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Go Pro Quits the Game, Says AI Is Too Tough to Beat

"With the debut of AI in Go games, I've realized that I'm not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts," said Go master Lee Se-dol.

by Matthew Gault
Nov 27 2019, 6:25pm

Image: Google via Getty Images

Since its debut in 2016, AlphaGo—Google’s Go playing AI—has repeatedly crushed the competition. Only one person has ever defeated the AI, Go master Lee Se-dol. Now, faced with an improved version of the AI program, Lee says he’s retiring.

"With the debut of AI in Go games, I've realized that I'm not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts," Lee told Yonhap News in Korea. "Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.”

Lee beat AlphaGo once during their first matchup in 2016, but lost four other games. After the games, Google trained a new version of AlphaGo by forcing it to play against its predecessor.

The old and young AI fought over the course of 4.9 million games until the new AlphaGo was able to beat its predecessor 100 games in a row. The same team used the same technique to create AIs that play Starcraft II better than 99.98% of human players.

Faced with such impossible competition, Lee is leaving Go behind. But, to commemorate his retirement, he’s playing a final set of games against HanDol—a similar AI created by South Korea’s NHN Entertainment. HanDol has already bested five other South Korean Go champions.

To keep things fair, Lee will start his games against HanDol with two stones already on the board, handicapping the AI. “Even with a two-stone advantage, I feel like I will lose the first game to HanDol,” Lee said. “These days, I don't follow Go news. I wanted to play comfortably against HanDol as I have already retired, though I will do my best.”

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