Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Quoridor is like corridor, only with a alternate spelling.  See how funny that is?

Okay, so it isn't that funny.  It is far more true that English is funny in that there are so many different ways to spell the same damn sound.

Regardless the game of Quoridor is one I find extremely intriguing.  I was introduced to it over the weekend and played a bunch of games to try to sort it out.  At first glance I figured that the strategy would be something reasonably solvable and that a perfect set of plays could be figured out but after a bit I have changed my mind. Now I think it is something much more like chess in that with truly stupendous computing power the game could be entirely parsed but it is simply too big for such things given current restrictions.  At this site you can find a computer AI that is reasonable but not amazing - I played against it and it made lots of very solid moves but I did win even though I have only played 10 or so games.
The two player version is played by giving each player 10 walls and starting their pieces on the middle square of the row closest to them like in the picture above - but with only two pieces.  Each turn you can either place a wall or move your piece one square horizontally or vertically but not diagonally.  You cannot cross walls.  If you are next to the enemy piece you can jump over them and if the space beyond them is blocked by a wall you can jump to the square(s) to their sides instead.  You win if you get your piece to the enemy home row.  Neither player may ever place a wall that makes it impossible for either player to get to the enemy home row.

The thing I find most fascinating about this game is that it is quite new - only 13 years old right now.  There are a reasonable number of people who have played it but it doesn't have anything remotely like the history or depth of research that chess or go have so the strategies are still being worked out by random people.  It is the same in that the game is a game of perfect information and zero randomness and yet the board results end up being extremely strange and interesting each time - at the end of each game you see a unique maze covering the board that can tell you how the game went.  Because standard openings and responses aren't well documented it is easy to imagine people coming up with powerful new ideas and theories without having to put in years of effort to find something that isn't already done to death.  I liken it a bit to Gauss and Wiles, one of which was a monumentally intelligent mathematician who lived quite some time ago and who made incredible discoveries across all fields of math (Gauss) and one who is alive today who solved one particularly brutal problem (Fermat's Last) but who will likely never known so well no matter what he does (Wiles).  Mathematics, like chess, is so well travelled and documented these days that it is incredibly challenging to do really new things while Quoridor is relatively new and uncharted territory.

Pictures taken from Amazon.com.

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