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Updated: 1 hour 17 min ago

Humanity the winner at Deep Mind Challenge Match, Google Chief Says

Tue, 08/03/2016 - 05:39

“The winner here, no matter who wins, is humanity,” said Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt at Tuesday’s press conference launching the Google Deep Mind Challenge Match between Google’s AlphaGo and world champion Lee Sedol 9P. Alphabet is the parent company of Google. Hundreds of journalists crowded into the 6th-floor ballroom at the Four Seasons in downtown Seoul. Camera flashes exploded as Schmidt took the stage to proclaim that “This is a great day for humanity. Humans will be smarter, the world will be a better place.” Deep Mind CEO Demis Hassabis called go “The most elegant game humans have ever invented.” Hassabis, a go player himself, noted that because of go’s complexity, “It’s been a longstanding challenge for the AI community to master this game.” Lee Sedol, who a few weeks ago confidently predicted he would defeat AlphaGo, adopted a more circumspect approach this time. “Playing against a machine is very different from an actual human opponent,” the world’s Number 1 told the BBC. “Normally, you can sense your opponent’s breathing, their energy. And lots of times you make decisions which are dependent on the physical reactions of the person you’re playing against. With a machine, you can’t do that.” Indeed, asked about AlphaGo’s strengths, Hassabis sais that “AlphaGo will never get tired and it won’t be intimidated, unlike a human opponent.” Even so, Hassabis said, “We’re many decades away from a real human AI; we’re still playing games.” And Sedol turned a bit philosophical at the end of the press conference, quietly saying that “If I get defeated it might be negative for go, but it is inevitable in this modern life. But it won’t destroy the value of go itself.”
- report/photo by Chris Garlock; photo: (l-r): Hassabis, Lee & Schmidt

Categories: World news

Redmond Cup Deadline March 13th

Tue, 08/03/2016 - 01:38

The 23rd annual Redmond Cup will begin in April, and registration is due by March 13th. Preliminary games will be played online and the four finalists will be invited to the 2016 US Go Congress to play the final games. There are two divisions in the Cup; the Junior league for kids 12 and under, and the Senior league for 17 and under. Competitors in both leagues must have an AGA or CGA rank of  1 dan or higher.    The Junior league may be expanded to include ranks down to 5 kyu if there are not enough players.   Players who complete the tournament will be eligible for $400 scholarships to the AGA Go Camp, or $200 scholarships to the US Go Congress, on a first come first served basis, courtesy of the AGF. Competitors from Mexico are also invited to the event. The participants must be members of the American Go Association or the Canadian Go Association and either residents of the U.S., Canada or Mexico, or citizens of the United States living anywhere in the world, provided that they are also members of the AGA.  For more information on the event, read the rules document here. To register click here. 

Categories: World news

Waxler Wins Chess and Go Tourney in Portland

Tue, 08/03/2016 - 01:27

Twenty children competed in a three schools chess and go tournament in Portland, OR, on February 27th, reports organizer Peter Freedman. The prize for  first place  was a $25 gift certificate from Guardian Games, second place a $20 gift certificate, and 3rd place a $15 gift certificate.  Go results: First place – again – Olin Waxler, Beverly Cleary 4-0; 2nd place, Tommy Flynn, Beverly Cleary, 3-1; 3rd place, Luke Halpern, Irvington, 3-1. Four players had 2-2 records: Scout Imboden, Mason Bonner, Kahlial Lofquist, and Diego Hernandez. Diego and Ben Kunze were playing in a Go tournament for the first time. Chess results: Sam Plager, Irvington, 1st place: Aiden Harris, Richmond, 2nd place, and Mason Buchanan, Irvington, 3rd place. - story and photo by Peter Freedman:Olin Waxler (l) playing Tommy Flynn (r)

Categories: World news

Artem Kachanovskyi Prevails in Third European Pro Qualification Tournament

Mon, 07/03/2016 - 22:12

Artem Kachanovskyi (right) prevailed over fellow Ukrainian Andrii Kravets in the final of the third European Pro Qualification tournament to become Europe’s latest professional. Sixteen players competed on the weekend of March 5-6 in Baden-Baden to become the next EGF professional. The tournament featured a double elimination to determine a final eight, who ten competed in knockout rounds. The tournament started well for French players Thomas Debarre and Benjamin Dréan-Guénaïzi, who beat respectively Andrii Kravets (Ukraine) and Jan Hora (Czechia), and then Juri Kuronen (Finland) and Csaba Mero (Hungary), advancing to the quarterfinals. Tanguy Le Calvé (France), who lost to Lukáš Podpera (Czechia), entered the repechage, where he could again hold his head high after wins over Lukas Krämer  (Germany) and Juri Kuronen (Finland).

