# Alpha-Beta Pruning

April 27, 2023

Alpha-Beta pruning is a search algorithm used to optimize the minimax algorithm. It reduces the number of nodes that need to be evaluated in the search tree by pruning branches that are guaranteed to not affect the final result. The algorithm is commonly used in game playing and decision-making problems where the search trees can become very large.

Alpha-Beta pruning was first introduced by IBM researcher John McCarthy in 1956 as an extension of the minimax algorithm. The technique was further developed by other researchers in the following decades, including Arthur Samuel who used it in his landmark checkers program in 1959. Today, Alpha-Beta pruning is one of the most commonly used algorithms in game playing and decision-making applications.

## Key Concepts and Principles

### Minimax Algorithm

Alpha-Beta pruning is an optimization technique used in conjunction with the minimax algorithm. The minimax algorithm is a recursive algorithm that searches the game tree to find the optimal move for a player. It evaluates each possible move from the current state of the game and computes a score for each move. The score reflects how well the game is going for the player, with higher scores indicating better outcomes. The algorithm then selects the move with the highest score if it is the player’s turn or the lowest score if it is the opponent’s turn.

### Alpha-Beta Pruning

The Alpha-Beta pruning algorithm improves the efficiency of the minimax algorithm by pruning branches of the game tree that are guaranteed to not affect the final result. The algorithm maintains two values: alpha and beta. Alpha represents the maximum score that the maximizing player is guaranteed to achieve at the current level or above, while beta represents the minimum score that the minimizing player is guaranteed to achieve.

The algorithm prunes a branch of the search tree if its score falls outside the interval between alpha and beta. For example, if the current node is a maximizing node and its alpha value is 10, and the score of one of its child nodes is less than or equal to 10, then the remaining child nodes of the current node cannot possibly have a greater score than 10 and can be pruned from the search. Similarly, if the current node is a minimizing node and its beta value is 5, and the score of one of its child nodes is greater than or equal to 5, then the remaining child nodes of the current node cannot possibly have a smaller score than 5 and can be pruned from the search.

### Depth-First Search

The Alpha-Beta pruning algorithm uses a depth-first search to traverse the game tree. In a depth-first search, the algorithm explores each branch of the tree as far as possible before backtracking to explore another branch. This approach allows the algorithm to explore the most promising branches of the tree first, which can lead to significant performance improvements.

## Pseudocode and Implementation Details

```
function alpha_beta_pruning(node, depth, alpha, beta, maximizing_player):
if depth == 0 or node is a terminal node:
return the heuristic value of node
if maximizing_player:
best_value = -infinity
for child in node.children:
value = alpha_beta_pruning(child, depth - 1, alpha, beta, False)
best_value = max(best_value, value)
alpha = max(alpha, best_value)
if beta <= alpha:
break
return best_value
else:
best_value = infinity
for child in node.children:
value = alpha_beta_pruning(child, depth - 1, alpha, beta, True)
best_value = min(best_value, value)
beta = min(beta, best_value)
if beta <= alpha:
break
return best_value
```

The above pseudocode implements the Alpha-Beta pruning algorithm. It takes as input a node in the game tree, the current depth of the search, the alpha and beta values, and a boolean indicating whether the current player is maximizing or minimizing. The algorithm returns the value of the optimal move from the current state of the game.

## Examples and Use Cases

Alpha-Beta pruning is commonly used in game playing applications such as chess, checkers, and Go. In these games, the algorithm is used to search the game tree to find the optimal move for the player. The algorithm can also be used in decision-making problems such as route planning, where the search space can become very large.

## Advantages and Disadvantages

### Advantages

- Alpha-Beta pruning can significantly reduce the number of nodes that need to be evaluated in the search tree, leading to significant performance improvements.
- The algorithm is relatively simple to implement and can be applied to a wide range of game playing and decision-making problems.

### Disadvantages

- Alpha-Beta pruning assumes that the players are playing optimally, which may not always be the case in real-world scenarios.
- The algorithm may not always produce the optimal solution, especially in cases where the search space is very large or the heuristic function used to evaluate the nodes is not accurate.

## Related Algorithms or Variations

### Negamax Algorithm

Negamax is a variation of the minimax algorithm that simplifies the implementation of Alpha-Beta pruning. In the Negamax algorithm, the score of each move is computed as the negation of the score of the opponent’s best move. This allows the algorithm to use a single recursive function to evaluate both maximizing and minimizing nodes, simplifying the implementation of Alpha-Beta pruning.

### Monte Carlo Tree Search

Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) is a search algorithm commonly used in game playing applications such as Go and chess. Unlike Alpha-Beta pruning, which evaluates all possible moves from the current state of the game, MCTS uses a stochastic simulation to evaluate the moves. The algorithm uses a combination of random simulations and tree search to find the optimal move for the player.