Martin Bryant (programmer)

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Martin Bryant (born 1958) is a British computer programmer known as the author of White Knight and Colossus Chess, a 1980s commercial chess-playing program, and Colossus Draughts, gold medal winner at the 2nd Computer Olympiad in 1990.

Computer chess[edit]

Bryant started developing his first chess program – later named White Knight – in 1976.[1] This program won the European Microcomputer Chess Championship in 1983, and was commercially released, in two versions (Mk 11 and Mk 12) for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron in the early 1980s.[1] White Knight featured a then-novel display of principal variation – called "Best line"[2] – that would become commonplace in computer chess.

Bryant used White Knight as a basis for development of Colossus Chess (1983), a chess-playing program that was published for a large number of home computer platforms in the 1980s, and was later ported to Atari ST, Amiga and IBM PC as Colossus Chess X.[3] Colossus Chess sold well and was well-received, being described by the Zzap!64 magazine in 1985 as "THE best chess implementation yet to hit the 64, and indeed possibly any home micro".[4]

Bryant later released several versions of his Colossus chess engine conforming to the UCI standard. The latest version was released in 2008 as Colossus 2008b.

Computer draughts[edit]

After chess, Bryant's interests turned to computer draughts. His program, Colossus Draughts, won the West of England championship in June 1990, thus becoming the first draughts program to win a human tournament.[5] In August of the same year it won the gold medal at the 2nd Computer Olympiad, beating Chinook, a strong Canadian program, into second place.[6][7]

Chinook's developers, headed by Jonathan Schaeffer, recognized Colossus' opening book as its major strength;[8] it contained 40,000 positions compared to Chinook's 4,500,[9] and relied on Bryant's research that had found flaws in the established draughts literature.[10] In 1993, an agreement was made to trade Colossus' opening book for the Chinook's six-piece databases;[11] Bryant also accepted the offer to join the Chinook development team.[11] In August 1994, Chinook played a match against World Champion Marion Tinsley and world number two Don Lafferty (after Tinsley's withdrawal due to illness), earning the title of Man-Machine World Champion.[12]

Bryant continued work on Colossus Draughts in the early 1990s, and in 1995 released an updated commercial version called Colossus '95, as well as draughts database programs DraughtsBase and DraughtsBase 2.[7]

Bryant currently[when?] lives in the Manchester area and works for Hewlett-Packard.


  1. ^ a b Bryant, Martin. "White Knight". Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  2. ^ Bell, Alex (December 1983). "Chess for three gives the White Knight a winning gambit". The Micro User. 1 (10). Retrieved 2008-07-08. For example, BBC Soft display of the "Best line" is an inspiration by its author, 23-year-old Martin Bryant, and a feature that will become a must for future chess programs. 
  3. ^ Bryant, Martin. "Colossus Chess". Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  4. ^ "Colossus Chess 4.0". Zzap!64 (8). December 1985. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  5. ^ One Jump Ahead, p. 174
  6. ^ "2nd Computer Olympiad, Checkers - London 1990 (ICGA Tournaments)". Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  7. ^ a b Bryant, Martin. "Colossus Draughts". Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  8. ^ One Jump Ahead, p. 354
  9. ^ One Jump Ahead, p. 274
  10. ^ Levy, David A. (2006). Robots Unlimited: Life In A Virtual Age. A K Peters. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-56881-239-7. 
  11. ^ a b One Jump Ahead, p. 361
  12. ^ "Chinook - The World Checkers Champion". Department of Computing Science, University of Alberta. Archived from the original on December 5, 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-11. 

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