On Saturday afternoon, the quarter-finals saw Debarre lose to Kravets in a repeat match and Tanguy fall to Kachanovskyi. Debarre beat Viktor Lin (Austria) but then on Sunday morning he lost in the semi-finals to Kravets. The two Ukrainians then met in the final where Kachanovskyi emerged as champion.

Kachanovskyi lives in Kyiv, Ukraine started playing when he was just 6 or 7, studying mostly on his own. He’s long dreamed of becoming a professional. “I read many books that were describing not only the games, but how professionals think and some details of their living. That was inspiring.” Now, having finished university, “I’ll have more free time” to play go, he says, though since he works as a programmer, “it’s not so easy to play online each day, after staring almost all the day into a monitor. I think I’ll pay more attention to reviewing pro games on a board, maybe playing online on weekends.”

Full results can be found on the EGF website, along with player bios and tournament photos.

Based on an article in Revue Française de Go by Simon Billouet, posted by Ian Davis and edited by Chris Garlock; photos by Harry van der Krogt 

Categories: World news

Evanston’s March Madness Draws Record Crowd

Mon, 07/03/2016 - 03:16

The Evanston go club held it’s March Madness winter tournament over the weekend, with a record-setting 42 players attending. “The turnoutwas tremendous!” said club president Mark Rubenstein. “We’ve been running four tournaments a year for the past 20 years. However, attendance had been slipping below 20 for some time, and it’s been a year since our last tournament. This turnout is the boost we needed! We will resume our quarterly tournaments with renewed enthusiasm.”

Rubenstein uses a database he built using FileMaker Pro (see below) to manage all aspects of the tournament. “It’s pretty slick, if I do say so myself”, says Rubenstein. “It enables me to run a completely paperless tournament. It imports the AGA’s TD list, shows all the vital stats for every player, automatically pairs the first round, lets me create a new game with two clicks, lets me see all the opponents each player has played, calculates the win/loss percentage for each player, exports the results in the proper format for the AGA’s rating database, and more. I have my laptop connected wirelessly to an iPad for the players to see. So while I am entering game results, anyone can look at the iPad and see who they want to play next. They can also see stats for any player, such as wins/losses, how long their games took, and who else they have already played.”

The Evanston go club runs it’s tournaments as self-paired. Only the first round is paired; after that, players may play anyone who is available. “It’s a much more casual and flexible way to run a tournament than having a specified number of rounds”, says Rubenstein. “People can take breaks or eat lunch whenever they want. And if one of their games ends quickly, they have a good chance of finding an opponent for their next game pretty soon, without having to wait until the next round would begin. Some people play each other every week at their local club. Being at the tournament is a great opportunity for them to play other people, and with this style of tournament they have that choice.”

Winners were: Liqun Liu 7d (4-0), Daniel Puzan 1d (5-0) Cong Chen 4k (5-0), Zaid Alawi 9k (4-0) and Dylan Reiger 10k (6-0). “Kudos to Daniel, Cong and Dylan for continuing to play more games — and risk their assured first-place positions — after winning the requisite four to be eligible for prizes,” says Rubenstein. Honorable mentions for Most Games Played went to Scott Gerson with 9 games, and David Rohde, Chris Martin and Tyler Andryscyk, with 8 games each.

Rubenstein is hosting a Lee Sedol/AlphaGo watch party Tuesday night at his home at 917 Maple Ave in Evanston, IL. Contact him at mark@evanstongoclub.org if you want to attend.

