In 1997, IBM's Deep Blue computer defeated chess champion Garry Kasperov. The event inspired computer scientist Omar Syed to invent a new game that was simple to learn but so strategically complex that no computer could master it. In 2002, he published the rules to Arimaa and offered a $10,000 prize to anyone who could develop a computer program that could defeat the best human players [source: Arimaa]. Arimaa has attracted many fans since, although no one had won the prize as of early 2010.
Arimaa is played on a chess board and uses similar pieces, which are shaped like animals: rabbits, cats, dogs, horses, a camel and an elephant. The goal is to move one of eight rabbits to the other end of the board. A number of rules give the game its mind-bending complexity:
- There is no fixed starting position; players set up their 16 pieces anywhere in the first two rows.
- Each player can make four moves per turn.
- A player can push or pull opponents' pieces with a stronger piece of his own.
On average, there are 17,000 possible moves on each turn of Arimaa [source: Arimaa]. Unlike in chess, the game has no set opening. Players find it more of a strategic challenge than chess, which often revolves around tactical battles. Pattern recognition and global thinking are important. Arimaa sets are available for about $40, and the game can be played online as well.