The Long Shot

Marcin Malec ’13 defeats international competitors, earns bronze at Computer Olympiad in Japan

Some would call it a long shot.

In mid-August, Gettysburg College alumnus Marcin Malec ’13 earned a bronze medal at the Computer Olympiad in Yokohama, Japan. The Olympiad, hosted by the International Computer Games Association, pitted Marcin against five other skilled competitors in The Game of the Amazons, an abstract strategy game.

Malec was introduced to Amazons through a course taught by Computer Science Prof. Todd Neller during the spring semester of 2012. In the course, CS 391—Selected Topics, students explored game artificial intelligence and later created Amazons players to battle Neller’s basic sparring bot.

CS_MarcinAlthough each student was ultimately conquered by Neller’s player, one Gettysburgian was determined for a rematch. Driven to defeat his professor, Malec discovered new ways to improve his Amazons player. His dedication led to a victory in round two and spurred a senior capstone course.

“I was the first major in CS (computer science) to fulfill my capstone by doing independent research,” Malec said.

His research, which included reviewing the work of others and investigating enhancements to his player’s adaptive behavior, resulted in artificial intelligence that consistently performed at a high level in simulations.

Considering Marcin was a rookie—fresh out college—preparing to face off against the Olympiad’s knowledgeable international opponents, two of whom have dominated the event throughout the last 12 years, Malec and Neller knew of only one name to call his Amazons player—“Long Shot.”

CS_MedalIn the three-day round robin, Malec’s Long Shot went undefeated in all six games leading up to his showdown with the Olympiad’s heavyweights, “Invader” and “8QP,” owners of the silver and gold medals from each of the past four competitions. 

Although bested in the end, Malec was encouraged by his performance and observed improvements he could make to his player for future Olympiad duals.

While in Japan, Malec and Neller also presented at the 8th International Conference on Computer and Games. The pair presented a peer reviewed paper, Optimal, Approximately Optimal, and Fair Play of the Fowl Play Card Game, they collaborated on with Prof. Clifton Presser and Forrest Jacobs ’12. In the future, the paper will be published in the conference proceedings.

Currently, Malec is pursuing his Master’s at Indiana University at Bloomington and plans to enter a Ph.D. program in computer science.

“Gettysburg prepared me very well. The advanced classes that I took in CS turned out to cover the same material as graduate classes, which allowed for advanced placement,” Malec said. “I think I am also the only student in my year who started working on research his first semester. I am currently working on applications of Case Based Reasoning.”

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Mike Baker, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6521.
Nick Skitko, communications and marketing intern.

Posted: Mon, 30 Sep 2013

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