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Machine 1, Man 0: AlphaGo slams world's best Go player in the first round

DeepMind scores another win in marketing its AI

AlphaGo yesterday one-upped man as it won the first out of three games against Ke Jie, the world’s number one player in Go.

AlphaGo is currently taking another pop at humans as it plays its second competitive match during The Future of Go Summit – a five-day festival celebrating the ancient Chinese game.

Last year, it won against Lee Sedol, the Korean Go champion, besting him four out of five games. Over a year has passed since the match, and the software and professional Go players have had a little time to adjust and improve.

Lee Sedol’s defeat was down to being surprised by moves he had previously not encountered before, something that Ke wanted to avoid. So he kickstarted the game by strategically placing his black stones in positions that have previously been favored by AlphaGo. The pair began fighting over the corners of the board, both playing in an unconventional style.

But it was Ke who finally lost by a small margin of +0.5. “I copied some moves that AlphaGo liked to use in past games. AlphaGo also made some unexpected moves as well. I was deeply impressed. Also, there was a cut that quite shocked me, because it was a move that would never happen in a human-to-human Go match,” he said.

The number of potential moves is on the scale of 10170, making it impossible for a computer to consider all the possibilities. AlphaGo uses a combination of machine learning and search to narrow down the choices and focus on the best position by learning from past games.

The competition is not over yet, as Ke gears up for another round on Thursday. Despite losing, he said: “From AlphaGo there are lots of things that are worthwhile learning and exploring. The influence of AlphaGo has been widespread. We should explore our minds and expand our thinking.”

It hasn’t been as widely broadcasted compared to the first competition, as China has clamped down on live streams. China Digital Times translated a Chinese memo, which said: “Regarding the Go match between Ke Jie and AlphaGo, no website, without exception, may carry a live stream. If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it. Please convey the gist of this to sports channels.

Again, we stress: this match may not be broadcast live in any form and without exception, including text commentary, photography, video streams, self-media accounts and so on. No website (including sports and technology channels) or desktop or mobile apps may issue news alerts or push notifications about the course or result of the match.”

The reasons for the heavy censorship are not clear. It could be due to an ongoing spat between Google and the Chinese government, as the ad giant has refused to conform to strict regulations placed over searches on the internet.

Either way, the match is a massive marketing triumph for DeepMind. It can be watched live here.

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