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Subject: Beginning Arimaa book available rss

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Fritz Juhnke
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My new book about Arimaa is now available for purchase here: https://www.createspace.com/3384106. (I believe the BGG guidelines allow me to post a link to an external product, but if not I will remove my post. I don't want to step on anyone's toes.)

Beginning Arimaa is partly an in-depth strategy guide. It will take you from novice level to strategy surpassing the best computer opponents. If you want to vie for the Arimaa World Championship some day, this is a good foundation to build on. Imagine a large collection of BGG strategy articles, distilled and presented in coherent sequence.

My main motivation for writing, however, is in the vein of an extended game review. Much more than most games, Arimaa lends itself to study. There are broad strategies, and strategies within those strategies. If you work at Arimaa, there is no ceiling to how good at it you can become, at least none that we have encountered so far. Collectively we have 6.5 years of experience, 110,000 plays on arimaa.com, and ratings that range from 1000 to 2600, yet we fully expect someone who hasn't even discovered the game to join and play at the 3000 level within a few years.

Although Beginning Arimaa is my first book, I believe it is accessible, logical, and fun, rather like Arimaa itself (coincidentally Omar Syed's first game). I hope that once you have read my stories you will agree that Arimaa shows enormous potential to become a classic.
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Avri
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Ordered . . .
 
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Doc Bullseye
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Neat! Any chance of an excerpt?
 
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Fritz Juhnke
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KnobDoctor wrote:
Neat! Any chance of an excerpt?

Sure thing. Here is the preface:

On February 10, 1996, Garry Kasparov lost a game of chess to IBM computer Deep Blue. No reigning World Chess Champion had ever before lost to a machine at tournament time controls. I watched the game live on the Internet Chess Club, marveling as Deep Blue made a deep pawn sacrifice to break up Kasparov’s position. That moment extinguished my last ray of hope that human chess ability was somehow transcendent.

I recall that the online spectators chatted as much about the meaning of intelligence as they did about the chess game. One observer would say, "Deep Blue thinks the bishop is worth more than the knight," to which another would reply, "Computers can’t think, they can only calculate." To me the latter comment seemed mere quibbling. Computers can think, or we wouldn’t talk about them the way we do.

When Kasparov lost a match (not just a game) to Deep Blue the following year, the mainstream media reflected my attitude. Journalists waxed eloquent about how intelligent computers had become and how soon they would do all sorts of thinking tasks we once thought of as purely human activities. Chess symbolized the tipping point in the accelerating obsolescence of our brains.

While we were busy composing an epitaph for human intelligence, however, the general effusion of praise for all things silicon moved one man to rebellion. Omar Syed, rather than arguing abstractly about the meaning of intelligence, set out to prove concretely that computers had not yet become intelligent even at strategy games. His message to the world took the form of a new strategy game called Arimaa.

Syed is a computer scientist, which may seem odd because his profession is generally the first to praise the present and future capabilities of computers. Engineers usually feel proud rather than annoyed when the public showers too much favor on machines. Yet Syed has another trait typical of computer scientists: a love of precision. In particular, he believes that intelligence, when precisely understood, must have general applicability. He by no means denigrates the remarkable powers of computers; he merely expects that the specific methods used to conquer chess will not do much more than conquer chess.

To make his point--his precise point--it would not suffice for Syed to name any random task that computers perform worse than people. Granted, computers can’t play jazz saxophone, but that isn’t the issue. In order to disprove Deep Blue’s supposed intelligence, Syed needed to show that computers can’t surpass humans at a task superficially similar to chess. Thus he created a game in which two players take turns, with no negotiation, no chance, and no hidden information. He chose the chess board as the playing field and gave each player the same sixteen pieces. He made the rules simple and even somewhat familiar; for example, the eight weakest pieces on each side may not move backward. By making Arimaa appear for all the world like "another chess", he made it impossible to dodge the question of why computers can crush humans at chess but not at Arimaa. If tweaking a problem only slightly means that computers can’t solve it any more, then the original solution wasn’t intelligence, was it?