Categories: World news

Your Move/Readers Write: Computer Chess v. Go is Apples & Oranges

Mon, 07/03/2016 - 00:00

“Apples and oranges,” writes Chris Uzal in response to our 2/29 report, Chess Players Counsel Calm As Computers Close in on Go “Chess has not come to terms with the fact that the game is over. Kasparov lost almost 20 years ago. The most recent computer cheating scandal was last year. Chess players have been facing a brute force program whenever a computer is on the other side of the board. Go players will be facing an artificial intelligence. Chess players can give their judges tools to show the best move for a certain rating. Go players will not be able to distinguish human moves versus artificial intelligence moves. Judges will have no such tools. Go players online may soon be faced with a situation that any game slower than blitz will not be accepted. Go players who want a slow, deep game won’t bother with humans once they can gain access to the likes of AlphaGo. Human to human, real-life games will be either very casual, teaching or tournament. Go will become a more philosophical and sublime endeavor. Not necessarily a bad thing. There are too many players using their rank as a measure of mental prowess. People either do not know or do not care about the ancient greats like Shusaku or the not so ancient Go Seigen. Those are just ghosts if they are known at all. AlphaGo would be a welcome symbol of the summit for the game of Go. If you’re not AlphaGo, and you’re not, get back to studying life-and-death. Bottom line: I look forward to playing, losing and learning in the new artificial intelligence era.”
The first game in the Lee Sedol-AlphaGo match will be Tuesday, March 8, 8p PST (11p EST). The match will be livestreamed on DeepMind’s YouTube channel with English commentary by Michael Redmond 9p with American Go E-Journal Managing Editor Chris Garlock.

Categories: World news

Ke Jie defeats Lee Sedol to win Nongshim Cup for China

Sun, 06/03/2016 - 13:36

Ke Jie 9p defeated Lee Sedol 9p in the final game of the 17th Nongshim Cup on March 5, enabling Team China to take the Cup back home for another year. While Korea has dominated this event, winning it 11 times, China now has five wins; Japan has won it only once. The Nongshim Cup is a team event between China, Japan and Korea, sponsored by the Korean instant noodles company. Lee Sedol had scored three consecutive wins, beating Gu Li, Lian Xiao and Iyama Yuta. The match against Ke Jie was Lee’s fourth in as many days and though some worried that he’d be tired going into the final round, others said it was a great opportunity for Lee because of his form’s sweeping upturn. Although Ke Jie was the last man standing for China, his head-to-head record against Lee was 7-2 and he demonstrated a superior sense of balance in the Nongshim final, resolving a tense middle game with a trade and employing his excellent endgame technique to close out the win.
- adapted from a longer report on Go Game Guru, which includes more details, game commentaries and more photos.

Categories: World news

Lee Sedol confident about upcoming match with AlphaGO

Sun, 06/03/2016 - 13:06

Can machines overtake human intelligence? A breakthrough moment for that answer may come this week when the world champion of the ancient board game go takes on an AI program developed by Google. Korean Lee Sedol and AlphaGO will go toe-to-toe in the ultimate man versus machine battle. In this Arirang News video, Kim Ji-yeon reports on how the human champion thinks the match will play out.

The go world was shocked and intrigued in January, when news broke of DeepMind AlphaGo’s victory over top European pro Fan Hui 2p. Since the publication of DeepMind’s paper in Nature, and the release of the game records, professionals around the globe have had time to analyse AlphaGo’s play in more detail, and a consensus has emerged that although AlphaGo’s victory over top European pro Fan Hui 2p was a great advance in computer go ability, DeepMind would not be celebrating victory if it had been a top professional sitting across the go board back in October. This week we’ll find out.
- adapted from reports by the Arirang News and Go Game Guru.

The first game will be Tuesday, March 8, 8p PST (11p EST). The match will be livestreamed on DeepMind’s YouTube channel with English commentary by Michael Redmond 9p with American Go E-Journal Managing Editor Chris Garlock.

Categories: World news

Korea Tops IEMG Pair Go

Fri, 04/03/2016 - 04:24

Koreans Park Jeonghwan 9p and Choi Jeong 6p defeated the Chinese team of Tang Weixing 9p and Yu Zhiying 5p to take first place in the three round pair go competition at the IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huaian.  

Playing for North America, the Canadian team off Ryan Li 1p and Sarah Yu 6d, took sixth place overall, losing to Ilya Shikshin 1p and Natalya Kovaleva 5d.  Li and Yu lost in round one to the Taiwanese team of Joanne Missingham 7p and Lin-li Hsiang 6p, but scored a win in round two against Ali Jabarin 1p of Israel and Elvina Kalsberg 5d of Russia.  

