Google supercomputer AlphaGo beats human champ at Go: 4 other machines that beat man

Garry Kasparov faced off against IBM-developed supercomputer Deep Blue more than once, losing on the second occasion.
Garry Kasparov faced off against IBM-developed supercomputer Deep Blue more than once, losing on the second occasion.

Machine 4 - Man 1.

That's the score so far in a five-game series between a supercomputer and Go grandmaster Lee Se Dol that ended on March 15.

The Google-developed AlphaGo computer has stunned the world by mastering the ancient boardgame of Go, which has an almost infinite number of moves.

This means it requires more intuition and creativity than machines have been capable of - till now.

The Straits Times looks at past human-machine match-ups where silicon chips have prevailed over grey matter:

1. Chess: Garry Kasparov vs Deep Blue

IBM-developed supercomputer Deep Blue defeated then world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, and ended up on the cover of Newsweek.

In a six-game tournament, Deep Blue won three games and drew one with Kasparov.

The grandmaster walked away from the playing room looking stunned, waving his arms in distress but later said he had "cracked under pressure".

It was the computer's second attempt, having lost to the Russian in 1996.

2. Jeopardy!: Contestants vs Watson

Mr Ken Jennings (left) and Mr Brad Rutter, the two most successful and celebrated contestants on popular American quiz show Jeopardy, were beaten by Watson (centre), a supercomputer developed by IBM. PHOTO: IBM

Another IBM creation, Watson is able to find answers based on ambiguous clues. It was thus able to beat two human competitors on the popular United States quiz show Jeopardy!

An example of a question it got correct: "It's a poor workman who blames these."

Watson answers: "What are tools?"

The competitors it triumphed over were Mr Ken Jennings and Mr Brad Rutter, both seasoned players with many wins under their belts.

Watson's winnings of US$77,147 were donated to charity, IBM said.

3. Checkers: Marion Tinsley vs Chinook


Mathematician Marion Tinsley was world champion in the game of checkers for more than 40 years since the 1950s.

He had long ran out of human opponents when he was challenged in 1992 by a computer program - Chinook. The professor won, but the program returned to challenge him over the next few years.

The retired professor withdrew from a championship match in 1995 due to illness after six draws with Chinook. The computer program beat his stand-in.

In 2007, the Canadian team that created Chinook announced that they had solved the game of checkers - Chinook could determine the final result in a game after just one move. This means the program would never lose, and only win or draw with a competitor.

4. Scrabble: David Boys vs Quackle

Canadian Scrabble champion David Boys, who won the world Scrabble championship in 1995, played computer program Quackle in 2007 and lost three games to two.

Scrabble players, including reigning world Scrabble champion Nigel Richards, are known to have pit themselves against Quackle, an open-source program, during training.

Sources: New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education,