Google’s ringer: AlphaGo goes undercover to lay waste to world’s best Go players

There had been speculation that the new Go player making a splash in online games was not, well, human. The player had arrived seemingly out of the blue in late December, identifying as “Master(P)” or “Magister(P),” and knocking down the best in the world in short-lived games on two platforms.

It turns out this was a situation like Superman showing up as Clark Kent to a strong-man contest. Google had sent a ringer.

And that ringer was AlphaGo, the artificial intelligence software famous for mopping the floor last year with Lee Sedol, an 18-time world champion in Go, considered the hardest board game on the planet.

Master(P) or Magister(P) is a new AlphaGo prototype, Google’s Demis Hassabis revealed Jan. 4 in a Twitter post.

“We’re excited by the results and also by what we and the Go community can learn from some of the innovative and successful moves played by the new version of AlphaGo,” said Hassabis, CEO of Google’s DeepMind AI unit.

The new AlphaGo played more than 50 games, winning all but one that was deemed a tie when the other player’s network connection timed out, according to a report in the journal Nature.

A Chinese professional Go player had offered a $14,000 reward for anyone who could beat the mystery contestant, according to Nature.

The new AlphaGo had an advantage in the online games, because they’re played faster, which favors the computer over the human player, a freelance Go program developer told Nature.

Hassabis said the software would play official, full-length games later this year.  “How strong it will be in more high-profile tournaments remains unclear, because the rules of such matches differ from those played in online forums,” Nature reported.


Photo: South Korean professional Go player Lee Sedol reviews the match after finishing the second match of the Google DeepMind Challenge Match against Google’s artificial intelligence program, AlphaGo in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, March 10, 2016. The human Go champion said he was left “speechless” after his second straight loss to Google’s Go-playing machine on Thursday. (Lee Jin-man/AP)


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