Google’s AlphaGo A.I. Defeats World Champion at the Game of Go

The boundaries for what machines cannot do has been pushed a little farther, as Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo has beaten Go world champion Lee Se-dol in the first five matches.

AlphaGo is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) robot. It can think by itself. After a 3 1/2 hour game, Se-dol conceded to the computer.

This is only the first match, but Se-dol expected a 5-0 sweep on his part. During a press conference after the match, Se-dol hung his head.

“I didn’t know AlphaGo would play such a perfect game,” he said.

Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO of DeepMind, compared this win to landing on the moon in a tweet after the match was called.

Go was thought to be unplayable by a machine at a champion level, because the game is so complex. This idea was shattered in October 2015, when AlphaGo beat European chamption Fan Hui, but skeptics still believed that Se-dol would best the machine.

Behind the scenes, Google has been tweaking AlphaGo, learning from the mistakes it make in the 2015 match with Hui. That seems to have paid off, as even Se-dol, who studied the few previous AlphaGo games was surprised about how well the machine performed.

Much like Garry Kasparov in 1997, Se-dol also has not had very much access to games that AlphaGo has played, besides the 5 against Hui. Normally, both players would be able to analyze the other’s playing style and prepare themselves. On the other hand, it might not have mattered, since the computer doesn’t have a set personality or preferential style—it just looks to win.

The second match will take place Thursday, March 10 at 1 p.m. KST (or Wednesday, March 9 at 11 p.m. EST for us in the West).

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