Many individuals have commented on the victory of the chess computer Deep Blue. When Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov, it was met with a great deal of surprise and more than a little controversy. However, one of the commentators was actually inspired to do something about the victory. Omar Syed developed the game of Arimaa, which is reportedly far more difficult for artificial intelligence systems to play than chess is. Nevertheless, it was supposed to be easy enough for his then four-year-old son to play, and the name of the game is a permutation of his son’s name in honor of this requirement. Moreover, the game can be played with a repurposed chess set.
There is a $10,000 prize for the first computer program that can run on standard hardware and defeat the three top-ranked human Arimaa players. This prize is being offered until 2020. Theoretically, a supercomputer might be able to rise to the challenge through total brute force methods, but the prize is specifically to be given to someone who can design software that works with inexpensive home technology. However, since advanced hardware continues to go down in price, the 2020 limit has been set to ensure that cheaply available powerful hardware resources do not become an issue.
Thus far, computers have not performed as well at playing Arimaa as they have at chess. One reason for this is the high branching factor that is present in the average game of Arimaa. That being said, Syed apparently hopes that the challenge will breed new and interesting artificial intelligence concepts.