ACF Forum Post by Ed Trice on Wed Aug 10, 2016 10:52 pm - A Tribute to Gil Dodgen by Ed Trice

Very sad news indeed. Gil and I first started chatting on the phone in 1996. People forget that his program with only a 4-piece database was rated 6th on the 1992 ACF list behind:

Marion Tinsley at #1
Chinook at #2
Richard Hallet at #3
Asa Long and Derek Olbury at #4 and #5

Gil's program was ranked #6 with a rating of 2606. And, in case anybody was wondering, the fastest machines of that day were running at about 100 MHz, or 1/10th of a Gigahertz, if you can believe that!

I did not meet Gil until about 3 years later, in 1999. I flew to California and he and his wife were very gracious hosts. Gil owned a Harley, and offered to take me on a ride with him. What I didn't realize is that he intended to take me zooming around the cliffs of Trabuco Canyon at 85 MPH, where we were several times way too close to the edge for my comfort level. He said "Pretty cool, huh?" when we arrived safely back at his house. His wife took one look at me and said "You lost some color." And then she chided Gil in a manner that was humorous to behold.

By an amazing coincidence, we both booked vacations with our wives to Paris within a few days of one another, with at least 10 days of the trip overlapping. He and his wife Janie both spoke fluent French, so it was great having our own personal interpreters for that subset of the trip. One night, a waiter replied to Janie's French in English, which is the French's way of saying "I'll speak English since your French is no good."

Well, let me tell you, Janie really let him have it, in French and in English! It was great! Teaching French for 20+ years in High School, she had no trouble standing toe-to-toe with this guy.

Gil and I transformed his older checkers program, Cornell Checkers, into World Championship Checkers, for both the PC and the Macintosh. I can attest to the fact that Gil could type out code in "C" faster than most secretaries could type out an email. He finished his modifications for the PC version long before I completed the Mac version, even though he had a full time job editing Hang Gliding Magazine and I owned my own software consulting business and could devote much more time to the task. And, he was a self-taught programmer, whereas I had a boatload of engineering and programming classes from 1984-1990.

Gil was smart, funny, and a talented musician. He was very protective of his family, especially his daughters, whom he raised with doting affection and a great deal of paternal pride. He was also very interested in debating ideas centering on Intelligent Design, fully convinced there is a God who created our Universe, leaving behind the tell-tale sign of hyper-intelligent planning and forethought for all who took the time to peek into the laws of nature and biology. He could talk for hours on numerous scientific and philosophical topics, and I served as an advocate for and against some of his debate topics.

As Cicero said in "De Finibus Bonorum Et Malorum," the "modus vivendi" allows scholars to have different points of view and still remain friends, though they may debate one another fiercely at times. Gil and I never disagreed on major topics, just minor ones from time to time, and we both thought we could convince the other to change their point of view.

Our last major checkers project together was the so-called "7-Piece Perfect Play Databases" that are a part of WCC Platinum III. Recently, and before I knew Gil had passed, I started computing Perfect Play for 8- and 9-pieces. I don't know why I resumed this work after a hiatus of 15 years; I just did.

Part of me would like to think it was Gil saying, "Hey, Ed. Remember how we talked about computing the 8-piece perfect play one day? Well, do you think you could start on this for me?"

I'll miss you buddy. And thanks for changing those 3 #define statements so we could change Crafty into Gothic Vortex :)  :)

Paragraph from NCCA's abbreviations & definitions:

WCC checker program - 1978 Fidelity Electronics offered Checkers Challenger which was sold by Sears. It was a fun program but not Master level.  In 1986 Chinook and Checkers 1.0 were developing into stronger programs.  In 1989 David Levy of Chess and Computer Chess Fame sponsored the first Computer Olympiad in London (a tournament for intelligent computer programs) which 6 checker (draughts) programs competed in that division at the Olympiad.  Jonathan Schaeffer of the University of Alberta at Edmonton entered their baby Chinook, a hurriedly developed checker program that ran on a Sun SPARC machine.  Gil Dodgen's Checkers 1.0 program ran on a Macintosh Mac II and Dave Butler's program ran on an old eight-bit Atari.  Chinook was 1st and took the gold medal, Checkers 1.0 took 2nd placed and silver, and Dave's program placed 3rd as bronze, which opened up new competitiveness in the interest of computer checkers. After this, ACF hosted US 1990 Nationals began allowing computers to enter. Chinook placed second and Checkers Experimental (second-generation program) tied 6th/7th.  Gil Dodgen, partners with Cornell thus Cornell Checkers with more improvement, and computers got faster with some endgame databases. By 1992 US Nationals Cornell Checkers placed 3rd in Masters, as a result of this performance it was offered for sale as a package on a Cornell Computer, a PC with 256K cashe, 8mb of RAM.  Gil Dodgen later offered this program as World Champion Checkers (WCC) for DOS Windows when the Cornell Computer Systems stopped selling their checker computer.  WCC was later improved again by Gil Dodgen and Ed Trice as WCC Platinum III which is now a free download off the internet.  The WCC Story

Gil Dodgen's Obituary  | The WCC Story  | Deceased Tournament Players  Grandmasters, Masters, & Players Obituaries