Lee Se-Dol (R), a legendary South Korean player of Go – a board game widely played for centuries in East Asia – makes a move during the Google DeepMind Challenge Match in Seoul. Photo / AFP
A Google-developed supercomputer has stunned South Korean Go grandmaster Lee Se Dol by taking the first game of a five-match showdown between man and machine in Seoul.
After about three-and-a-half hours of play, Lee, one of the greatest modern players of the ancient board game, resigned when it became clear the AlphaGo computer had taken an unassailable lead.
“I was shocked by the result,” Lee said. “AlphaGo made some moves that no human would ever make. It really surprised me,” he said, adding that the computer had shut out the game “in a perfect manner”. Despite the shock loss, Lee said he had no regrets and was looking forward to the remaining four matches.
“I had some failures in the early stages today so if I improve on this, I think I still have some chance to win,” he said.
Although the computer had whitewashed European champion Fan Hui 5-0 last October, it had been expected to struggle against 33-year-old Lee, who has topped the world rankings for most of the past decade.
But its creators had been bullish going into the match at the Four Seasons hotel in the South Korean capital, saying the computer, which employs algorithms that allow it to learn and improve from matchplay experience, was even stronger than when it took on Fan.
Go involves two players alternately laying black and white stones on a chequerboard-like grid of 19 lines by 19 lines. The winner is the player who manages to seal off more territory.