Lee Sedol claws win back in AlphaGo showdown, but AI reigns supreme

14 Mar 2016

It’s a minor victory for Go champion Lee Sedol, who has lost a five-match tie with Google’s Go-playing AI, AlphaGo, but has clawed one match win back after AlphaGo was victorious in three.

There is no denying now that Google’s AlphaGo will be remembered in the same way IBM’s DeepBlue was when it beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov back in 1997 as a defining moment in the development of AI.

Taking on the world champion in Go in a five-match tie, AlphaGo won the tie over the weekend, having secured three match wins over the battle, which, it’s safe to say, shocked many AI experts and famous names.

Most notable was Elon Musk, who celebrated the fact that an AI capable of beating a human world champion at Go was not expected to be around for at least another decade.

The Asian board game has – since AI researchers have pitted its creations against humans in board games – been seen as the end-goal in terms of the complexity of this particular game.

AI: 3 – Humanity: 1

The difficulty lies in the fact, in a game like chess, there are 20 possible moves for the average position, which is complex in itself, but in Go, the number of possibilities increases to 10 times that number.

It wasn’t a walkover for AlphaGo by any means, however, with those at the broadcasted event in Seoul, South Korea, seeing Sedol come agonisingly close at times to besting the machine.

That’s why – with humanity almost breathing an audible sigh of relief – Sedol managed to win back a consolation match last night (13 March), despite losing the tie overall.

Speaking of the win, the founder and CEO of DeepMind – the Google-owned start-up that built AlphaGo – said Sedol outsmarted its creation.

If you want to watch the entire six-hour match, you can get your fill below. If you’re so inclined, you can also catch the final game due to take place on Tuesday, 15 March at the early start time of 4am (GMT).

Go board game image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic