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Keeping your Chinook up
December 19, 2006 2:44 AM   Subscribe

Who was the most dominant athlete of all time? If athletes include draughts players then Marion Tinsley makes a good candidate, losing but 7 games plus 2 more to a computer over the course of a 45 year career. [more inside]
posted by Chuckly (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Bored with playing humans, Tinsley resigned as World Champion in 1992 because the American Checkers Federation and English Draughts Association wouldn’t allow the only worthy opponent challenging him for the title - Chinook, a piece of programming born before the many Fritzes and Deep Blue. In one of the first epics of the Man vs Machine saga, Tinsley took the match 4 games to 2 (with 33 draws). 2 years later in August of 1994, Tinsley again clashed disks with the software, this time spirited in a 1200 pound, refrigerator-sized beast, but had to withdrawal after 6 games (all draws) due to poor health, giving Chinook the title of World Champion. Tinsley passed away 7 months later at the age of 68.

But Chinook still lives. I don’t recommend playing against it using any of the 7 openings listed on this page.
posted by Chuckly at 2:44 AM on December 19, 2006


sweet
posted by tumult at 3:25 AM on December 19, 2006


This word, athlete, does not mean what you think it means.
posted by blind.wombat at 3:40 AM on December 19, 2006


If athletes include draughts players . . .

Yes, that has to be one of the largest 'Ifs' I have ever seen.
posted by or at 4:19 AM on December 19, 2006


Who was the most dominant combat pilot of all time? If avaiators include video arcade players then Smart Dalek makes a good candidate, losing but 2 games plus 1 quarter more to a computer over the course of an afternoon playing R-Type.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:59 AM on December 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


"ath·lete (ăth'lēt') pronunciation n.
A person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance, that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive contexts."


Carefully choosing the wording on your fpp is an acquired skill! :)
posted by HuronBob at 5:02 AM on December 19, 2006


"Draughts" is checkers? So when I see a local bar advertising $1.50 draughts on the weekend, that's what, people paying to play checkers? Checkers with a buy-in and cash prizes? Because if so, I ought to play draughts; I have aught to lose!

Hey, that's a catchy slogan...
posted by Eideteker at 5:11 AM on December 19, 2006


I don't know if chess or checkers players consider themselves athletes, but often when there's a high-profile chess match, the media bring up the need for players to be in good physical shape to endure the mental rigors of the encounter. There's a move afoot to get chess into the 2012 Olympics. The problem becomes, if they let chess in, what about Scrabble, checkers, dominoes, and all the rest? On the checkers/draughts front, my vote would be for the game I grew up with, International Checkers, played on a 10x10 board, backward jumps allowed, and flying kings.
posted by beagle at 5:17 AM on December 19, 2006


People who don't consider checkers players athletes are just advertising that they have never seen 27-23 25-29 (25-30 26-22 WW) 23-18 29-25 (21-25 26-30 WW) 26-30 25-29 18-22 WW done by either a serious pro or a kid on a park bench in the fall.
posted by srboisvert at 6:24 AM on December 19, 2006


Well, at least it's not adjudicated. Like figure skating or gymnastics.
posted by thecjm at 6:39 AM on December 19, 2006


"ath·lete (ăth'lēt') pronunciation n.
A person possessing the natural or acquired traits... that are necessary for physical exercise OR SPORTS, especially those performed in competitive contexts."


Well, if the following are sports* then IMO checkers deserves the benefit of the doubt:
Color Guard
School
Doing Bong Hits
*After all, one of the great things about the WWW is that it is never wrong.
posted by Opposite George at 6:53 AM on December 19, 2006


(Self-linking comment, I think sufficiently relevant, follows: I wrote an article in Slate about mental competitions and the extent to which they should be thought of as sports. Chessboxing plays a role.)

Tinsley's record is, as far as I know, the greatest show of dominance in any recorded competitive activity, ever.

