'Go god' AlphaGo beats world's No. 1 player

Top Go player Ke Jie was no match for Google's AlphaGo in their first encounter in the three-game series held in Wuzhen, China, yesterday.
Top Go player Ke Jie was no match for Google's AlphaGo in their first encounter in the three-game series held in Wuzhen, China, yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SHANGHAI • Google's computer program, AlphaGo, beat the world's top-ranked player in the ancient Chinese board game Go yesterday, reaffirming the arrival of what its developers tout as a ground-breaking new form of artificial intelligence (AI).

AlphaGo took the first encounter in a three-game series against brash 19-year-old Chinese world No. 1 Ke Jie, who last year had declared he would never lose to an AI opponent.

He said AlphaGo had become too strong for humans, despite the razor-thin half-point winning margin.

"I feel like his game is more and more like the 'Go god'. Really, it is brilliant," he said.

He vowed never again to subject himself to the "horrible experience" of matching wits with the machine following this week's contests. Mr Ke and AlphaGo will face off again tomorrow and on Saturday.

Yesterday's game in the eastern Chinese city of Wuzhen was streamed live on Google-owned YouTube, while executives from the DeepMind unit that developed the program sent out updates live on Twitter.

Both are blocked by China, as is Google search. Google pulled its search engine from China seven years ago after it refused to self-censor Internet searches, a requirement of Beijing. Since then it has been inaccessible behind the country's nationwide firewall.

Beijing is pushing to become a major player in AI. Chinese search engine giant Baidu launched an AI lab in March with China's state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission.

Go, most popular in countries such as China, South Korea and Japan, involves two contestants placing black and white stones across a square grid, aiming to seize the most territory. Its origins date back thousands of years.

AlphaGo, which was developed by London-based AI company DeepMind Technologies, stunned the Go community a year ago when it trounced South Korean grandmaster Lee Se Dol four games to one - the first time a computer program had beaten a top player in a full contest.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline ''Go god' AlphaGo beats world's No. 1 player'. Print Edition | Subscribe