Japan secured third place with Tomoya Hirata 7P and Hoshiai Shiho 1P defeating Missingham and Hsiang.
- Andy Okun, Special Correspondent for the E-Journal, with reporting by Hajin Lee
photo: Pair go top medalists with Pair Go founder Mrs Taki and local CP official

Categories: World news

The Janice Kim Files: Applying David Lee Roth’s “Brown M&M” strategy to go

Fri, 04/03/2016 - 03:00

by Janice Kim 3P

The world is surely converging…years ago after reading about David Lee Roth’s “Brown M&M” strategy for finding an indicator in a complex system, it seemed like the best tool I had ever heard of for approaching the opening in go, a simple and elegant way to understand opening theory, and apply it in real games. (Van Halen Frontman David Lee Roth Taking Go Lessons from Myungwan Kim 3/2 EJ)

Roth’s idea is genius: with an arena rock concert to set up in four hours, how to know with reasonable certainty that every technical specification in a 1000-page manual has been met? Answer: Insert a clause somewhere in the middle that there will be a bowl of M&Ms in your dressing room, with the brown ones picked out. No M&Ms, or brown M&Ms, no show.

The beauty of David Lee Roth, is to actually follow this, and knowing it’s beyond explanation or legal argument, just smash some stuff and refuse to go on. The one time he went on anyway when there were brown M&Ms, part of the set collapsed.

One of the brown M&Ms in go are those pesky third line stones lined up in one direction on one side of the board. I can use no other analysis tool, and so far accurately determine whether the opening is a fail or not. Here, I’ll show you :)

Once, I explained to Kim Myung-wan 9 dan David Lee Roth’s brown M&M strategy and how it applies to go. He may have thought I was kidding, but appeared to good-naturedly accept it as just another example of how go is really at the center of things, after all. Hmmmm, like the chocolate inside that thin, thin colorful shell that melts in your mouth, not in your hand…

My hat is off to David Lee Roth, a great musician whose thought truly spans our odd global modern age, and Kim Myung-wan, a great player of games, who may not know he is the David Lee Roth of the game world. (Sorry!)

PS. In regard to the other news items I’ve been reading — let’s not get carried away, folks. I’m sure that when Asians first started seeing Westerners play go, they were intrigued, and opinions were all over the place. But no one thought that a Westerner winning a game against a top Asian, or setting up a match with the expectation of winning, meant that Westerners had “surpassed” Asians, or it was only a matter of time. Even if it were so, Asians will probably not stop playing go, of course. And of course, someone will probably make some where-are-you-going-with-this case for Westerners to be inherently better at go playing. The show goes on, with me smashing up dressing rooms in my mind.

Categories: World news

Report from the 9th annual NOVA Chinese Lunar New Year Tourney

Fri, 04/03/2016 - 02:00
The 9th annual NOVA Chinese Lunar New Year tournament was held on Saturday, 27 Feb, at George Mason University’s Law School in Arlington VA. Forty-seven players participated, ranging from 6 dan to 30 Kyu. Click here to see a photo album from the tournament. In the main tournament, the winners were: First place: Yuan Wang, 3D (3-1); Kabe Chin, 2D (3-1); Xiaoxhan Zhang, 1D (3-1); Jeremy Young, 3K (4-0); Anderson Barreal, 8K (4-0); Dierdre Golash, 11K (4-0); Christopher Harzer, 13K (4-0); Antonina Perez-Lopez, 20K (3-1); and Timothy Koh, 22K and Sid Suh, 30K (tied at 4-0) Second place: Justin Teng, 6D (3-1); Yunlong Zheng, 2D (2-2); Mohan Sud, 1D and John Wang, 1D (tie at 2-2); Joey Phoon, 5K (3-1); Patrick Sun, 6K (3-1); Brandon Sloane, 11K (3-1); Sean Lin, 15K and Benjamin Lin, 18K (tied at 3-1); Ethan Tung, 21K and Adam Wang, 21K (tied at 2-2); Andrew Chen, 30K and Anne Shen, 30K (tied at 2-2) As usual, a side tournament for beginners was played in the afternoon. Six players participated: Julian T won all five games, and Andrew W won four of five to come in second.
- report/photo by Allan Abramson
Categories: World news

Your Move/Readers Write: Enjoying Shotwell’s Interview; AlphaGo viewing party in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Fri, 04/03/2016 - 00:00
Enjoying Shotwell’s Interview: “I really enjoyed reading Peter Shotwell’s November 2015 interview with Cole Pruitt on ‘The Surrounding Game’” writes Jean de Maiffe. “Thanks for the article linking to it.”

