The world’s best Go player says he still has “one last move” to defeat Google’s AlphaGo AI

Looking for a last hope.
Looking for a last hope.
Image: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
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Robots 60, Humans 0.

Over the past few days, Google’s Deepmind machine-learning team secretively put its AlphaGo artificial intelligence system onto two Chinese online board-game platforms to test its skill in fast-paced games against several of the world’s best Go players. As of Jan. 4, when the test was completed, AlphaGo had racked up 60 wins and no losses. The best any of the humans could muster was merely a tie, forced when a player went offline, which required the game be recorded as a tie.

The millenia-old board game of Go had long been thought of being beyond the reach of artificial intelligence programs thanks to its notorious complexity. But AlphaGo’s sweeping wins, coming after its March victory over Korean Go champion Lee Sedol, have proved emphatically that AI could play the game at a level no human has, or likely ever could, attain.

But at least one human hasn’t given up hope. Ke Jie, the reigning top-ranked Go player, claimed that he still has “one last move” to defeat AlphaGo, after he lost three games to the AI during the test.

“If I were not in hospital, I would have used the one last move I prepared for a week… It’s a little shame,” Ke wrote Jan. 4 on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, shortly after AlphaGo revealed its identity. The 19-year-old said he had already known that “Master,” the user name for the AI on the gaming platforms, was AlphaGo in disguise even before its identity was confirmed by Google—and that’s why he “hoped so much” that humans could win at least one game.

Ke revealed that he was taken to hospital, for the first time in his life, after his three losses to AlphaGo, but didn’t provide specific reasons. His latest Weibo message suggested that he would like to take on AlphaGo for a fourth time.

Ke had been confident that AlphaGo could not beat him after the AI’s March victory over Lee. But after his first two losses to “Master” in recent days, he acknowledged that humans are no match for AI in this game. His edge against AlphaGo in the top Go player ranking is left at just dozens of points.