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AlphaGo: Mastering the ancient game of Go with Machine Learning

Games are a great testing ground for developing smarter, more flexible algorithms that have the ability to tackle problems in ways similar to humans. Creating programs that are able to play games better than the best humans has a long history - the first classic game mastered by a computer was noughts and crosses (also known as tic-tac-toe) in 1952 as a PhD candidate’s project. Then fell checkers in 1994. Chess was tackled by Deep Blue in 1997. The success isn’t limited to board games, either - IBM’s Watson won first place on Jeopardy in 2011, and in 2014 our own algorithms learned to play dozens of Atari games just from the raw pixel inputs. But one game has thwarted A.I. research thus far: the ancient game of Go. Invented in China over 2500 years ago, Go is played by more than 40 million people worldwide. The rules are simple: players take turns to place black or white stones on a board, trying to capture the opponent’s stones or surround empty space to make points of territory. Confucius wrote about the game, and its aesthetic beauty elevated it to one of the four essential arts required of any true Chinese scholar. The game is played primarily through intuition and feel, and because of its subtlety and intellectual depth it has captured the human imagination for centuries.”

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