Google’s AlphaGo computer got off to a good start in its five game series against champion Go player Lee Sedol. AlphaGo defeated Lee after 186 moves, leaving the representative of humanity trailing 1 – 0 with four matches to go.
The AlphaGo challenge was created to test the machine’s capability to learn and process information. Go requires substantially more strategy due to the larger number of moves available to each player each turn. Computers in the past have generally been unable to keep up with the sheer number of choices to make, and AlphaGo’s success marks the first time that a computer has defeated a top level Go player.
In comparison, chess grandmasters have been beaten by computers since 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue defeated world champion Gary Kasparov.
AlphaGo almost ran out of time while working to defeat Lee. The supercomputer was left with only 5:30 on its clock, while the South Korean still had 28:28 remaining. Lee played an aggressive game and attempted to force the computer to react to his moves; a strategy which apparently does not rattle an unfeeling machine.
Lee was gracious in his defeat, and is looking forward to meeting AlphaGo again on the tabletop. He said, “I would like to express my respect to [Deepmind CEO] Demis and his team for making such an amazing program like AlphaGo. I am surprised by this result. But I did enjoy the game and am looking forward to the next one.”
All is not over for humanities hopes in defeating the machine. Lee still has four games to play against AlphaGo, with games taking place over the next five days. The next game takes place today, while the rest of the matches will be played on 12, 13, and 15 March.