Lee Sedol Retirement Sends Shockwaves Throughout Gaming World

The announced retirement of Go champion Lee Sedol

Lee Sedol plays the first move in the first game of the AlphaGo series

has sent shock waves through not only the Go community. In 2016, Lee, who was considered the best Go player in the world, lost a set of matches 4-1 against AlphaGo, an AI system developed by the Google-owned company DeepMind.

The fourth showdown between Lee Se-dol (right) and AlphaGo, the artificial intelligence designed by Google’s London-based firm DeepMind, in 2016. Photograph: EPA

“With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realized that I’m not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” Lee told Yonhap News in Korea. “Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.” (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qvg7pb/go-pro-lee-sedol-quits-says-ai-is-too-tough-to-beat)

‘I kind of felt powerless’

Lee told the press at the time he had “misjudged” AlphaGo’s abilities: “I apologise for being unable to satisfy a lot of people’s expectations. I kind of felt powerless.”

Lee’s first realisation that AlphaGo was playing at a level w-a-a-a-y above him appears to have come at move W107 in Game 1, as noticed by this thread on Reddit. We’ve made a gif of the move below. AlphaGo, playing in white, drops a stone on the right side of the board about halfway up, at the lower diagonal from three black stones arranged vertically. It’s completely unexpected because it seems to be unconnected with the rest of the white strategy on the board.

Normally, Lee stays quite still during games, as he stares at the board and thinks.

Not this time.
‘Lee literally dropped his jaw. [His] reaction was not aired in the official YouTube live stream’

Redditor “balancetraveller” wrote:

“Lee literally dropped his jaw at W102. Lee’s reaction was not aired in the official YouTube live stream. The move is considered the tide-turning move.”

You can see a video of the move here, at timestamp 2.30.20. This gif shows that at first he seems paralysed for several seconds. Then he rocks backwards in surprise, before running a hand over his hair in dismay. For Lee, that’s a lot of physical drama in comparison to his normal, stoic demeanour:

It was Game 2 when AlphaGo’s superiority was confirmed, as noted by Wired. Move 37 by AlphaGo baffled everyone who saw it:

[European champion] Fan Hui thought the move was rather odd. But then he saw its beauty. “It’s not a human move. I’ve never seen a human play this move,” he says. “So beautiful.”

AlphaGo, playing black, puts a stone on the right-middle of the board, at a diagonal to an isolated white stone. This next photo shows Lee’s reaction: He gets up from his chair and walks away from the board.





AlphaGo and the Hand of God

I watched the eagerly anticipated documentary movie AlphaGo

on Netflix (https://www.netflix.com/title/80190844) last night. The IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6700846/) gives it a rating of only 8.1. I would give it a 9.9, but then I have never jumped through the hoops required to rate a movie on the website. This reminds me of David Spinks, who lived and worked at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center,

as he did jump through the hoops and relished arguing about how to rate a movie. Upon learning I would rate it so highly David would, no doubt, exclaim, “What? Have you lost your mind? Nobody rates any movie higher than a 9.5!”

I spent an inordinate amount of time watching each and every game during March of 2016 while greatly enjoying the commentary of 9 dan Michael Redmond,

an American who is the highest ranking Western player ever, and Chris Garlock, the editor of the American Go Journal.

If I had to use only one word to describe the movie it would be “poignant.” Many people with no interest in the game of Go, or any game for that matter, would have little, if any, interest in watching a movie, especially a documentary, about a mere game, possibly considering it dry and uninteresting. They would be sorely mistaken. Games are played by human beings and we humans are emotional creatures. Only a psychopath could watch this movie without having feelings evoked. When something is gained something is also lost. The computer program known as AlphaGo gained a victory for artificial intelligence when man lost yet another battle with a machine.

Lee Sedol,

a 9-dan, the highest rank, professional Go player, who has won 18 World Titles, and is considered to be one of the all-time great Go players, lost the match to AlphaGo, 1-4, but won our hearts. Lee Sedol said, “I want my style of Go to be something different, something new, my own thing, something that no one has thought of before.” Unfortunately it was the silicon monster that showed something new, something that no one had thought of before. It is now known all the world over as “Move 37!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNrXgpSEEIE)

“In Game Two, the Google machine made a move that no human ever would. And it was beautiful,” writes Cade Metz in Wired.

The move reminded me of the great Go Seigen,

considered to be one of the strongest players of all time, if not the greatest, because it was played on the inside, near the middle of the board, a type of move he made famous.

Lee Sedol vs AlphaGo Move 37 reactions and analysis

In the movie one hears, “Move 37 begat move 78.” From the aforementioned Wired article: “But in Game Four, the human made a move that no machine would ever expect. And it was beautiful too. Indeed, it was just as beautiful as the move from the Google machine—no less and no more. It showed that although machines are now capable of moments of genius, humans have hardly lost the ability to generate their own transcendent moments.” (https://www.wired.com/2016/03/two-moves-alphago-lee-sedol-redefined-future/)

Move 78 has become known as the Hand of God move.

Lee Sedol Hand of God Move 78 Reaction and Analysis

Lee Sedol won the fourth game, striking a glorious blow for humans. Unfortunately he lost the final game in a close, hard fought battle. It may have been the last game a human will ever win against any program as the next incarnation of AlphaGo beat the current world No. 1 ranking player Ke Jie,

3-0 in the Future of Go Summit in Wuzhen, China, played on 23, 25, and 27 May 2017.

Before the match it was commonly accepted that it would be at least a decade before any program was able to challenge the best human players. Beating Kasparov at Chess was considered child’s play to beating a human at Go. “The Game of Go is the holy grail of artificial intelligence. Everything we’ve ever tried in AI, it just falls over when you try the game of Go.” – Dave Silver Lead Researcher for AlphaGo

While watching the movie the thought crossed my mind that what I was watching was a watershed moment in the history of mankind, analogous to Neal Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

“We think of DeepMind as kind of an Apollo program effort for AI. Our mission is to fundamentally understand intelligence and recreate it artificially.” – Demis Hassabis Co-Founder & CEO, DeepMind

A comment from a member of the AlphaGo team has stuck with me: “We do not understand enough about Go to understand what AlphaGo is doing.” I cannot help but wonder if, in the future when programs are exponentially more powerful, humans will allow the programs to make decisions for them while not understanding why those decisions have been made…

This is a great movie. The Chess player IM Boris Kogan said, “The measure of a man is how he comes back after a defeat.” In the two months after Lee Sedol lost to the computer program known as AlphaGo he won every match he played against human opponents.

We have truly entered a Brave New World.