Noughts and Crosses


Most tutorials for machine learning ultimately end up in a script that outputs a number such as accuracy that might increase from 60% as a baseline to 92% after applying an ML algorithm. The training and evaluation processes are both part of the same script. It’s just not very inspiring – I wanted to build something using ML that I could interact with, and feel how the ML techniques have actually contributed to it.

After following a few tutorials (MNIST etc), I had a reasonable feel for Tensorflow and the Python environment needed for ML projects. Given a well-defined problem and the instruction to apply a specific algorithm, I felt I could probably work out how to get Tensorflow to do that. But I still had no idea which algorithms I would choose for a new project of my own. Take Deep MNIST for example: the multiple convolutional/pooled layers sound reasonable, but there is just no way you would automatically decide that the ‘right’ network would be the one you are instructed to build in that tutorial. The problem (most likely) is that it is just a question of trial and error, and experience. I suspect that even understanding the algorithms at a theoretical level would barely help…

So I wanted a ‘playground’ project to experiment with the available techniques.

Inspired by AlphaGo Zero, I decided to build a Noughts and Crosses (Tic Tac Toe) playground, to see where that takes me. Crucially, if I can build a Machine Intelligence robot to play the game, I can get it to play against myself (and itself…)

This tutorial will explain the project and lead you through generating data to train various Machine Learning models, allowing you to play against the Machine Intelligence you’ve built. It assumes you have already installed TensorFlow on your machine and followed some of the basic ‘deep learning’ examples. The journey presented is my own experience experimenting with TensorFlow to understand how to use it. Presumes Python knowledge and ability to install packages etc. See code in GitHub.

The game Noughts and Crosses is not really very interesting mathematically. The player who starts has a significant advantage (and I believe can even always force a draw or a win). It also has a small ‘universe’. Each square can have one of three values (blank, O or X), and there are only nine squares. So the total possible space is 3^9 = 19,683 possible combinations - and this is further reduced if you apply the constraint that there can be at most one more square owned by player one compared to player two. From a practical point of view, you could reduce this even further if you consider rotations and mirror images to represent the same basic game play.

So almost certainly, a search-based approach would be sufficient to tackle this problem, to find the next move that minimises the likelihood of losing.

Setup - the non-ML framework

The files and contain the basic classes that allow the game to be played, in a flexible structure that means we can inherit classes to add Machine Learning versions of the player later on. Game is instantiated with two Player objects - e g. a RandomPlayer and a HumanPlayer. The RandomPlayer just randomly places its piece in an available spot. The HumanPlayer asks the computer operator which square to use. You can use to run two players against each other in one game - just pick which class of Player you assign to p1 or p2.

For example, to pit the RandomPlayer against yourself (HumanPlayer) with the RandomPlayer as player 1 and making the first move, run the following from the root project directory having cloned the GitHub repo to your computer (you may need to adjust depending on how Python 3 is installed on your computer):

python3 RandomPlayer HumanPlayer

The computer will place its first ‘1’ piece in a random square, and then you are presented with the current state of the board as well as a reminder (on the right hand side) of the numbers 0-8 that you can enter to choose a square for your move.

Within Game, the board is internally represented as a 1-dim array of 9 elements. Each element may be 0 for blank, 1 for player one’s piece, and 2 for player two’s. (We don’t bother assigning O or X - they just stay as 1 or 2.)

Game’s advance method will cause it to ask the next player to make a move (it calls player.do_move(board). In this case, board is adjusted so the player’s one pieces appear as 1’s and the opponents as -1’s. It will be inverted when shown to the other player - so player two also sees its own pieces as 1’s (and player one’s as -1’s). The advance method returns True if the game is over, False if there is still another move to be made. Once over, Game’s get_winner function returns 1 or 2 to indicate which player won, or 0 for a draw.

Game has an output method to display the current state of the board at any time. Once the game is over, there is a get_journal method on Game to return each stage of the game in an array. This can be used to analyse the game at each stage now that we know the ultimate winner (was it a good move or not?).

Generating Games

We now want to do two things - build a framework for playing Players against each other, and also generate some random game data that we might be able to use to build our machine intelligence. That’s what AlphaGo Zero supposedly did to learn the how to play Go!

