At the end of the fifth and final match, Lee Sedol sat back quietly in his chair in a conference room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul as the collected computer scientists celebrated around him. Lee, second only to fellow South Korean Lee Chang-Ho in international titles in the ancient Chinese board game of Go, put up a valiant fight against the machine, AlphaGo, created by Google's DeepMind division. AlphaGo had erred early on, but recovered to overpower the human and win the series four to one. Board games have been used since the early days of artificial intelligence research as ways to measure progress -- IBM's Deep Blue famously beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in New York in 1997 -- and AlphaGo's victory marks another significant milestone in the advancement of the technology. Go presents a far greater challenge to AI than chess.
IT WAS not quite a whitewash, but it was close. When DeepMind, a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company bought by Google for 400m in 2014, challenged Lee Sedol to a five-game Go match, Mr Lee--one of the best human players of that ancient and notoriously taxing board game--confidently predicted that he would win 5-0, or maybe 4-1. He was right about the score, but wrong about the winner. The match, played in Seoul to crowds on the edges of their seats and streamed to millions online, was won by the computer, four games to one. Ever since Garry Kasparov, a chess grandmaster, lost to a computer in 1997, Go--which is far harder for machines--has been an unconquered frontier.
On Wednesday afternoon in the South Korean capital, Seoul, Lee Se-dol, the 33-year-old master of the ancient Asian board game Go, will sit down to defend humanity. On the other side of the table will be his opponent: Alphago, a programme built by Google subsidiary DeepMind which became, in October, the first machine to beat a professional human Go player, the European champion Fan Hui. That match proved that Alphago could hold its own against the best; this one will demonstrate whether "the best" have to relinquish that title entirely. Related: Google throws down the gauntlet. But can anyone beat its computer at Go? Lee, who is regularly ranked among the top three players alive, has been a Go professional for 21 years; Alphago won its first such match less than 21 weeks ago.
First went checkers, then fell chess. Now, a computer program has defeated the world's top player in the ancient east Asian board game of Go -- a major milestone for artificial intelligence that brings to a close the era of board games as benchmarks in computing. At the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul, Google DeepMind's AlphaGo capped a 3-0 week on Saturday against Lee Sedol, a giant of the game. Lee and AlphaGo were to play again Sunday and Tuesday, but with AlphaGo having already clinched victory in the five-game match, the results are in and history has been made. It was a feat that experts had thought was still years away.
Google's AlphaGo AI swept all of its five matches against European Go champion Fan Hui. Now, the team behind the deep-learning program is preparing for AlphaGo's upcoming match against world champion Lee Sedol in March. After soundly beating the reigning European Go champion, Google's AI computer is looking to go head-to-head with one of the best players in the world in a match set to be held in South Korea in March. Go, a board game that was invented in China some 2,500 years ago, involves having players alternately place white and black "stones" on a grid consisting of 19 vertical and 19 horizontal lines. The objective is to surround the stone pieces of the opponent without allowing a player's own pieces to be surrounded.