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Master Go player retires citing AI supremacy

Master Go player Lee Se-dol has handed in his stones after deciding that there's just no way to beat a machine when playing the ancient Chinese board game.

AI just won another battle in the war for supremacy against humans. Master Go player Lee Se-dol has handed in his stones after deciding that there’s just no way to beat a machine when playing the ancient Chinese board game. The ninth dan South Korean player reportedly submitted his retirement letter to the Korea Baduk Association (KBA), which governs the professional Go community there.

Se-dol, 36, who began his career at 12, told the Korean Yonhap News Agency about his retirement in an interview on Monday 25 November, explaining:

With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realized that I’m not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts. Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.

He’s referring to AI, and in particular to AlphaGo, the computerised Go player from Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind. The two squared off in a five-game match in 2016, where AlphaGo beat him four times after he had predicted his own “landslide” win.

Se-dol attributed his one winning game to a bug in the AlphaGo system. He made an unexpected move that seemed to confuse the computer, causing it to resign. “It’s due to a bug,” he told the agency, adding that the move wasn’t one that an opponent could counter in a straightforward way.

After it won the match against Se-dol, the KBA awarded AlphaGo an honorary 9th dan ranking.

Programming an AI algorithm to play Go is no mean feat. The 2,500-year-old game is more complex than chess, featuring a 19 x 19 grid as a board with a broader array of alternative moves than chess on average. AlphaGo’s programmers used neural networks to teach the computer about millions of past Go matches, and also enabled it to play against itself.

A year after beating Se-dol, AlphaGo beat the world champion Ke Jei and promptly retired (that decision was not its own).

Se-dol is the only person to have beaten AlphaGo, which makes his retirement even more poignant. However, the Korean news agency explained that he had an existing disagreement with the KBA over fees, and has sued the Association, having left it in 2016.

This isn’t the first time that AI creations have competed with humans in gaming tournaments. IBM’s Deep Blue won in a series of chess games against world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Some 14 years later, the company’s Watson machine defeated two reigning champions over three episodes of the general knowledge game show Jeopardy, winning 69% more prize money than the humans combined.


Reminds me when Zbot almost ruined Quake 2. AI isn’t “playing” a game, it’s just doing math. Games are for “people” to enjoy. Lee should never have played the bot as anything more than testing it’s math functions for it’s programmers. As it was never “playing against him” just processing numbers like the aim bots.
What’s next if this goes on? See the Twilight Zone episode “Steel”.


Huh? People use algorithms, just as machines do. They count cards in Blackjack, Estimate likelihood of opponents’ cards and breaks in bridge, and use various algorithmic processes (depth-first, breadth-first) in chess and Go. The contest here (and it’s legitimate) is who can process the algorithm faster and more precisely against who can articulate it better for machine processing.


Playing against a person, at least a good player is much more. People have distractions, habits, emotions, egos and experience or not to play against. First rule of Tongo, don’t want the Dabo girl….
Even smack talk in cribbage is playing to get the other play to give up ques for their cards to peg against.


Uggh. Are you one of those people who go to Little League ball games and harass the batter? I played cribbage with my wife and her parents for years and we never were so rude. Bridge requires concentration–memory of all the cards that have been played and the bidding that precedes it. In all the bridge I’ve played, there was only one lady who chattered while the cards were in play. Once I spoke to her, she stopped. In America, it’s called sportsmanship.


nope, haven’t been to a little league since I was that age. But while you are trying to troll me with personal attacks, I would strike back, but you sound very very sensitive, and maybe already close to having a ,,, well, hope you have a better day. In America it’s called being social and enjoying the game. Unless your not social, and that’s okay too.


It isn’t even doing math; it’s guessing based upon human and opposition _experience _. We are talking about a lot of trials against itself. So we just have to backtrack (as when you are faced with a backhoe) to things that have movable environmental conditions; say Fairy Chess: . There was a scifi story in the 40’s “The fairy Chessmen” (I think) that I loved. Then we can see who is capable of surviving when it matters.


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