I just read that Lee Sedol is retiring from the competitive Go world because of AlphaGo.
The South Korean said he had decided to retire after realizing: "I’m not at the top even if I become the number one."
This is a bit sad but understandable. I wrote about Lee’s historic match with AlphaGo a while ago. He ended up losing four matches out of five, which was an ass-kicking for the #1 Go player in the world. Just think about it, AlphaGo from Deepmind is just getting better and better.
What is Go?
If this is the first time you’re reading about Go, then you probably don’t understand the importance of this particular AI beating a world champion. Go (aka Weiqi) is an ancient Chinese game that is about getting territory on a board made of 361 intersections.
You place these black and white stones at the intersections and then build ‘territory.’ The person who has the most territory after all moves are complete (or resigns), is the winner.
Wikipedia defines it:
Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. The game was invented in China more than 2,500 years ago and is believed to be the oldest board game continuously played to the present day. A 2016 survey by the International Go Federation’s 75 member nations found that there are over 46 million people worldwide who know how to play Go and over 20 million current players, the majority of whom live in East Asia.
It’s been said that the combinations of Go moves is greater than the amount of atoms in the universe. I’m not sure if that’s correct but the lower estimate of moves is somewhere around 2 × 10^170. So you can understand why AlphaGo beating a human is so powerful.
I’ve played it a bit of Go over the years and got to about 14 Kyu level. I don’t play competitively but I enjoyed a few friendly games and have played against a few Dan level players. They expertly wiped the board with me with such grace and humility. It was a thing of beauty to see how they lead me into traps 20 and 30 moves ahead.
Why you should play Go
I recommend that every parent expose their kids to both Chess and Go, these type of games are awesome for strategic thinking and teaching patience. I believe it helps wire their brains in ways that become apparent years later.
I don’t get much time to play Go now, but perhaps over upcoming holidays I might play a game online or with my children. If you wanted to try it out, go check out the KGS Server or buy a simple board from Amazon. Let me know how you like it.