Look at You can tell it to play 1000 games of RandomPlayer versus RandomPlayer as follows:

python3 RandomPlayer RandomPlayer --games 1000

The script will run as many games as specified in the games variable (e.g. 1000) and then output the final scores to the screen. For example, with RandomPlayer versus RandomPlayer, you will probably see numbers like these:

Player 1 (RandomPlayer): Won 579
Player 2 (RandomPlayer): Won 282
Draws: 139

This shows the great advantage of being allowed to make the first move! (Player 1 is always asked to go first by the Game object.)

The script also outputs every stage of every game to a file (e.g. data/Match-RandomPlayer-RandomPlayer-1000.csv). This is essentially a flattened version of each get_journal() from the Game objects. For a finished Game, get_journal() will return an array showing the game play at each stage of the game, including knowledge of the move the next player made and whether this ultimately led to a win. This information could help our ML player learn the best moves to make given the same board layouts during its own games.

The format of the file is as follows, with no header row: Column 0, Col 1, Col 2, ..., Col 8, Next Move, Won Ultimately

Each of the columns 0-8 is from the perspective of the player who is about to make the next move. So their own pieces appear as 1’s, opponent’s as -1’s, blanks as 0’s. Next Move gives the cell number (0-8) of the move the player decided to make after reviewing the board presented here (Columns 0-8). Then Won Ultimately tells us whether the player ended up winning (1), losing (-1), or drawing (0).

So if we run RandomPlayer against RandomPlayer 1,000 or certainly 10,000 games, we should have quite a lot of game play data (including multiple board positions for each game).

If you want to get a feel for matching different types of players against each other, without having to act as a HumanPlayer for 100s of games, try using SequentialPlayer. For example:

python3 RandomPlayer SequentialPlayer --games 1000

SequentialPlayer is another simple algorithm for playing the game, but without randomness - it just picks the first free square it can find (looking from 0-8) and chooses to place its piece there.

What happens if you switch SequentialPlayer to go as player 1, and RandomPlayer as player 2? What about if you pit SequentialPlayer against itself?

First Machine Learning Algorithm

Now we have a great framework for working with the Noughts and Crosses game, and even generated some random gameplay data that we believe could be used to train a Machine Learning model, so it’s time to see if we can build a ML-based Player class!

Previous examples I’d looked at did the following all in one main script: build a TensorFlow graph, load in some training and test data, run some kind of optimization step to train the weights in the model, then evaluate the model compared to the test data. This is the ‘boring stats’ approach of the basic tutorials that I want to move away from! Don’t just let the model die once we’ve got an accuracy score of some kind.

We want to build a basic TrainedPlayer class, inheriting from Player, which must be used in two distinct ways:

  1. Train the model based on some of our ‘’ data that we produced earlier, then save the model weights.
  2. Load the trained model so that it is immediately available to play a game or two of Noughts and Crosses, potentially against another instance of itself.

There are some important TensorFlow concepts that I had to discover here.

How to create a Python class representation of a model so that we can plug the same graph into training and evaluation modes, accessed in different ways, without repeating code - the Structuring Your TensorFlow Models article by Danijar Hafner is very helpful here.

Take a look at The decorator lazy_property is taken from these ideas, and in the class TrainedPlayer you can see prediction, cost, and optimize properties (plus accuracy) that are the ‘graph components’ to be used in training and reused in evaluation. These can also be extended if we inherit the base TrainedPlayer class to support a different model.

Another useful article is TensorFlow: A proposal of good practices for files, folders and models architecture by Morgan Giraud. We will borrow some ideas for using the TensorFlow Saver class to save and restore models and data, as well as having our model object maintain its own Graph object so that it can evaluate its model without conflicting with the default TensorFlow graph - which would otherwise happen if we try to run two ML Players at the same time since the second instance would try to redefine the same variables in TensorFlow.

Basic Neural Network model

Let’s think about the way we want the model to be used ultimately: given an array of nine current board positions, return the best square to pick for our next move.

The input will be a 1-dim array with nine elements (each -1, 0, or 1) showing the current board state from this player’s perspective (as defined in the description of the CSV files for historical gameplay data, above). So you might feed [0, 1, 0, -1, 1, -1, 0, 0, 0] as a board. This means that the current player has its pieces in squares 1 and 4, and the opponent in squares 3 and 5. (Squares are numbered 0-8 from top left of the board, running horizontally first, then the next row etc.) In this example, the best move is clearly to put our next piece (a 1) in square 7 to complete the middle vertical and win the game.

So the output will just be a number such as 7 indicating the move that our model thinks we should make.

However, in general there is no absolute right answer - just better or worse answers.