AlphaGo viewing party in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Tuesday night (March 8th), meeting at 23:30 AST (one half hour before game start) in Old San Juan.  Contact Ryan Grant <aga@rgrant.org> for details.

 

Categories: World news

Van Halen Frontman David Lee Roth Taking Go Lessons from Myungwan Kim

Thu, 03/03/2016 - 03:49

David Lee Roth, wit, adventurer and often the lead singer of hard rock veterans Van Halen, has been taking go lessons from Kim Myungwan 9p, the EJ has learned.  The rock legend on Monday posted a black and white photo on his Facebook page of the two discussing an early game go position.  The text reads “6:34 Go lesson with Myungwan Kim; losing as usual.”  Roth was lead singer of Van Halen from 1972 to 1985, released such hits as “Unchained,”  “Eruption” and “Dance the Night Away,” then again in 1996, and in 2001.  He rejoined the band in 2007 to tour and record to the present day.  In between his stints with the band, he has had an active solo career, worked as a radio personality and an EMT, and written a best-selling and well-regarded memoir.   Among the many comments fans promptly posted on his photo with Kim: “Oh Dave, you may be a loser at whatever the ***k that is, but you will remain a winner in our hearts.”

Categories: World news

Your Move/Readers Write: Where to find the AlphaGo-Lee match?

Thu, 03/03/2016 - 00:00

“Hey folks, you’ve had three stories about watching the AlphaGo-Lee match recently, but in none of them did you bother to give instructions for how to stream it,” writes Howard A. Landman. “I’d like to host a viewing party, but at the moment I have no idea what URL to go to or what else I’d need to do. Could you possibly give some brief how-to instructions?”
The local US times for the upcoming AlphaGo-Lee Sedol match are 8p PST and 11p EST. The first match will be Tuesday, March 8. The tournament will be livestreamed on DeepMind’s YouTube channel with English commentary by Michael Redmond 9p with American Go E-Journal Managing Editor Chris Garlock. It will also be broadcast on TV throughout Asia through Korea’s Baduk TV, as well as in China, Japan, and elsewhere. More details on the SmartGo website.

Categories: World news

Korea, China Win at IEMG, with NA Players in 5th Place; Li Scores Against Japan Pro

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 04:53

Two of the three go events at the IMSA Elite Mind Games ended Monday with Korean and Chinese victories, while the North American Men’s team and lone woman contender Sarah Yu 6d each took 5th place.  In the course of the match, each of the three men players defeated a pro with Ryan Li 1p scoring a final round win against the young Japanese talent Mutsuura Yuta 2p.

The men’s team, comprising Li, Jiang Mingjiu 7p and Eric Lui 1p, were winless in the first three matches of the five match round robin, losing to Korea (see team photo at right), Taiwan and China.  Round four was against the European Go Federation team of Fan Hui 2p, Ali Jabarin 1p and Ilya Shikshin 1p, expected to be the main competition for North America.  On board three, Lui beat Shikshin while on board two, after falling behind early on, Li scrapped hard and fought gallantly, but was unable to catch up with Jabarin.  The match turned then on board one, where Jiang beat Hui, recently in the news for his October match against AlphaGo, in a hard fought half-point game.

North America’s final day match against Japan could not have moved North America out of 5th but was the deciding factor in Japan or Taiwan taking 3rd place in the match.  Japan, needing the win to stay on the medal stand, won by 2-1.  Although Li beat the strong 16-year-old Mutsuura, Lui lost to Toramaru Shibano 2p, another 16-year-old with a strong record in his two years of pro play.  Jiang meanwhile, lost to Hirata Tomoya 7p, although both a disappointed Jiang and some observers in the room thought he had a chance to win.

