Google's AlphaGo artificial intelligence to challenge Korean Baduk champion Lee Sedol in the game of Go
Where is Taek, the Baduk champion from Answer Me 1988? The prize is 1 million in US dollars, and the game is Go, or Weiqi, the ancient board game originated from China. AlphaGo, the artificial intelligence system from Google DeepMind, has just beat the top Go player in Europe and will next challenge Lee Sedol, the South Korean grandmaster in Baduk (Korean name for Go).
The ancient Chinese game is considered the most difficult board game to be conquered by computer software, after IBM's Deep Blue defeated Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997. While chess is a game based more on logic, Go is more intuitively played and is much more complex, according to Demis Hassabis, the genius mind and founder of DeepMind Technologies that built the algorithms for AlphaGo. DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014.
The game of Go has evolved over time, ever since its beginning over 4,000 years ago, to finally settle on the current board of a 19 by 19 grid. Two players, using white and black stones, take turns placing a stone at one of the 361 points where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect. The goal is to surround the opponent's pieces to capture the majority of the board to win. The game is played by well over 40 million players worldwide (as of 2008.)
When Fan Hui, the reigning European champion in Go, was defeated in October last year in all 5 games against AlphaGo, it was the first time AlphaGo has defeated a professional Go player. The excited Google DeepMind team will next take AlphaGo to Seoul to challenge Lee Sedol, a South Korean legend in the game of Go.
Here is Demis Hassabis explaining why the complex game of Go poses such a "grand challenge" for artificial intelligence:
Lee Sedol has expressed confidence in winning. The 32-year-old grandmaster turned pro at the age of 13. He said through his press statement, "I have heard that Google DeepMind’s AI is surprisingly strong and getting stronger, but I am confident that I can win at least this time.”
At the February 22 press conference held in Seoul, Lee is predicting a 5-0 or 4-1 result in his favor because he thinks the game is still honing its skills. However, he added, "But if artificial intelligence continues to advance, in a year or two years, it will be really hard to guess the results."
If AlphaGo defeats Lee Sedol, it is not the end of the world for Go players. As of February 2016, Lee Sedol is ranked second to Lee Chang Ho, who is the only Go player in the world that has won all 8 international competitions at least once. AlphaGo will donate the $1 million winning prize to UNICEF, STEM education, and a Go charity.
The series of 5 games between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol will take place in Seoul from March 9 to 15, and the games will be broadcast live on YouTube. Each game is estimated to take about 4 to 5 hours.
Which player do you think will win? Are you interested in watching the competition on YouTube?
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