The Last Game

Lachlan Harris
L. Harris|01.28.16

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Lachlan Harris
January 28, 2016 9:33 AM
As someone who has learnt enough Go to know that he is terrible at it and who knowns enough about AI development to know he will never be an AI developer – Possibly the biggest news of both fields came outta nowhere just hours ago. The European champion for three years has been beaten five times straight by a deep learning A.I. by none other than Google.

So you may have heard of Go, you may even play a little, you may have a Kyu approaching single digits. But if you aren't one of the 40,000,000 players around the world you probably need a little outline that's a bit better than Google description of "There are lots of moves." Well, you're in luck! The game is relatively easy to explain. It has two rules.

What do you mean two rules?

Quite literally, two rules. Well aside from some gameplay to get out of the way.

Gameplay: There are two players, one with a very nice, handwoven jar full of rounded stones with a flat side that are black and the other has a very nice, handwoven jar full of rounded stone with a flat side that are white. Black starts, and going back and forth, you play one stone at a time on the intersections of a lines on a board with 19x19 squares.

Rule One: Where you place a stone, the intersection must have an adjacent intersection not occupied by a stone. Once you place a stone you can't move it, but it can be taken.

Rule Two: You can't cause an infinite loop by playing a stone which causes the board to look how it looked your opponent's previous turn.

The Aim: By placing the stones next to each other, you start creating areas on the board which are yours. So while you are trying to wrap off sections of the board your opponent will start to wrap off the same areas. It probably doesn't sound like there is enough there to have a game around but once you start watching games, you see that's essentially it.

See what the game boils down to is how you're going to "connect" your stones in a line to get territory and how your opponent is going to stop you and form their own line. While Chess has a few hundred billion positions after a four opening moves you can literally move anywhere during a game of Go at any time, it's just only a few make sense. But it's not like chess where a move is perceived because of how useful it will be in five/ten moves, in Go the particular place of a stone may only be useful after twenty or more moves. You have to interpret how the player is going to make their territory. Once you start thinking about all the hundreds of possible moves you can understand why some Tournament games have a 6 hour time limit. However few games actually get to the end at the professional level. Players get so good at seeing how the game will progress they usually forfeit only tens of moves in.

I understand if you're still a little confused, well, I have you covered

Maybe you're saying I get it, this game is very simple and very deep I get that, but I have no real interest in playing or watching a ten year old getting forced by a creepy ghost to spend hours in a room playing with himself. Why is this so special? Because some people think this is the last one. The last game that a human can beat a human. There's been Tic Tac Toe, Checkers, Candyland, Chess less than 20 years ago and now Go, the endless possibilities game is up for computer glory. But it's okay it only beat a 2 Dan.

Well, it actually took place a couple of months ago but I think Google has waited until now so they can brag that they have lined up a match with a professional 9 Dan. The top level you can be in Go. In terms of rank, everyone in Go starts off as a Kyu 30. The better you get, the lower your Kyu. If you choose to go pro and dedicate your whole life to Go – you can take a gruelling exam which involves many games with many high level Dan's while they judge you. You can earn the rank of Dan.

2 Dan is already a master, someone who will never do anything other than play Go. Then you could continue playing and make small amount of incremental progress until 3 Dan's judge that you are playing in their style. And so on and so forth until you achieve the highest level of 9. Even though it would take multiple years to progress from 2 towards anything near 9, a 2 Dan could beat a 9 Dan with a 2 point advantage. While there have been thousands that have reached Dan status, as far as I can find there have been less than 100 9 Dan's. Which is why this is so huge. One of the certified level best in the world is going to verse a computer. For the first time no one is quite sure what's going to happen.
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