Furthermore, Syed put his money where his mouth is by creating the Arimaa Challenge. He offered $10,000 from his own pocket to anyone who could create a world-beating Arimaa program. This financial incentive made it far-fetched for doubters to claim that computers can’t defeat the best humans at Arimaa only because no one has earnestly tried to write software for it. At first, the exertions of Arimaa software developers were exceeded only by their confidence that Syed was loony. Nowadays, although serious efforts towards coding Arimaa-playing engines continue, the programmers themselves concede that they are only competing against each other and will not threaten top-level humans any time soon.

In technical terms, the Arimaa Challenge has demonstrated that full-width iteratively-deepened alpha-beta mini-max search trees with transposition tables, aspiration windows, move-ordering heuristics, null-move pruning, and quiescence search, when run on present-day hardware, are overwhelmed by a high branching factor and low capture density. Whew! Point taken. Score one for Syed. Remarkably, while proving his technical point, Syed accidentally created the funnest strategy game I have ever played. Over the past four years, I have played more than a thousand games of Arimaa, yet I still learn something new with every game. Quite possibly Arimaa is not only more entertaining, but also deeper than chess; believe me that I don’t say so because I think chess is shallow.

Given that I inwardly conceded the realm of strategy games to computers a decade earlier, it is ironic that I was a defender of humanity’s honor in the Arimaa Challenge in 2006 and 2007. After another decade, I may find myself in Kasparov’s shoes, fighting the rear-guard against inevitably encroaching machine abilities. Computers get faster every year, so it is probably just a matter of time before the brute-force techniques Syed was unimpressed with will begin to suffice for Arimaa as well as chess. Alternatively, more intelligent software algorithms might be applied to Arimaa, which will bring an abrupt end to human dominance without the need for petaflops. Yet no matter the direction from which our doom approaches, I want to be up on the wall, fighting the good fight. I believe that computers can already think, but I will do my level best to prove, for as long as I can, that I can think better.

At the time of my writing, humanity’s margin of dominance over computers at Arimaa is actually widening. We are discovering a great variety of strategic concepts, and programmers are having difficulty encoding this increasing human understanding. I would like to share Arimaa with you while this ephemeral imbalance still exists, that is to say while the collective learning ability of human strategy gamers still outstrips steady increases in computing speed and programming techniques. I hope that after you master the humble material in this book you will join me in plumbing the as yet undiscovered depths of Arimaa. Everything new we learn in the process is a tribute to the mysterious nature of our own intelligence and a reminder what a joy it is to think.
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Avri
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Devoured this insightful and well written book in two days, though I'll be referring back to the various Tactic and Strategy chapters forever.

I've now jumped into the world of Arimaa with both feet, working my way up the Bot Ladder and playing in my first game against human opposition, in part thanks to the passion Karl expresses in his book.

So I think what I'm trying to say is (to Karl) "Thanks", and (to everyone else) if you are interested in Arimaa, there are worse places to start than "Beginning Arimaa" . . .
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Fritz Juhnke
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Thanks for the kind words, Avri. Good luck bashing bots and beyond!
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Mitch Willis
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Hi Karl,

Just finished reading your book this morning and I appreciate the effort you put into it. I have a better understanding of Arimaa now and hope to be able to apply a little of what I've read. I've still got a lot to learn, but I'm faring better against the bots since I've started reading your book...

Cheers,
Mitch
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Fritz Juhnke
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Cherocoy wrote:
TheDiceTower - (Tom Vasel) - is likely to do a video review of Arimaa now that Z-Man Games has published a dedicated copy. I imagine Z-Man gave them a copy at Origions for just this purpose. Maybe they should be sent a copy of two-time World Arimaa Champion Karl Juhnke's book, too, just to show how profound this simple game is?