Somewhat surprisingly, we still don't know whether checkers, played perfectly, always leads to a draw (like tic-tac-toe) or whether one player has a winning strategy.
posted by escabeche at 6:55 AM on December 19, 2006


P.S. "Athlete" or no, Tinsley's accomplishment is astounding.
posted by Opposite George at 6:55 AM on December 19, 2006


Yeah, but choosing a word like that guaranteed derailment of the thread from the get-go. But presumably that's what Chuckly wanted.
posted by languagehat at 7:03 AM on December 19, 2006


Do checker players sweat?

I'm thinking you should sweat to be an athlete.

(I'll go with Gretzky)
posted by melkozek at 7:29 AM on December 19, 2006


Gotta go with Sugar Ray Robinson, in tac tac toe. You couldn’t hope to beat him, the best you could do was stalemate him. He played some computers too, Whopper I think its name was. Then he took the day off with a buddy to go to a cubs game and dance in the Kashmir Pulaski parade, but then Ed Rooney tried to get him with the help from a duck from space. And Billy Joel accused him of arson, so he blew away JFK and had to fight Robert DeNiro, but then they had to get to L.A. in a short period of time and he got $300,000 for thanksgiving when he realized his wife was dead and met him at the El station to invite him back for thanksgiving dinner, so it had a nice ending. I might get one or two details confused, but it was something like that.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:47 AM on December 19, 2006


Rocky Marciano would absolutely KILL THE LIVING FUCK out of Tinsley in full-contact cribbage.
posted by Mister_A at 7:57 AM on December 19, 2006


(I'll go with Gretzky)

Dude, you should so see me play tabletop hockey.
posted by dreamsign at 8:01 AM on December 19, 2006


Robinson, Marciano, Gretzky - all strong contenders but not one of them could best Roosevelt Grier at needlepoint.
posted by Opposite George at 8:07 AM on December 19, 2006


This word, athlete, does not mean what you think it means.

This snark, which the poster clearly foresaw being made in the original post, does not indicate the intelligence or sense of humor that you think it indicates.
posted by googly at 8:33 AM on December 19, 2006


In a more serious not I might nominate either Vladimir Salnikov or Emil Zatopek. Just to throw out a couple of the less obvious alternatives.
posted by mce at 8:53 AM on December 19, 2006


googly, this word, snark, does not.....ah fuck it.

which the poster clearly foresaw being made in the original post

I disagree. If it was so obvious there would have been a better setup. If it was bait, then it was a yummy breakfast. mmmmm snark.
posted by blind.wombat at 8:57 AM on December 19, 2006


Gretzky, or Orr?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:47 AM on December 19, 2006


Tinsley said that playing Chinook made him feel like a young man again

That was a sweet article.
posted by craniac at 9:49 AM on December 19, 2006


This slippery slope started years ago.

Beach volleyball, though... well you gotta support that kind of domination, right?
posted by rokusan at 10:16 AM on December 19, 2006


greatest athlete of all time?
michael jordan.
hoops is more athletic than football, and way more athletic than baseball (philadelphia philly john kruk famously denied being an athlete).
track and field is a niche, except for the decathlon. somebody like al oerter can win four successive gold medals, but it takes only about a second to heave a 16 pound shot, which does not measure aerobic capacity.
what does measure aerobic capacity is soccer, the only credible source of rivals to michael jordan for this distinction, but soccer is something i know very little about.
posted by bruce at 10:42 AM on December 19, 2006


Internally debating whether to use the word "athlete" involved a mental performance that could have netted me a draw against Tinsley had I applied the calories to that endeavor.

I had to weigh the factors of derailment and non sequitur against the possibility for an argument to emerge discussing the nature of athleticism, and whether these arguments would simply make it clear that Tinsley wasn't UFC material or whether folks would argue the relevance and degree to which a healthly body is needed for extended bouts of concentration, though powerful evidence suggests otherwise.

And though the conclusion of this analysis was filtered through a sense of humor that almost always decides against better judgment, I hadn't yet made my move. Fate had its way with me, and a drop of sweat from my head fell upon the left mouse button as it hovered over the post button.
posted by Chuckly at 10:52 AM on December 19, 2006


greatest athlete of all time?
michael jordan. hoops is more athletic than football, and way more athletic than baseball (philadelphia philly john kruk famously denied being an athlete). track and field is a niche, except for the decathlon.


