With more board configurations than there are atoms in the universe, the ancient Chinese game of Go has long been considered a grand challenge for artificial intelligence. On March 9, 2016, the worlds of Go and artificial intelligence collided in South Korea for an extraordinary best-of-five-game competition, coined The DeepMind Challenge Match. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched as a legendary Go master took on an unproven AI challenger for the first time in history. Directed by Greg Kohs and with an original score by Academy Award nominee Hauschka, AlphaGo chronicles a journey from the halls of Oxford, through the backstreets of Bordeaux, past the coding terminals of DeepMind in London, and ultimately, to the seven-day tournament in Seoul. As the drama unfolds, more questions emerge: What can artificial intelligence reveal about a 3000-year-old game? What can it teach us about humanity?
AlphaGo is a computer program that plays the board game Go. It was developed by DeepMind Technologies which was later acquired by Google. Subsequent versions of AlphaGo became increasingly powerful, including a version that competed under the name Master. After retiring from competitive play, AlphaGo Master was succeeded by an even more powerful version known as AlphaGo Zero, which was completely self-taught without learning from human games. AlphaGo Zero was then generalized into a program known as AlphaZero, which played additional games, including chess and shogi. AlphaZero has in turn been succeeded by a program known as MuZero which learns without being taught the rules.
AlphaGo and its successors use a Monte Carlo tree search algorithm to find its moves based on knowledge previously acquired by machine learning, specifically by an artificial neural network (a deep learning method) by extensive training, both from human and computer play. A neural network is trained to identify the best moves and the winning percentages of these moves. This neural network improves the strength of the tree search, resulting in stronger move selection in the next iteration.
In October 2015, in a match against Fan Hui, the original AlphaGo became the first computer Go program to beat a human professional Go player without handicap on a full-sized 19×19 board. In March 2016, it beat Lee Sedol in a five-game match, the first time a computer Go program has beaten a 9-dan professional without handicap. Although it lost to Lee Sedol in the fourth game, Lee resigned in the final game, giving a final score of 4 games to 1 in favour of AlphaGo. In recognition of the victory, AlphaGo was awarded an honorary 9-dan by the Korea Baduk Association. The lead up and the challenge match with Lee Sedol were documented in a documentary film also titled AlphaGo, directed by Greg Kohs. It was chosen by Science as one of the Breakthrough of the Year runners-up on 22 December 2016.
At the 2017 Future of Go Summit, the Master version of AlphaGo beat Ke Jie, the number one ranked player in the world at the time, in a three-game match, after which AlphaGo was awarded professional 9-dan by the Chinese Weiqi Association.
After the match between AlphaGo and Ke Jie, DeepMind retired AlphaGo, while continuing AI research in other areas. The self-taught AlphaGo Zero achieved a 100–0 victory against the early competitive version of AlphaGo, and its successor AlphaZero is currently perceived as the world’s top player in Go as well as possibly in chess.