MCTS-Minimax Hybrids with State Evaluations

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Monte-Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) has been found to show weaker play than minimax-based search in some tactical game domains. This is partly due to its highly selective search and averaging value backups, which make it susceptible to traps. In order to combine the strategic strength of MCTS and the tactical strength of minimax, MCTS-minimax hybrids have been introduced, embedding shallow minimax searches into the MCTS framework. Their results have been promising even without making use of domain knowledge such as heuristic evaluation functions. This article continues this line of research for the case where evaluation functions are available. Three different approaches are considered, employing minimax with an evaluation function in the rollout phase of MCTS, as a replacement for the rollout phase, and as a node prior to bias move selection. The latter two approaches are newly proposed. Furthermore, all three hybrids are enhanced with the help of move ordering and k-best pruning for minimax. Results show that the use of enhanced minimax for computing node priors results in the strongest MCTS-minimax hybrid investigated in the three test domains of Othello, Breakthrough, and Catch the Lion. This hybrid, called MCTS-IP-M-k, also outperforms enhanced minimax as a standalone player in Breakthrough, demonstrating that at least in this domain, MCTS and minimax can be combined to an algorithm stronger than its parts. Using enhanced minimax for computing node priors is therefore a promising new technique for integrating domain knowledge into an MCTS framework.

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