Li’s win was in line with the opinion expressed by the Asian team captains present, that the young AGA and EGF pros had improved significantly, approaching in strength a new Chinese pro and matching weaker Japanese pros. They mainly need more  opportunities for serious tournament play in order to improve.

Korea effectively won the tournament by beating main rival China by 2-1 in round two.  Both were undefeated against the other teams.  Japan staked its claim on third place against main rival Taiwan in round one when Mutsuura and Shibano prevailed in their games.

In the women’s individual tournament, a 12-player double elimination, Sarah Yu lost in round one to Korea’s Oh Yujin 2p, but then won against Rita Pocsai 4d of Hungary and then Elvina Kalsberg 5d to guarantee at least a fifth place finish.  Her round four match against Yu Zhiying 5p went beautifully until the players were in byo yomi and the Chinese pro took control of the game. Yu Zhiying went on to win the tournament.  Yu’s last game was against Cao Youyin 3p.  Cao won, taking fourth.  Joanne Missingham 7p of Taiwan was third and Choi Jeong 6p of Korea took second.

A three-round pair go event started Tuesday, with Yu and Li facing off against Taiwanese teammates Missingham and Lin Li-Hsiang 6p.

- reported by Andy Okun from Huaian, Jiangsu Province, China; photo courtesy Ranka Online

Categories: World news

Go Talk Interviews Kierulf & Hajin Lee on AlphaGo

Tue, 01/03/2016 - 19:00

In his latest Go Talk video series, Kevin Hwang interviews SmartGo’s Anders Kierulf about AlphaGo, computer go, the origins of the SGF file, and more. His February 21 interview with Hajin Lee has interesting background information on organizing the Lee Sedol vs AlphaGo match.  Click here to check out the entire Go Talk series.

Categories: World news

Do Computers Dream of Pizza?

Tue, 01/03/2016 - 18:00

Inspired by the Seattle Go Club’s plans to host watching parties for the upcoming AlphaGo-Lee Sedol match, the AGA and its chapter rewards program are offering to cover up to $100 of “reasonable expenses” of AGA chapters’ AlphaGo-Lee Sedol challenge match viewing parties.

“This is a historic moment for the go community,” AGA President Andy Okun said.  “Whether you’re rooting for the human to prevail or cheering AlphaGo in joyful acceptance of the advent of our new rulers, this is an event to see with fellow go players.”

Lee Sedol 9P has accepted the million-dollar challenge to play five games against the deep convolutional neural network system developed by Alphabet’s UK-based DeepMind AI lab.  After the announcement last month that AlphaGo had swept European Champion Fan Hui 2p 5-0, there was an unprecedented level of news coverage.  “We expect a similar level of coverage or even more when the AlphaGo-Lee Sedol match starts,” said Okun, “so your viewing party could also be a chance to get some additional coverage for the game and your chapter.”

A chapter must be current on dues and the food, non-alcoholic beverage or other expenses must be reasonable for the expected turnout (no single person viewing parties at steakhouses please) and you must send a picture or two and a few sentences about the party to the EJ at journal@usgo.org. The last requirement is that, before the party, you reach out to a local news outlet or two to mention the party and encourage them to come and report on this “local angle” on a historic event in the development of artificial intelligence.  To receive reimbursement send smart phone photos of your receipts to rewards@usgo.org.  This offer is separate from your chapter’s rewards balance and will not count against it.

Categories: World news

Redmond on O Meien v. Redmond

Tue, 01/03/2016 - 06:01

download SGF file

As a special free bonus for all E-Journal readers, Michael Redmond’s recent Oza game commentary against O Meien 9P appears here. Full AGA members get exciting commentaries like this every week. The game commentaries alone are worth the price of AGA membership . For youth memberships the deal is even better, just $10 a year! To sign up for the members edition, register with the AGA here .

Michael gives a summary of this powerful game, “I have Black against O Meien 9P in this game. In a fight within White’s moyo, I was successful, up to a certain point…“.

