World No.1 Go player Ke Jie takes on upgraded AlphaGo in May

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-10 19:31:07|Editor: An
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BEIJING, April 10 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Go player Ke Jie, arguably the current best in this sport, has set up a highly anticipated and ultimate showdown with the upgraded computer program AlphaGo in southern China's Wuzhen in May.

Ke, 19, who became the youngest champion in Go history to win three world titles within the space of one year between January 2015 and January 2016, will take on AlphaGo on May 23-27 in three rounds of regular games, the Chinese Go Association announced here on Monday at a news conference.

It will be the second meeting between top professional player and the artificial intelligence program in this ancient board game. In March 2016, Google's AlphaGo scored a 4-1 victory over South Korean Go master Lee Se-dol in a historic five-round match, overturning the long existing fact that machine can't beat professional Go players due to the game's complex, intuitive and creative nature.

This time, both players will have three hours in each of the three games and the winner will be awarded 1.5 million U.S. dollars while the losing side takes 300,000 dollars. Last year, Lee and AlphaGo were allotted two hours each with three 60-second overtime periods.

As far as Ke is concerned, meeting AlphaGo is not just an honor but also a unique experience.

"I am truly honored to represent human players to take on AlphaGo," said Ke. "Watching AlphaGo play with such an unusual way of thinking makes me feel that I am about to face someone from the future."

"I must hold a winning attitude while fighting with the ultimate determination," said Ke.

Since Lee's clash with AlphaGo, a meeting between Ke and the AI program has been a hot topic in China where the number of Go fans is estimated at around 30 million. It seems only natural for Google to bring the AI challenge to the birth place of the game.

"We knew we have to bring AlphaGo to China after the response to the game with Lee Se-dol...Clearly China is the home of the game. It boasts an incredible group of professionals at the very height of the game," said Google vice president Scott Beaumont. "It's clear that passions for Go in China run very very deep."

"It was clear that AlphaGo had triggered some new thinking and some imagination in terms of where Go could go next by the Go community themselves," he said.

In the May showdown at the popular tourist destination in Zhejiang province, native Ke will face a stronger AlphaGo than a year ago as the program, developed by DeepMind, boasts of a deep learning capability to learn for itself and discover new strategies by playing games against itself and adjusting neural networks based on a trial-and-error process known as reinforcement learning.

As a matter of fact, the new version of AlphaGo already demonstrated its improved strength as it recorded a 60-0 result in blitz games against a number of top Go players on two online Go game sites under the ID names "Magister" and "Master" in early 2017.

Go, known as Weiqi in China and Baduk in South Korea, originated from China thousands of years ago. It involves two players who take turns putting white and black stones on a grid of 19 lines by 19 lines. One can win an opponent when gaining more territory on the grid. One can remove stones of the opponent by surrounding the pieces.