How computers beat us at our own games

This chart shows how long it’s taken AI to figure out how to turn the tables against us.


The history of AI arguably begins with chess. Around 1948, computing pioneer Alan Turing scribbled the first lines of an algorithm for pondering rooks and bishops. Nearly 50 years later, IBM’s Deep Blue program edged out world champ Garry Kasparov in a sweat-soaked competition.


IBM whiz Arthur Samuel wrote the first checkers program on his company’s clunky 701 computer in the 1950s. A generation later, researchers at the University of Alberta solved the board for good: Their Chinook program clobbered a checkers champ in 1994 and became officially unbeatable by 2007.

Texas Hold’em

Card games are tricky for AIs because they lack “perfect information”: in chess you can see all the pieces, but in cards you can’t peep your opponent’s hand. Poker pro Mike Caro constructed the first electronic player in 1984, and a subsequent software became unbeatable at two-person Hold’em 30 years later.

Starcraft II

This war simulator has players build fortresses and command alien troops. Google’s DeepMind neural network defeated a group of champs in 2019, deploying unusual strategies that confounded even elite contestants. One of its sister bots had mastered the notoriously complex game Go two years prior.

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