22 October 2016
Lee Sedol reviews the match after beating Alpha Go. Photo: Reuters
Lee Sedol reviews the match after beating Alpha Go. Photo: Reuters

Hurrah for humans: Korean Go master beats Google AI program

South Korean Lee Sedol won his first match Sunday in the ancient board game Go against a Google subsidiary’s artificial intelligence program, denying a clean sweep for the computer in a five-match series, Reuters reports.

Lee, one of the world’s top players and the holder of 18 international titles, recovered from three consecutive losses against the AlphaGo program developed by DeepMind.

“This win is invaluable, and I would not trade it for anything else in the world,” a jubilant Lee told reporters after the match, thanking fans for their support.

The 33-year-old professional player has admitted to underestimating AlphaGo’s skills but also said the program was not perfect, asking supporters to keep watching the contest.

DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis told reporters the loss was a valuable learning tool and would help identify weaknesses in the program that his team needed to address.

“It’s a real testament to Mr. Lee’s incredible fighting spirit that he was able to play so brilliantly today after three defeats,” Hassabis said.

Go, most popular in countries such as China, South Korea and Japan, involves two contestants moving black and white stones on a square grid, with the aim of seizing the most territory.

Experts did not expect an artificial intelligence program to beat a human professional for at least a decade, until AlphaGo beat a European champion last year.

Lee was considered a much more formidable opponent, however.

The fifth and final match is scheduled for Tuesday.

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