



Version 1.3 of Chess for Android now also has the option to disable highlighting all valid moves once a piece has been selected for more experienced chess players. I also modified the on screen button layout.

Reversi for Android Update

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Version 1.3 of Reversi for Android at the Android Market adds an "undo" feature of the last move (to correct a mistake) and an option to disable the "ghost stones" for all valid moves (for users that prefer to see the board as in real-life).

Fixed Castling Bug

I posted version 1.2.2 of Chess for Android at the Android Market that fixes a bug that would sometimes allow castling when no longer legal. I validated the move generator of the chess engine by doing a perft (an internal feature) on several board positions to minimize the probability of other bugs related to move generation.

Trackball Support

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I just posted version 1.2.1 of Chess, Checkers, and Reversi for Android at the Android Market with trackball support. A small circle denotes the trackball cursor, as illustrated in the screen shot below. Hopefully this will make the input easier. Many thanks to Chris Bueno for quickly testing the applications shortly after posting!

G1 Android Phone

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I received my own G1 (well, strictly speaking, the Android Dev Phone 1&#153)! This means now I can (1) read all user comments posted at the Android Market, and (2) experience my applications on the real device, rather than on the emulator. After just a few minutes I must agree with users stating that touch screen input is rather hard given the board size (something I could never experience on the emulator, where touch is emulated with mouse input). So, trackball support may be a good idea after all.

More on User Feedback at the Android Market

I can now read the last few comments that are posted at the Android Market for each application. For chess and reversi, feedback is mostly constructive. I was very shocked, however, to read the comments posted for checkers.

People freely post four-letter words and do not shy away from personal insults. Why? Because the application uses the official straight checkers rule where jumps are mandatory? Perhaps, but adding an option to make captures optional did not seem to help. Because graphics are not advanced? True, but I wrote the game for fun and give it away for free! Because the application plays too strong (or too weak)? I assumed people like a challenge (and, conversely, I still have ideas for improving the strength of the checkers engine).

Ironically, I implemented checkers by popular demand after I released chess and reversi in the hope people would enjoy the application. But now I am starting to regret this somewhat after reading too many ill-mannered comments and emails....

Chess for Android Update

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Version 1.2 of Chess for Android at the Android Market has several improvements. The first is the much requested "undo" feature, where up to eight plies (half-moves) can be taken back to correct mistakes in the input (or mere blunders, as for black in the screenshot below!).



The second is a "free play" option, where the phone can be used as a "magnetic chessboard" to study games, or play a game up to a position for further play with the chess engine (this option, like the different levels of play, can be found under the "Menu" button). Furthermore, move highlighting has been modified with a black border, which looks slightly better along files and ranks. Finally, a few rules were added to evaluation function of the chess engine.