Well, then how about someone who played pro basketball, pro baseball, pro football and won Olympic gold medals in both the pentathlon and the decathlon?

I speak of none other than Jim Thorpe.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:03 AM on December 19, 2006


I have to give a nod to Jeannie Longo's palmares here.
Merckx, by comparison, is credited with somewhere around 500 career victories, depending on who's counting.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:00 PM on December 19, 2006


Do checker players sweat?

I'm thinking you should sweat to be an athlete.


Well then I suppose it helps to be really fat to be considered an athlete.
posted by sour cream at 12:14 PM on December 19, 2006


How about Babe Didrikson? Basketball, tennis, baseball and softball, diving, roller-skating, bowling, set five track and field world records in a single afternoon, then won two gold medals and one silver for track and field (and the silver was a tie; the other competitor actually agreed to split the medals with her afterwards), and later dominated both amateur and then professional golf, winning 17 straight amateur victories, a feat never equaled by anyone, and by 1950 she had won every golf title available, etc.
posted by kyrademon at 12:16 PM on December 19, 2006


Touche, blind.wombat.

For the record, I wouldn't consider a draughtsman to be an "athelete," either. Competitor, yes; athelete, no.
posted by googly at 12:34 PM on December 19, 2006


Jim Thorpe for men, Babe Didrikson for women. No one else even comes close.
posted by Ber at 12:37 PM on December 19, 2006


Wow. I got owned by that Chinook dealie.
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:33 PM on December 19, 2006


How about Chells Wankrakovich? Luge, Skeet shooting, Donkey derby, Extreme ironing, Mullet smoothing, Hamster frottage, you name it. Set four hundred world records in 3 minutes, and actually got a negative time in the 100m dash by going back in time at the speed of light. Later she went into skin and was known for her enormous vaginal "gush".
posted by snoktruix at 1:33 PM on December 19, 2006


I'm guessing that the 'volleyball' link above was supposed to go to something about the most dominiant team the sport has ever seen, or perhaps the most dominant player the sport has seen?
posted by Four Flavors at 1:41 PM on December 19, 2006


I’d go with Jim Thorpe as one of if not the greatest athlete, but I don’t know that he was dominant in the way Jordan was. Though Jordan did have a hell of a coach and an outstanding team behind him. But he certainly was dominant.
And really, if we’re talking sweat and aerobic activity as a prerequisite, Mistress Dominique is pretty dominant - if athletics can include ball gags, whips, chains, candlewax on the nipples and such.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:23 PM on December 19, 2006


Don Bradman dominated his game more completely than anyone has ever approached in the past 60+ years.
posted by wilful at 3:36 PM on December 19, 2006


Interesting stats from my above link. Don Bradman is 4.4 standard deviations above the mean for his sport, Michael Jordan is 3.4
posted by wilful at 3:39 PM on December 19, 2006


Great stat Wilful. I'd always argued that Bradman was the greatest sportsman of all time because his performance was so far above that of his peers. It's good to see it confirmed mathematically.

of course, it's even more impressive given that modern bats are much better than those Bradman used, meaning modern players can hit boundaries much more easily; that Bradman never got to play against Zimbabwe or Bangladesh; and that Bradman faced Bodyline.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:49 PM on December 19, 2006


And don't forget uncovered pitches! Again from the above link "In order to post a similarly dominant career statistic as Bradman, a baseball batter would need a career batting average of 0.392, while a basketballer would need to score 43 points per game."
posted by wilful at 8:10 PM on December 19, 2006


Greatest Athlete? As others have said, Jim Thorpe, on the authority of no less than King Gustav V of Sweden:
Legend has it that, when awarding Thorpe his prize, King Gustav said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world," to which Thorpe replied, "Thanks, King."
posted by Opposite George at 8:32 PM on December 19, 2006


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