‘God of Go’: Google AI Defeats Boardgame Master

The world’s best player of Go, a complicated and centuries-old boardgame, was defeated this week by artificial intelligence—on the gamer’s home turf of China, no less, where the game was invented.

Google’s AlphaGo system trumped 10-year-old Ke Jie in the first of a best-of-three match to be completed this week.

Jie has played AlphaGo before. Last year, he told the New York Times, AlphaGo was “quite humanlike.” This week, however, Jie feels he is up against “a god of Go.”

AlphaGo was developed by DeepMind, an artificial intelligence powerhouse acquired by Google’s parent, Alphabet, a few years ago. Go, rooted in deep tradition, is being upended by advanced AI, which is dazzling players with unorthodox strategies that challenge the ways old masters first conquers the game.

It’s a sign of AI’s progress, to be sure. AlphaGo can now improve its gameplay by playing against itself, resulting in a rate of improvement beyond what any master is capable of.

As for Jie? He plans to stick to human opponents after this week’s match completes. Computers, he admitted at a post-game press conference, are becoming too powerful a foe.