You may remember from the MNIST tutorials that we actually end up with 10 probabilities showing the likelihood of each of the digits 0-9 being the digit that the handwritten input was supposed to represent. So let’s borrow this idea, and in fact come up with a model that outputs a 1-dim array of nine elements, each representing the probability of that square being the best move.

In __init__ of TrainedPlayer, the input and real-world (as opposed to model-predicted) outputs are represented as follows:

self.x = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, [None, 9], name="x")
self.y_ = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, [None, 9], name="y_")

The [None, 9] means a 2-dim matrix of an unspecified number of rows, each of length 9. In training, we will supply multiple rows to the graph in one go; in evaluation we only supply one, representing the current board state.

The basic TrainedPlayer has a prediction property representing a single ‘perceptron’ i.e. just one linear node of a neural network: y = Wx + b for weights W and constant bias term. How did I know to try that? It’s the basic Deep MNIST solution.

Likewise, I took the optimize property to be tf.train.GradientDescentOptimizer(0.5).minimize(self.cost) based on simple examples, where self.cost is cross_entropy = tf.reduce_mean(tf.nn.softmax_cross_entropy_with_logits(labels=self.y_, logits=self.prediction)) - that’s what we want to minimze. The softmax activation function is the one that outputs a tensor of probabilities.

Training the Model

See the file to try training our basic model. We need to choose a CSV file of gamedata to process, and parameters batchsize and epochs to tell it how many times to iterate through a full training loop (epochs) and how many board-position/winning-move pairs to try to optimize against in each step (batchsize). Again, the gameplay data was generated earlier, above, so provide a run of RandomPlayer versus itself games.

python3 TrainedPlayer -i 'data/Match-RandomPlayer-RandomPlayer-100000.csv' --batchsize 10 --epochs 10

The script loads the CSV and filters all the data so that it only keeps board positions where the corresponding move ultimately led to a win. There might be a way to train it not to make a move that lost, but for now let’s just focus on the ‘winning’ data. Remember the CSV has 11 columns: 0-8 represent a board position (current player represented by 1s), column 9 gives the move that was made next (0-8), and column 10 says which player ultimately won the game (1 for the current player, 0 for a draw, -1 if the other player won). So we just keep rows where column 10 is equal to 1.

The script translates the remaining data into: all_xs - an array of all the current board positions only (i.e. just columns 0-8); and all_ys - an array of the winning moves in ‘one-hot form’, that is rows of 9 elements showing a 1 only in the column corresponding to the move, so a move in square 7 is represented by [0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0].

Iterating through each epoch and batch, the script basically just calls on the current batch subset taken from all_xs and all_ys. Notice how it wraps everything in with model.graph.as_default() to ensure it accesses the TensorFlow graph specific to the TrainedPlayer object. It wouldn’t matter here if everything was actually just defined on the default graph, but this could conflict at the evaluation stage if multiple graphs are loaded by different TrainedPlayers.

After training, it calls to output ckpt file(s) to the models folder so the weights can be loaded back in future. It also prints a prediction on the first board available in the CSV just so you can see a prediction in action.

Basically, all we’ve done is find a nice structured way to run something like this example TensorFlow code, except iterated over in epochs/batches, and then saved at the end:

x = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, [None, 9], name="x")
y_ = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, [None, 9], name="y_")

W = tf.Variable(tf.zeros([9, 9]), name="W")
b = tf.Variable(tf.zeros([9]), name="b")

y = tf.nn.softmax(tf.matmul(x, W) + b, name="prediction")

cross_entropy = tf.reduce_mean(tf.nn.softmax_cross_entropy_with_logits(labels=y_, logits=y))
train_step = tf.train.GradientDescentOptimizer(0.5).minimize(cross_entropy)

init = tf.global_variables_initializer()

with tf.Session() as sess:, feed_dict={x: all_xs, y_: all_ys})

Evaluating the Model

There are a couple of ways we want to use the model: get some stats showing how the results compare to our baseline RandomPlayer, and play against it ourselves through HumanPlayer.

TrainedPlayer implements its do_move(board) function (a basic Player method) simply by running the prediction graph with only the board as an input, and getting the output weights which are probabilities for each potential board square 0-8. The method just picks the highest probability square that is currently empty. It first loads the model data from disk (assumes the model has been trained already), if not previously loaded.