Sent. Thanks for the tip.

otha62 wrote:
Just finished reading your book this morning and I appreciate the effort you put into it. I have a better understanding of Arimaa now and hope to be able to apply a little of what I've read. I've still got a lot to learn, but I'm faring better against the bots since I've started reading your book...

Thanks for the kind feedback, Mitch. I'm glad that my effort from obsessive editing, re-editing, and re-re-editing shows through. I have gotten favorable reviews from more experienced players (and of course it was the long-time Arimaa addicts who were first to buy), but it is good to know that Beginning Arimaa is also useful to the intended audience of relative novices. Admittedly, getting good at anything requires patient practice, but my hope is that practice plus Beginning Arimaa results in much quicker progress than practice alone.
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Daniel Danzer
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How about having a couple of copies at the Z-Man booth at Essen for sale?
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Fritz Juhnke
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duchamp wrote:
How about having a couple of copies at the Z-Man booth at Essen for sale?

I have contacted Z-man about giving him free copies of Beginning Arimaa to hand out to game reviewers; he didn't exactly jump on the idea. But maybe he would be more interested in retailing it, as you suggest.
 
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Any chance of getting it onto Amazon?
 
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Daniel Danzer
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http://www.amazon.com/Beginning-Arimaa-Reborn-Computer-Compr...
I don`t know about your shipping ...
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Fritz Juhnke
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sbszine wrote:
Any chance of getting it onto Amazon?

Beginning Arimaa is already on Amazon. CreateSpace is an arm of Amazon. If I am not mistaken, when you purchase from https://www.createspace.com/3384106, it is the same people who print the book and ship it. I believe you get exactly the same service in either case. The difference is that Amazon demands a bigger royalty than CreateSpace, simply for the use of the Amazon name. I found it rather shocking that identical product, identical price, and identical service are so vastly differentiated by putting a different brand label on it. I guess that is something marketing people have known forever.

Anyway, I'm happy if you buy Beginning Arimaa at all, whether from Amazon or CreateSpace or http://arimaa.com/arimaa/store/ . Any one of them helps out a starving author and game designer. Thank you in advance. But the latter two give less money to middleman and more to the creative force.
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Great, thanks. The reason I mentioned amazon is that I often order books through its storefront and it's convenient for me to add one more thing to the cart. Ordering just one book from elsewhere usually ends up costing more (per book) in shipping.
 
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Fritz Juhnke
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sbszine wrote:
Ordering just one book from elsewhere usually ends up costing more (per book) in shipping.

Good point. Also, if Beginning Arimaa gets you past the free shipping threshold, that's a great reason to buy it!
 
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Fritzlein wrote:
sbszine wrote:
Ordering just one book from elsewhere usually ends up costing more (per book) in shipping.

Good point. Also, if Beginning Arimaa gets you past the free shipping threshold, that's a great reason to buy it!


That's why I bought it from Amazon...I just added it to an order where I went over $25 to get free shipping...
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Computer programs are like uber-autistic children that focus on one thing, and one thing only. The implication that you can simply tweak it to play a different game, and say that proves that the other game is harder to program for, is wrong.

That's not to say that I disagree with the main point, that Arimaa is a much tougher nut to crack than Chess from a programming perspective. I just share Syed's love of precision, and felt the need to point out that there have been very unequal amounts of work put into programming AI for Chess and for Arimaa - orders of magnitude more work. If all the man-hours devoted to developing Chess AI had been devoted to developing Arimaa AI, I'm confident that it would be far stronger than it is.

A $10,000 prize isn't going to induce IBM, or any other entity with the resources to put together a team like the one that worked on Big Blue, to do anything similar for Arimaa. Chess had name value with the general public, and beating it with a computer program had huge appeal from a marketing standpoint. But once it's been done, the sizzle is gone. They didn't turn their attention to Go after knocking off Kasparov, and they won't turn their attention to Arimaa. The programs written for it will be a labor of love by people working in their spare time.

