Google DeepMind’s AI beat Go world champion Lee Sedol for the third time on Saturday to take the Challenge Series tournament, which is being held in South Korea.
The AlphaGo AI is now 3-0 up in the five-game series so there is no way 18-time world champion Lee Sedol can come back from here. However, the remaining games on Sunday and Tuesday will still be played out. The only thing left to play for is to find out if humanity’s best Go player can win even a single match against AlphaGo.
It’s a major milestone for artificial-intelligence research: Go is a simple game but has been notoriously difficult for computers to master because of the sheer number of potential moves. Go players believe the game relies on intuition as a strategy. While AI programs began being able to beat humans at chess decades ago, the best Go players in the world have always been able to outsmart Go-playing software — until now.
Go is a two-player, turn-based strategy game. Each player puts down either black or white stones in an attempt to outmaneuver and surround the other player. It’s easy to pick up but takes years to master.
At a post-game press conference, Demis Hassabis, DeepMind cofounder and CEO, said: “We are a bit stunned and speechless. Lee Sedol put up an incredible fight again.
“AlphaGo can compute tens of thousands of positions per second but what’s incredible is Lee Sedol can compete with that just with his mind and his ingenuity. He stretched AlphaGo to its limits.”
Lee apologised for not being able to satisfy people’s expectations. “Ikind of felt powerless,” he said.
Hassabis and Shane Legg have publicly celebrated their victory on Twitter. Hassabis described it as a “historic moment.” Legg wrote: “They said this wouldn’t happen for a long time… but it just did!”
#AlphaGo won game 3 and the match! Historic moment. In complete awe of Lee Sedol’s incredible genius, and proud of the amazing AlphaGo team!
— Demis Hassabis (@demishassabis) March 12, 2016
They said this wouldn’t happen for a long time… but it just did! Well done team and thanks to Sedol for fighting hard to the end #AlphaGo
— Shane Legg (@ShaneLegg) March 12, 2016
The tournament has been closely watched by the most senior people at Alphabet and Google. Alphabet president Sergey Brin attended the third game, while Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt was there for the first.
At the press conference, Brin said: “I spent a lot of time playing Go at grad school. Larry thought Google might never happen because I spent so much time playing Go.
“Go is a very beautiful game and I think it teaches a lot about life. Much more so than a game like chess. When you watch great go players player, it is like a thing of beauty.
“So I’m very excited that we have been able to instil that kind of beauty in computers.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai was also tweeting about it earlier in the week.
Incredible moment for AI. Congrats to AlphaGo and Lee Sedol for a great game. More to come! https://t.co/0Ekk1C3wmg
— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) March 9, 2016
The post-game press conference can be watched here.
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