You could use to play directly and also write out further gameplay data. But you might prefer to use another script I wrote, called In one command, this will build a table showing the results of multiple Players playing against each other in turn, and also switching over which Player goes first. You can specify a whole list of Players, but here we just have two:

python RandomPlayer TrainedPlayer --games 1000

It outputs something like this:

Number of player 1 wins (draws), against player 2:
p2 \ p1         RandomPlayer TrainedPlayer
RandomPlayer       580 (119)       795 (0)
TrainedPlayer        459 (0)      1000 (0)

Player 1 is across the top, player 2 in the vertical rows. There were four bouts of competition, each containing 1000 games. The numbers show the number of games won by player 1 (or drew, in brackets).

With RandomPlayer playing another instance of itself, the Player 1 version won 580 games, and drew 119.

When TrainedPlayer was player 1, it beat RandomPlayer 795 times with 0 draws! That’s much better than RandomPlayer can do against itself!

Furthermore, if RandomPlayer goes first and TrainedPlayer is player 2, RandomPlayer only manages to win 459 games out of 1000. That’s another great result (541 wins) for TrainedPlayer given the usual advantage we’ve seen player 1 usually obtain by moving first!

Another interesting thing to note is that a player 1 TrainedPlayer always beats itself. 1000 to 0. It actually wouldn’t be a major concern if it always lost or always drew, and maybe even you see that in your results. The fact is that our model is deterministic - for any given input board, we will always get the same output move since our neural network has fixed weights once trained. So the response from TrainedPlayer to an empty board is always the same, and then the response (as player 2) to that move is always the same, etc. Thus, the exact same game has been played out 1000 times - of course with the same result on every play!


When we ran the script, we choose 10 epochs with a batchsize of 10. The cost value being minimized (and displayed every few thousand steps) is calculated on all board data in our sample. It makes sense to want this is low as possible, meaning our model fits as many of the ‘winning moves’ from our generated data as possible. But generally speaking, as long as the number is going down and looks stable, there’s no real target value. We can only really evaluate the model based on how it performs in ‘real life’ against further random games, and I don’t know if there’s a sensible way to incorporate random gameplay into the training stages.

Can we pick better numbers for training? E.g. a larger batchsize? If you don’t want to overwrite the model you just produced, you’d have to make a new class, for example inherit TrainedPlayer100_10 from TrainedPlayer, and then make sure you run with batchsize 100, epochs 10, to match.

How about increasing batchsize to 100, but only running one epoch:

python3 TrainedPlayer -i 'data/Match-RandomPlayer-RandomPlayer-100000.csv' --batchsize 100 --epochs 1

This trains quickly. In, this gives over 850 wins as player 1 versus RandomPlayer (top-right number in the output), compared to approx 800 when trained prevoiusly with lower batchsize but more epochs. This makes sense perhaps, as a larger batchsize means that the optimisation step can see more winning moves at the same time and adapt to them all.

So how about batchsize of 1000, maybe with 10 epochs? This is back down to the 10/10 results, presumably because we are now not running enough individual steps for the algorithm to settle down.

Deeper Neural Networks

Take a look at DeepTrainedPlayer (in This is a simple Deep Neural Network, with two hidden layers between input and output, each with 10 nodes. So very similar to what we had before in TrainedPlayer, but with two layers now.

Train like this:

python3 DeepTrainedPlayer  -i 'data/Match-RandomPlayer-RandomPlayer-100000.csv' --batchsize 100 --epochs 10

This settles on a smaller cost value, and in tests gets around 927 in the main benchmark against RandomPlayer, and also scores well (only 267 losses) as player 2. Great!

Increasing Neurons

How about increasing the size of the hidden layers so they have 100 neurons instead of just 10?

That’s DeepTrainedPlayer2x100 in our file (2 hidden layers each of 100 neurons). Training as above, this pushes up wins to 950 as player 1, and seems to do much better as player 2 too - 109 losses for example (plus around 70 draws though).

Increasing Number of Layers

DeepTrainedPlayer10x100 is a new version of our Deep Neural Network (DNN) that has 10 layers of 100 neurons each. It also simplifies the code considerably by using TensorFlow’s built in tf.layers.dense. This saves writing out the weights calculations that form each layer.

Trained as before, the cost never quite seems to settle down, and results are slightly worse than our two layer model. To check the code uses tf.layers.dense correctly, I first inherited DeepTrainedPlayerTF2x100 which is another version of the two layer model but using the simplified code. That trains and gives similar results to the original DeepTrainedPlayer2x100 so I imagine the code is OK.

How about 5 layers instead of 10. DeepTrainedPlayer5x100 seems to settle down (cost) during training, and gives the best results so far - 981 wins as player 1, and only 115 losses as player 2.

Similiarly, let’s try increasing the layer sizes to 200 neurons each. DeepTrainedPlayer5x200 gives consistently slightly higher performance than DeepTrainedPlayer5x100.

Increasing to 300 neurons (DeepTrainedPlayer5x300) doesn’t seem to give a signifcant advance and probably isn’t worth the extra training time that it takes.

So 5 layers of 200 neurons each seems to work well for us. Let’s compare some of our models so far:

python3 RandomPlayer TrainedPlayer DeepTrainedPlayer2x100 DeepTrainedPlayer5x200 --games 1000

For me, this gives:

Number of player 1 wins (draws), against player 2:
p2 \ p1                  RandomPlayer TrainedPlayer DeepTrainedPlayer2x100 DeepTrainedPlayer5x200
RandomPlayer                599 (126)       751 (0)               958 (23)                992 (4)
TrainedPlayer                 442 (0)         0 (0)               1000 (0)               1000 (0)
DeepTrainedPlayer2x100        158 (7)         0 (0)               1000 (0)               1000 (0)
DeepTrainedPlayer5x200       135 (10)         0 (0)               1000 (0)               1000 (0)

We can clearly see the improvement as we’ve advanced through these models.

It is reassuring to see that TrainedPlayer can’t beat our Deep models even when it moves first, although it seems slightly worrying that DeepTrainedPlayer2x100 beats the ‘more advanced’ DeepTrainedPlayer5x200 when it moves first. But remember this is not significant because both players are deterministic presented with the same board (which always starts blank), so in any case we are only seeing the exact same game play out 1000 times. And to reassure ourselves, remember there is a great advantage to moving first.

But maybe it was really the number of neurons rather than number of layers that really gave us a breakthrough in the last stages? In fact, we find that a new class DeepTrainedPlayer2x200 with 2 layers of 200 neurons does just about as well as DeepTrainedPlayer5x200. So maybe 2x200 is sensible to move forward rather than trying to train a larger DNN.

Gameplay of our Model

If you play against our favourite model so far:

python3 DeepTrainedPlayer2x200 HumanPlayer

you should find it’s a pretty interesting opponent and definitely keeps you on your toes.

Playing against it, it always seems to at least make the winning move if there is one available. It’s obvious to us, and the first thing a human-programmed solution would do is to see if there is a single winning move. But it’s amazing to think that’s emerged statistically.

If it runs as player 1, it has decided to fill the middle square (4) first, which feels sensible. I don’t actually think that’s the best first move on an empty board if you were playing against a good human player, but it makes sense against a RandomPlayer since it is the square that is part of the highest number of winning lines (four run through it, whereas the other squares only have 2 or 3).

However, it plays in the following slightly disappointing way. Here is an extract from the end of a game against it (the human is player 2):

Your move 0-8: 8
 1 |   | 2     0 1 2
   | 1 |       3 4 5
   |   | 2     6 7 8

Computer's move: 3
 1 |   | 2     0 1 2
 1 | 1 |       3 4 5
   |   | 2     6 7 8

This is ‘wrong’ because I’m clearly going to win the game by completing in square 5 on my very next move - unless the computer blocks it. But if you think about it, that may not actually be the best move against a RandomPlayer. It’s actually very likely that RandomPlayer will not notice the winning strategy, so in fact our model might be quite right just to ignore that risk and plough on building its own winning line. Rather than ‘waste’ a move on blocking its random opponent, it actually places its piece in a square that guarantees it can win on the following move - provided the RandomPlayer misses its big chance. It seems likely that this approach is in fact the overall best move statistically to win the game. Provided you’re playing a RandomPlayer. But this doesn’t work if your opponent is human and awake.

Thus our real failure is to feed it the random gameplay in the first place. It never really got to see how to protect against risks like this - because they didn’t really exist in RandomPlayer versus RandomPlayer.

Generating more data

So maybe we do really need our model to see real human gameplay if we want a more formidable opponent (human-like or better). But it would be time consuming to collect a significant amount of human gameplay, certainly if we want it to be of high quality.

Here’s another idea: what if we get DeepTrainedPlayer2x200 to play thousands of games itself and then re-train a new version of the model against that more advanced gameplay data?

Let’s play 100,000 games of RandomPlayer (player 1) versus DeepTrainedPlayer2x200, and then another 100,000 games with DeepTrainedPlayer2x200 as player 1.

And then we’ll combine these games with our original 100,000 RandomPlayer versus RandomPlayer games just to make sure we’re not missing anything and over-reinforcing our models own existing strategies.

$ python3 RandomPlayer DeepTrainedPlayer2x200 --games 100000
Player 1 (RandomPlayer): Won 9550
Player 2 (DeepTrainedPlayer2x200): Won 89413
Draws: 1037

$ python3 DeepTrainedPlayer2x200 RandomPlayer --games 100000
Player 1 (DeepTrainedPlayer2x200): Won 98408
Player 2 (RandomPlayer): Won 1321
Draws: 271

$ cat data/Match-DeepTrainedPlayer2x200-RandomPlayer-100000.csv data/Match-RandomPlayer-DeepTrainedPlayer2x200-100000.csv data/Match-RandomPlayer-RandomPlayer-100000.csv > data/Match-2x200retrained.csv

$ python3 DeepTrainedPlayer2x200retrained -i 'data/Match-2x200retrained.csv' --batchsize 100 --epochs 10

Note that in order to keep our models separate, we inherit a newly-named DeepTrainedPlayer2x200selftrained from DeepTrainedPlayer2x200. This has no new functionality, but allows us to keep a separate ckpt file from our original model.

The final DeepTrainedPlayer2x200retrained model is very slightly worse than our original DeepTrainedPlayer2x200 - but I also notice that the cost function doesn’t quite stabilise during training. The cost overall seems lower than it was for DeepTrainedPlayer2x200 though. A theory here is that we’re ‘overfitting’ to the 2x200 gameplay data so it no longer performs quite so well against RandomPlayer. But that was the idea of course - we wanted something that was better against a human.

Interestingly, the ‘retrained’ model seems to get slightly more draws than the original - so definitely sees a higher overall ‘win or draw’ rate. That might be a sign of more competitive play?

Anyway, I would be happier if the training algorithm stabilized.

Improved Optimization and Regularization

You may remember when we trained the 10 layer DNN, it didn’t stabilize. In the end, we decided two layers was enough. But was there a way for the 10 layer network to settle down during training? Maybe, and let’s see if there are any techniques we can use to get DeepTrainedPlayer2x200retrained to settle first.

Dropout is a popular regularization method. See DeepTrainedPlayer2x200rt_drop which I tried to train with the new ‘self-training’ data. It didn’t seem to help, and also saw worse results (against RandomPlayer, of course) when I used the same technique on the original data only (DeepTrainedPlayer2x200drop).

Other Neural Network configurations

If I come across any techniques or other neural network architectures that improve upon this, I will update the article! I would also appreciate any input from readers - I am just experimenting and learning here so please let me know where I’ve been mistaken.


It was great to be able to play a game against my own creation, and I do think this was more rewarding than the ‘stats based’ tutorials where the performance boils down only to a simple number.

I think that the key factors making this a successful project were:

  1. The framework (non-ML) that we built to provide a simple way to manipulate games and players, and output the game data. In particular, the ‘perspective’ boards (pieces represented by 1 or -1 depending on which player is significant to what is happening - e.g. whose move is next) were really helpful for building data that we could work with using Machine Learning techniques.

  2. Building a simple reusable ‘model’ class that could save and reload its weights, and have new models inherited where we only had to change small parts of the code. This meant we could experiment quickly, and compare results going forward without having to re-run all the training steps again.

  3. Choice of the RandomPlayer as a benchmark where we could run hundreds of games and gather the results. For such a small board, this was good enough to act as a baseline, although there were concerns that the trained models ‘overfitted’ the random player so weren’t really prepared to play against a human.

Going forward

I’m still not too sure how to encourage the training step to stabilise, and how best to measure the ‘accuracy’ during training.

Other neural network architectures could be interesting to study, although I think it is unlikely we would see significantly improved performance.

The trained models could continue to learn as they play against a human opponent.

It would also be good to randomize the moves slightly - as it stands, the models are deterministic so you can always force them to play the same way as last time if you make the same moves. Continued training as they play against humans would probably be a better solution for this problem anyway, certainly if we not only feed the human ‘winning data’ into retraining, but also find a way to benefit from losing data to steer away from those moves in future.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments or issue tracker!

PS. A mechanical algorithm for reinforcement-learning to play this game was created in 1961 using matchboxes and coloured counters.