Categories: World news

IMSA Elite Mind Games Update

Tue, 01/03/2016 - 06:00

Despite being pushed to the loser’s bracket, Yu Zhiying 5P defeated Yu Jin 6D and Joanne Missingham 7P to make it into the women’s final at the IMSA Elite Mind Games, where she’ll play Choi Jeong 6P for the gold medal. In the men’s team division, North America defeated Europe 2 to 1, thanks to Jiang Mingjiu 7P’s (right) dramatic half-point victory over Fan Hui 2P and Eric Lui 1P’s win against Ilya Shikshin 1P. The match between North America and Europe attracted a lot of attention because for the first time, both teams were represented by professional players. Meanwhile, China defeated Japan 3-0, Korea defeated Chinese Taipei 2-0 and with just one round to go, the Korean team is leading with four wins while the Chinese team has three wins and one loss.
- adapted from a report on Ranka Online 

Categories: World news

Chess Players Counsel Calm As Computers Close in on Go

Tue, 01/03/2016 - 05:44

by Special Correspondent Andy Okun, with reporting by Natalya Kovaleva

In the run-up to AlphaGo’s challenge match with Lee Sedol 9p in Seoul in a little over a week, go players have been worrying about the new age whose beginning might be marked by an AlphaGo victory.  What will the go world be like when computers are so good?  Will people still want to play go?  What will change?  Taking advantage of the collegiality of the IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huaian, we sought counsel from a community that has been through this before.  We asked chess players how the game was affected by Garry Kasparov’s historic loss to IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997, the steady growth in strength of computer chess since, and how go players should greet the news.  The general view was that go players should not be afraid of the new age, but that things will be different.  There may even be some new and interesting problems to handle, as there have in chess.

“So many cheats!” said KwaiKeong Chan (right), a long time chess player, arbiter and organizer from Hong Kong. Chan is helping run the chess section of the IEMG as deputy chief arbiter.  The software is so strong that it has become very easy to find new ways to cheat, Chan said.  “Hiding in the toilet is primitive,” he said dismissively of a toilet-based chess scandal last year in Dubai, although he refused to detail some of the more subtle methods people use.  Strong computers also are how officials crack down on cheats, he said.  Chess software is so good that given a board position and an ELO rating, you can predict the exact set of moves a player of that strength will likely draw from.  If a player consistently picks better moves than are likely for his or her rating, officials know to pay close attention.  “You cannot play beyond yourself.   It’s not humanly possible,” said Chan, who himself had designed some very early chess-playing software.

Beyond that, chess players don’t really care about computers’ strength and said go players shouldn’t either, he said.  Rather, the advent of strong computer go will bring publicity to the game, as Deep Blue did for chess, Chan said.  “That is always a good thing, publicity, good or bad.  Publicity is what you need.”  Chess is being played more than ever before, and while Deep Blue is not the main reason for that – he cited years of community effort in presenting chess well – it did produce a second surge of new players after the Bobby Fischer surge of the 1970s.

The presence of such strong computers has had other effects on how chess is played and the nature of chess expertise, players suggested.  Since strong computers can provide weak and middling players with solid and accurate analysis, the role of the chess master is different than it was, said Russian player Alexandra Kosteniuk (left), a grandmaster, former Women’s World Chess Champion and author of “Diary of a Chess Queen.”  The strength of players has gone up, but the best players don’t command the same respect they might have in years past because the best critique is available to everyone.  “Maybe in a few years, there will be no go masters,” she said.

Shahriyar Mamedyarov, a 31-year-old Azerbaijani grandmaster and former rapid chess World Champion, said it used to be that when he was in world championship tournaments, he might have seven or eight fellow players with him helping him prepare for the games.  He doesn’t need to do that now, since any questions he has or analysis he needs done can be done by computer. Valentina Evgenyevna Gunina, a three-time Russian women’s champion, said computers had raised the standard of training and that “we need to memorize much more than we did before.”

Kirsan ILyumzhinov, the controversial president of both the Federation Internationale des Echecs and the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, as well as the head of IMSA and a long time sponsor of computer go competitions, said in the early days of the computer go project, human players and human programmers would work hard to develop the computer player and make it stronger.  “Now the computer develops and trains the human.”

Perhaps the bluntest argument against fear of computers learning to play our games well came from Ruslan Ponomariov (right), a Ukrainian grandmaster and FIDE World Champion from 2002 to 2004.

“What we can do?” he asked with a shrug.

photos credits: Kirill Merkurev (Chan); chessqueen.com (Kosteniuk); en.chessbase.com (Ponomariov)

Categories: World news