Lee Sedol vs AlphaGo: How Google’s A. I machine beat the 18 times World Go Champion

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Fan Hui has been invited again by DeepMind, but this time as an advisor. He took the loss to AlphaGo very positively and came back to help make AlphaGo stronger. Fan Hui’s role was to find weaknesses in AlphaGo’s game. And he did. AlphaGo would go into a lump state, whenever it encounters a very specific tricky situation. This was a major setback and there was a real possibility that AlphaGo would lose the match. And the team wasn’t able to fix the problem either.

The team behind AlphaGo

The match was going to be held in Seoul, South Korea, where Lee Sedol is a National Figure. 8 million Koreans play the game of Go, so there was a certain element of national pride involved.

In the first game, AlphaGo gave a tough fight from the very beginning. The moves that AlphaGo made were human-like, almost as if it has an intuition. Go professionals and enthusiasts were shocked by the bold moves that AlphaGo made. This was very unsettling for Lee Sedol. To make things worse, Lee Sedol couldn’t read what AlphaGo was trying to do. Because it’s a program, no feelings, no expressions.

AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol

AlphaGo made one aggressive move after another, no one could understand the reasoning behind those moves at that time. But as the game went on, it all started making sense. It was as if AlphaGo could predict the future.

AlphaGo had won the game by a big margin, no one could comprehend what had happened, it took time for Lee Sedol to accept the outcome.

“I would have to say that I was very surprised because I didn’t think that I would lose the game. I think the mistakes I made, in the beginning, lasted until the very end. That’s why I lost this game. I wasn’t able to foresee. I didn’t think that AlphaGo would play the game in such a perfect manner.

I have won world championship titles and have a lot of experience, so losing one game won’t affect me in playing games in the future. I think now it’s 50/50. I would like to express my respect to the team for developing such an amazing program like AlphaGo.” — Lee Sedol

In the second game, AlphaGo put on a commanding performance again. Lee Sedol felt immense pressure, so he goes onto taking a little break. But AlphaGo doesn’t wait for Lee to come back and goes onto play move 37. Lee comes back from his little break only to find himself confused and amazed at the same time.

“I thought AlphaGo was based on probability calculation and that it was merely a machine. But when I saw the move, I changed my mind. Surely, AlphaGo is creative. This move was creative and beautiful.” — Lee Sedol

Nobody understood whether this was a good move or a bad move. Normally Lee has to think for one or two minutes to make a move, this time he takes more than 12 minutes

The game came to a point where AlphaGo had attained an enormous amount of points. But Lee just didn’t want to resign, he couldn’t comprehend another loss to AlphaGo. After 4 hours and 20 minutes, he finally resigns.

The night before game three, Lee Sedol gathered with four Go professionals and analyzed the game all night. It was all or nothing for Lee in the third game. A loss meant that AlphaGo wins the match. But there was nothing he could do, by move 50, the win rate was already very high.

Lee Sedol analyzing the game after losing

The psychological burden was adding up on Lee. He tried to fight directly in the game, but that’s not Lee’s style. When we change our style to play to accommodate the opponent, it’s not a very good sign, not just in Go, but in any professional game. This only makes it easier for AlphaGo. Again, Lee couldn’t do anything but resign. History was made as AlphaGo won three straight games to win the match against 18 time Go Wolrd Champions Lee Sedol.

4th game was a big turnaround for Lee Sedol. He had managed to outsmart the mighty AlphaGo. Lee Sedol had taken advantage of AlphaGo’s weakness. There was a sense of relief among the public and Lee Sedol. The machine was beatable after all. People were running out on the street, they were chanting and celebrating.

“But I didn’t expect it to be like this. I couldn’t believe I won one game. It was unbelievable. Thank you very much. I have never been congratulated so much for winning one game. After losing three games in a row, I couldn’t be happier.” — Lee Sedol

Lee Sedol’s move 78 was what turned the tides in his favor. According to AlphaGo, the probability that Lee would’ve played that move was 0.007%. That makes it a 1-in-10,000 move. A fellow Go professional called Lee’s move 78 a ‘God move’, something only Lee Sedol is capable of.

Lee Sedol after winning a game against AlphaGo

In the 5th game, Lee Sedol got off to a great start. He looked confident due to his previous win. The DeepMind team thought that they would lose embarrassingly. And this ‘embarrassment’ continued for most of the match. But then again AlphaGo doing some of its magic, won the match by 1 and ½ points. Just like in the rest of the matches, nobody understood what AlphaGo was trying to do. The program’s moves looked like mistakes that humans would do, yet it somehow managed to win.

Normally, we humans would consider our probability of winning a game by the margin of the score. But all AlphaGo cares about is winning, it doesn’t matter by how many points.

“It shouldn’t matter how much you win by, you only need to win by a single point. Why should I be seizing all this extra territory when I don’t need it? The lessons that AlphaGo is teaching us are going to influence how Go is played for the next thousand years.” — Frank

In the end, AlphaGo, a machine defeated the 18 time World Go champion. This match will be remembered as the event that put Artificial Intelligence in the limelight. Not only did the event change the perception of AI, but it also made the game of Go popular, all around the world. It was reported that there was a worldwide shortage of Go boards, such as the influence of the match.

Demis Habbabis and Lee Sedol after the 5-game match

“I have grown through this experience. I will make something out of it with the lessons I have learned. I feel thankful and feel like I have found the reason I play Go. I realize it was a good choice, learning to play Go. It has been an unforgettable experience”. — Lee Sedol

This wasn’t the end of something historic, but the beginning of something beautiful. Of course, Go is just a game, but we can learn important lessons from a computer being so successful at Go. Machines will have the capability to crunch through a huge amount of data and analyze it intelligently. Just as in the case of the Go games, the machine-made moves surprised even the experts. And, eventually, the machines will gain everyone’s confidence because we will see that very embarrassingly, that often they make a better guess than we could have made as humans.


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