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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
It's hip to be square

by Brady Haran
BBC News Online, East Midlands

David Bochenski
David Bochenski knows about squares
David Bochenski hopes to be glued to the TV on 22 November.

He dreams that will be the day England wins its first rugby world cup in Australia.

But the following day he will fly from Stansted airport heading for his own date with destiny.

The 21-year-old will be travelling to Graz, Austria, for the 8th Computer Olympiad.

A programme he designed himself, nicknamed Deep Beige, will be put to the test against international competitors.

Deep Beige plays a game far from the rough and tumble of rugby union.

David Bochenski (left) and the BBC's Brady Haran
The BBC's Brady Haran (right) takes on the computer

Instead it plays a game many people may remember from their childhood - dots and boxes.

A more advanced version of noughts and crosses, it involves players alternating turns connecting dots on a grid with the objective of completing squares.

Deep Beige plays the game by computing millions of permutations.

Mr Bochenski said: "My programme works essentially by looking as far forward as it possibly can to try to work out all the possible move combinations.

"Towards the beginning of a game it is typically looking seven or eight moves ahead... but towards the end it can up to 17 or 18 moves ahead."

Like a computer taking on a chess master, Deep Beige is designed to beat opponents by looking ahead in the game.

A computer just uses its brute force and processing power to get as far ahead as it can
David Bochenski

"My computer can search something around 500,000 positions a second, whereas you or I could probably only study one or two positions a second.

"Humans look for more complex reasons as to why a move is good and rule things out that way.... a computer just uses its brute force and processing power to get as far ahead down the game tree as it can."

The dots and boxes contest Mr Bochenski is entering lacks the glamour of other sports being played in the tournament.

The most prestigious event will undoubtedly be chess, which attracts top professional and amateur entries.

- The name is a parody of chess super computer Deep Blue
- It shares the initials of David Bochenski and "dots and boxes"

However Mr Bochenski still hopes to come home with a medal.

The mathematics student at the University of Nottingham designed Deep Beige as part of a project last year.

He had no intention of entering it in the "computer olympics" until it was suggested by one of his lecturers.

Unfortunately the University on Nottingham rejected Mr Bochenski's request for financial help and he is paying nearly 300 from his own pocket to travel to Austria.

The BBC's Brady Haran
"We visited an appropriately named pub to learn how it works"

Extra footage
Watch the computer take on a "mere human"

Kasparov draws against computer
08 Feb 03  |  Technology

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