Pardon me for veering off. I am interested in the book, but strictly for the part that focuses on how to play the game. I usually prefer to learn games without reference to strategy articles. The exceptions have been chess and go, which I read about years ago when I was learning to play. Arimaa seems to be in that category, and I think I'd enjoy approaching it in the same way.

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Fritz Juhnke
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Sphere wrote:
I just share Syed's love of precision, and felt the need to point out that there have been very unequal amounts of work put into programming AI for Chess and for Arimaa - orders of magnitude more work. If all the man-hours devoted to developing Chess AI had been devoted to developing Arimaa AI, I'm confident that it would be far stronger than it is.

This is of course absolutely true. The more work programmers expend on a game, the better their software will play it. I discuss this very point in Beginning Arimaa in chapter 7b.

Whenever one makes that point about software strength, however, one needs to make the parallel point about the strength of human players. The measurement of computer ability makes sense only relative to human ability; we have no absolute measurement scale to use instead. Human chess skill vastly outstrips human Arimaa skill, because so many millions of humans play and study chess, and they have generations of experience and literature to draw on. John Nunn suggests that the top human players in chess are in the neighborhood of 400 elo points stronger than they were one hundred years ago, and it would be very optimistic to say that we presently play Arimaa as well as chess masters played chess one hundred years ago.

When comparing the intrinsic computer-resistance of chess and Arimaa, one must take into account both that humans don't know how to play Arimaa very well yet, and that IBM hasn't taken a shot at programming Arimaa yet. As I argue in Beginning Arimaa, the Arimaa community is very programmer-dense. The game has been promoted primarily by means of the $10,000 Arimaa Challenge, which appears to be more motivating to amateur programmers than it is motivating to amateur gamers. Therefore, if anything, the balance of power in the man/machine contest is presently tipped in favor of machines when it comes to Arimaa. As more pure gamers start taking up Arimaa, we can expect that the human advantage over machines will widen.

Quote:
I am interested in the book, but strictly for the part that focuses on how to play the game.

Fair enough. By page count 75% of the book is focused on how to play Arimaa per se rather than meta-musings about Arimaa's place in the pantheon. If you are aware of that going in, I trust you won't be disappointed.


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Frank Groeneveld
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Hello Herr Juhnke

i have interest in your book Beginning Arimaa
but the problem is,I don't have a creditcard
whatsoever
Can i still purchase your book,and how much
are the cost
I live in the Netherlands
you can reply to fra.gro@wanadoo.nl

with much greatings

F Groeneveld




 
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Fritz Juhnke
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I have responded privately. To anyone who wishes to purchase Beginning Arimaa, I'm sure we can work something out.
 
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Ururam Tururam
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Fritzlein, I bow before you for your book. thumbsup

The in-game chapters helps to put all the pieces of information together what has a superb value even for not-a-total-novice as myself. In parallel the around-game chapters lighten up the basics, trivia and curiosities related to the game. And the book is great to read. I really do like the language tricks you use to make things more interesting and entertaining.

And well I wait for your next step: a book entitled "Elephant & Horse". Any chances?
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Fritz Juhnke
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Thank you very much for your kind words. I'm glad if some readers have fun reading, because I had great fun writing.

Urtur wrote:
And well I wait for your next step: a book entitled "Elephant & Horse". Any chances?


At a minimum we will have to wait for the book from World Champion Jean Daligault. Once we see what his Arimaa book has addressed and what it has left uncovered, we can re-assess the possibilities.

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I'm in the middle of reading the book (finally) and am also really enjoying it. Good stuff! It's also got me re-fired up about Arimaa and I've been playing online again.
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Fritz Juhnke
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Excellent! Actually, the Arimaa scene has only gotten more interesting since I wrote Beginning Arimaa, so anyone who is inspired by the book will not be disappointed by the community.
 
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Fritzlein wrote:
At a minimum we will have to wait for the book from World Champion Jean Daligault.


Wow, Jean writes a book? I must have missed this information before... Great news.
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