The challenge is daunting. In 1994, machines took the checkers crown, when a program called Chinook beat the top human. Then, three years later, they topped the chess world, IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer besting world champion Garry Kasparov. Now, computers match or surpass top humans in a wide variety of games: Othello, Scrabble, backgammon, poker, even Jeopardy. But not Go. It’s the one classic game where wetware still dominates hardware.
Last March, sixteen years later, a computer program named Crazy Stone defeated Yoshio Ishida, a professional Go player and a five-time Japanese champion. The match took place during the first annual Densei-sen, or “electronic holy war,” tournament, in Tokyo, where the best Go programs in the world play against one of the best humans. Ishida, who earned the nickname “the Computer” in the nineteen-seventies because of his exact and calculated playing style, described Crazy Stone as “genius.”Both the WIRED and New Yorker pieces cover the Densei-sen Competition (Japanese), the first of which was in March of 2013, in which 'Crazy Stone' won with a handicap of four stones, and the second was March of 2014.
This past July, the annual conference of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence was marked by an oddly heroic event. Throughout the conference, held in Providence, Rhode Island, world-class players of chess, checkers and other games pitted their skills against state-of-the-art computer adversaries. For the most part the humans either lost or barely eked out victories. Then a twenty-seven-year-old native of New Mexico named Janice Kim challenged a computer to the oldest, most complex game of all: go.The Challenge of Go as a Domain for AI Research: A Comparison Between Go and Chess (PDF)
When a video image of the match flickered onto one of the oversize monitors in the "Hall of Champions," audience members laughed and shook their heads in disbelief: the computer was being granted a twenty-five-stone handicap. Kim is an exceptional player--the only female go professional the West has ever produced--but this seemed ridiculous: the first stone she placed looked like a lone paratrooper dropped into an enemy garrison.
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