Block it, ignore it, or score it: CheX Challenger

Yesterday I went to watch a 97-year-old man give a presentation about the iPod app he developed.

Yes, that’s right. He’s 97, and he designs computer games.

In 2009, when he was only 94, George Robertson decided games like Sudoku and KenKen could use some improvement. Why use pre-selected numbers when you could start with a blank board? Why play alone when you could play with someone? Robertson wanted to play creative games of strategy with friends and family.

His solution: CheX Challenger.

Take Sudoku and smoosh it together with Tic-Tac-Toe and you have CheX Challenger. Like Sudoku, no digits can be repeated in rows or columns. Like Tic-Tac-Toe, the game requires strategy and decision-making. You can block opponents, and occasionally there is a “CAT” game with no winner. But unlike other puzzle games, CheX Challenger has the added bonus of scoring. If you play using smart strategies you earn higher scores. “You have to choose to block it, ignore it, or score it,” Robertson says.

His first version of the game had four rows and four columns, and he played it via email with his son, Glenn. The strategy and the social aspect of play were there, but playing with sixteen squares was too easy, and the delay in email response meant that games could go on for days.

So he wrote 2100 lines of Q-Basic computer code to play the game via computer.

He increased the size of the square to 5 x 5, and he added a robot opponent so he could play even if other opponents weren’t available. This was an improvement and probably would have sufficed if not for the help of his nephew, Laurie. Together they took the game to the next level: an app for use with Apple iPods, iPads, or iPhones. So far, almost 6,000 people have downloaded his app through iTunes.

Robertson is enthusiastic about his creation and urges everyone to play it. “The math is elementary,” he says, “but it requires careful selection of the digit to be played and its location.” The strategy, the analysis and the decision-making keep the brain sharp. He calls it a “great brain exerciser” and “mind activity stimulator.”

It’s obviously working for him; Robertson knows winning strategies. After yesterday’s presentation, he and his son sat down to play. When he found himself on the losing end of the game, Robertson turned the iPad off. Now that’s sound strategy.

Read more about George Robertson in this Ottawa Citizen article:

Or find him on Facebook. Yes, he’s 97 and he’s on Facebook:!/pages/CheX-Challenger/174260642694749

George Roberston’s winning strategy

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