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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Ancient game gets new life

By Burt Lum

Ever since the first computer was pitted against a human in a game, I've thought there was no better way to wrack your brain.

The Herculean chess tournaments between master Kasparov and IBM Deep Blue supercomputers epitomize this challenge. And then there are the private matches — such as me trying to steal a game of konane away from my Sony Clie. Konane (ko-NA-nay) is one of my favorite board games.

I played checkers, chess and Chinese checkers as a child, but lately I have rediscovered the game of konane. The game is played much like checkers but instead of trying to remove all the opponent's game pieces, the winner of konane is the player who has the last move.

The game has its centuries-old roots in traditional Hawaiian culture. The game has new life as kupuna (elders) such as Gail Ka'apuni popularize it in the schools. There is a great Web site at www.k12.hi.us/~gkaapuni/konane.htm that describes how to play, the rules and how to construct the board and game pieces.

During a makahiki on Kaho'olawe this past January, Atwood Makanani constructed konane boards out of flat coral limestone for people to play. The thought and strategy behind konane have inspired many computer science courses on the subject. Several college classes on artificial intelligence have studied konane. Check www.cs.swarthmore.edu/~meeden/konane/carlisle/Konane.html. At the Massachussets Institute of Technology, professor Michael Ernst has written papers on the anthropology of konane as well as the game theory behind it. You can check out his site at web.mit.edu/ieee/6.370/2001/konane-anthrop.html.

I found a free download of the game at www.zillions-of-games.com/ games/ konane.html, playable on your PC. The best, of course, was when I found a download for my Sony personal digital assistant, running the Palm operating system. Go to hammer.prohosting.com/~dougsoft/konane.html. It sure beats carrying around that coral board. ;-)

Burt Lum is a click away at burt@brouhaha.net.