Google’s Upgraded AlphaGo AI Takes On Go Grandmaster Ke Jie, Takes First Win By Half A Point

Man ultimately bowed before machine on Tuesday, as the world’s top-ranked Go player forfeited his match against Google DeepMind’s upgraded AlphaGo A.I. system after a grueling four-hour match. While the battle was hard-fought, and while the 19-year-old Go grandmaster was just a point short of winning the game, Jie’s efforts ultimately proved futile, as the machine took control early on in the match and never really let go.

Ke Jie, the world’s number one professional Go player, attempted to do something unorthodox against his opponent, Google’s AlphaGo, on Tuesday — the grandmaster used the A.I.’s own moves against it. Jie was previously beaten by the computer six months ago, using a variety of creative and unusual moves. This time, the grandmaster was prepared, opening the ancient game with a move that AlphaGo itself had made popular, according to an Ars Technica UK report.

At first, it appeared that Jie’s strategy was paying off, but a few moves after, AlphaGo managed to take control, and it just steamrolled from there. The battle between man and machine did not last very long, with the actual match only taking around four hours 15 minutes instead of the six hours that was widely speculated for the round. Ke Jie and AlphaGo are set to battle each other in a best-of-three match, but if the results of the first game on Tuesday are any indication, it appears that the young Chinese grandmaster would have his work cut out for him.

AlphaGo’s performance in the intricate, ancient game has been well above the expectations of everyone, including the A.I.’s creators themselves. According to a WIRED report, A.I. researchers initially speculated that it would take years before AlphaGo would be able to compete and defeat a human grandmaster. Go, after all, is incredibly complex, and the game’s possible strategies are practically limitless.

AlphaGo made a massive splash in the A.I. circle last year when it defeated South Korean Grandmaster Lee Se-dol in a grueling match that saw the machine’s first victory against a professional Go player. Since then, AlphaGo has received a number of upgrades from its developers, and in January, it participated in a series of online matches against the best professional Go players in the world, including its opponent this Tuesday, Ke Jie himself. Each match that AlphaGo played then ended in victory for the machine.

This is not to say that Ke Jie was completely dominated by the computer, however. The Chinese grandmaster, if any, proved that his place as the top-ranked Go player in the world is well-deserved. Google DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis stated that while Jie’s unorthodox strategy did not come out as planned, the match saw a number of interesting moves from both human and machine.

AlphaGo will be playing two more games against Ke Jie, one on Thursday and the final match on Saturday. Considering that AlphaGo is constantly evolving, there is a minuscule chance that the Chinese grandmaster would be able to pull off a victory. Regardless of this, however, there is no doubt that the world’s number one professional Go player would not go down without a fight.

Other exhibition Go matches are also scheduled for this week, including a special round featuring five professional Chinese players battling against one AlphaGo machine. Another exhibition game would test the concept of human-A.I. pairing, featuring a battle between two pairs that are made up of one professional Go player and one AlphaGo A.I. system.

While the concept of an all-powerful A.I. dominating the best minds in the ancient game appears to be quite daunting, Hassabis stated that AlphaGo has actually managed to cause a small revolution in the ancient game. For one, the DeepMind co-founder said that AlphaGo’s emergence had revived a massive interest in the complex game.

“Instead of diminishing the game, as some feared, artificial intelligence has actually made human players stronger and more creative. It’s humbling to see how pros and amateurs alike, who have pored over every detail of AlphaGo’s innovative gameplay, have actually learned new knowledge and strategies about perhaps the most studied and contemplated game in history. AlphaGo’s play makes us feel free, that no move is impossible. Now everyone is trying to play in a style that hasn’t been tried before.”

[Featured Image by Google/Getty Images]