Google’s A.I. to take on Korea’s top baduk player

January 28, 2016
Baduk player Lee Se-dol (Korea Times file)

Baduk player Lee Se-dol
(Korea Times file)

By Kwon Ji-youn

Google’s artificial intelligence (A.I.) has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging Korea’s top Go player.

Lee Se-dol, a professional player of the game, known as baduk in Korean, has dominated the world of baduk for the last 10 years earning a nine-dan rank. In March he will take on AlphaGo, a program based on general-purpose A.I. methods, in a baduk match.

The winner takes $1 million (approximately 1.2 billion won) in what Google DeepMind, the program’s creator, calls the “ultimate challenge.”

“It is an honor to be up against a computer program that is up for the challenge against human professional Go players,” Lee, who turned pro in 1995, told Nature. “It will be a meaningful event regardless of the results.”

AlphaGo uses deep neural networks to mimic expert players. The A.I. company, founded in the U.K. as DeepMind Technologies in 2011 and acquired by Google in 2014, has further improved the program by learning from games played against itself.

AlphaGo won over 99 percent of its games against the strongest of other Go programs, according to its website. It also defeated the European champion Fan Hui 5–0 in tournament games.

Researchers say Go is a good test for artificial intelligence because it is more complex than chess, with a far larger range of possible positions.

The achievements of AlphaGo were published in the British interdisciplinary scientific journal “Nature” on Jan. 28.

The details of the ultimate challenge will be confirmed in late February because Lee will be competing at the Nongshim Cup World Baduk Championship starting on March 2.

“Google DeepMind’s A.I. capabilities are surprisingly advanced,” Lee said, “but I’m confident that I will win this game, if not others.”

Lee made a name for himself when he defeated Lee Chang-ho in the LG Cup World Baduk Championship in 2003. In 2014, he won 6-2 against Chinese player Gu Li.

Last year, he suffered a startling loss against Ke Jie, but redeemed it with a win against Park Jung-hwan.

One Comment


    February 2, 2016 at 5:36 PM

    AlphaGo will lose.