Supercomputer AlphaGo beats South Korean grandmaster in final Go game: Fans in Singapore stunned

(From far left) SWA head coach Yang Jin Hua, 64, and Weiqi enthusiasts Ho Jia Xuan, 29, and Kenneth Ng, 30, enjoying a game of Weiqi, or Go, as they watched a live streaming of the game between Mr Lee Se Dol and supercomputer AlphaGo.
(From far left) SWA head coach Yang Jin Hua, 64, and Weiqi enthusiasts Ho Jia Xuan, 29, and Kenneth Ng, 30, enjoying a game of Weiqi, or Go, as they watched a live streaming of the game between Mr Lee Se Dol and supercomputer AlphaGo.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Weiqi enthusiasts in Singapore were shocked yesterday after supercomputer AlphaGo's fourth and final win against South Korean Grandmaster Lee Se Dol.

The intense interest among Weiqi fans led the Singapore Weiqi Association (SWA) at Bishan Community Club to live-stream all five matches between Mr Lee and AlphaGo.

The Google-developed artificial intelligence (AI) program, which won four of the five games, is the first to beat a professional player in Weiqi, also known as Go. So complex is the Chinese board game that players say it cannot be mastered by sheer computing force.

 
 
 
 
 

The SWA, which has over 1,000 members, even held post-game sessions to analyse the four-hour matches. They were attended by more than 50 people, with members even tuning in from an online portal.

Last Wednesday, after the supercomputer's first unexpected win against Mr Lee, many enthusiasts were so shocked they took leave from work to watch the subsequent matches live.

"We didn't expect AI to not only beat our best player but also display traits that show it's not a fluke. This was actually a complete victory," said Mr Ho Jia Xuan, 29, a civil servant and Weiqi enthusiast.

"We've always prided ourselves on playing a game that no computer has been able to master. They call Weiqi the last paradise of human wisdom," he added.

Many expressed amazement at AlphaGo's technique and noted some of its novel moves. "It made us think, does this move actually work? If it does, can we apply it to our games?" said Weiqi coach House Chuah, 26.

He hoped that Google would allow AlphaGo to play at different levels - so people could compete against it at their own level.

"But not now," he said. "I still want to play a human."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Fans in Singapore stunned'. Print Edition | Subscribe