AlphaGo and the Hand of God

I watched the eagerly anticipated documentary movie AlphaGo

on Netflix ( last night. The IMDb ( 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!” (

“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.” (

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.

The Armchair Warrior Versus Magnus Carlsen

Most of my morning was spent looking at Chess games on the internet from the London Classic, Russian Championship, and the big one, the TCEC Championship. Komodo had won game 73 of the 100 game match, bringing the score to 6 wins for the Dragon versus 11 for the Escape Artist known as Houdini. After a draw the two silicon combatants locked horns in a titanic struggle which lasted 213 moves, maybe half of those being played on the 15 second increment. Good thing the machines never need a rest room break! The programs squeeze every possibility out of a position, unlike humans who give up the ghost and head to the pub before reaching the middle game.

While watching the mammoth battle my thoughts drifted to a Q & A I had read concerning an interview the human World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, had given which was discussed by those involved with computer Chess.

Nelson: Let’s turn for a moment to human chess. Did you all see the recent interview with world chess champion Magnus Carlsen in Germany, where one of the leading topics of discussion was computer chess?

[Robert nods, Larry and Mark have not seen it]

In case you viewers didn’t see it, Magnus said that chess programs are stronger than human beings because of their obviously superior calculation ability, but oftentimes programs make moves that give evidence that they are clueless because their algorithms which stand in for human judgment are deficient. I think none of us would disagree with that. Am I right?

Robert: Uh-huh. Well, less and less, to be honest. Ten years ago what Carlsen said was obviously true, but today it is becoming less clear whether that is still the case.

Nelson: Okay. Then Magnus went on to say something interesting that made all of us in TCEC smile a bit. He was asked if he studied games played between chess engines. He said no. He said games played between chess engines were rubbish and that finding useful ideas within them was like finding a needle in a haystack. None of you match his skill level but you are all relatively good chess players. What do you think? Are engine games rubbish?

Larry: I think what he means is that they aren’t terribly useful for the purpose of coming up with ideas for a human to use against another human. Doesn’t mean that the games aren’t incredibly high-quality. They are too subtle I guess is the point. The reason for the moves are usually nothing that is directly usable by a human player.

Nelson: Robert?

Robert: Yep. I think that is the right interpretation. But the first thing to say is: Magnus doesn’t really like chess engines. [chuckles] He is not a big fan of chess engines.

Nelson: Yeah, I got that. He seemed really uncomfortable in that interview.

That made me think about GM Maurice Ashley’s commentary on the US Chess Championships. He will often say something like, “That is a computer move,” or, “No human would play a move like that.” I translate that as, “Humans do not play moves as strong as computers.” That is why the “engines” are rated 400 points higher than human players. Magnus said,”…games played between chess engines were rubbish…” The games between the best programs fascinate me. Magnus has a right to his opinion, but I beg to differ. The Go community does not think games played by “engines” are rubbish. On the contrary, they study them in order to learn from the “engines.” The highest ranking ever Western Go player, Michael Redmond. has spent an inordinate amount of time studying the games played between AlhpaGo and humans, and also games AlphaGo against itself. The “engine” has increased human understanding of the game of Go exponentially, especially in the opening phase of the game. Michael has shared the knowledge gleaned from his study of the games with everyone. For example, see:

Komodo 1970.00 (3232)
Houdini 6.03 (3185)
TCEC Season 10 – Superfinal
Scotch: 4.Nxd4 Bb4+

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bb4+ 5. c3 Be7 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d6 8. Qa4 Nf6 9. Qxc6+ Bd7 10. Qa6 O-O 11. O-O Rb8 12. Nd2 Re8 13. Qa5 Bf8 14. c4 Ng4 15. Nf3 Bc6 16. b3 Ne5 17. Nxe5 dxe5 18. Bc2 Bb4 19. Qxa7 Bc3 20. Be3 Qc8 21. Qa3 Ra8 22. Qc1 Bxa1 23. Qxa1 Qb7 24. f3 Ra3 25. Rf2 Bd7 26. Bc1 Ra6 27. a4 c5 28. Be3 Rc6 29. Qd1 f6 30. h3 Be6 31. Kh2 Qc8 32. Rd2 Qc7 33. Rd3 f5 34. Bf2 f4 35. Bh4 h6 36. Bd8 Qf7 37. Qe2 Qg6 38. Bh4 Qf7 39. Bd8 Qg6 40. Qf2 Ra6 41. Bh4 Qh5 42. Qe1 Qf7 43. Qa1 Qc7 44. Be1 Bf7 45. Qd1 Be6 46. Bc3 h5 47. Qd2 g5 48. Bd1 Kf7 49. Qb2 Kf6 50. Qd2 Kf7 51. Qe1 Raa8 52. Be2 Rg8 53. Kg1 Kg6 54. Qa1 Kf6 55. Rd1 Rad8 56. Rf1 Ra8 57. Qb2 Rab8 58. Ra1 Rb7 59. a5 Rgb8 60. Ra3 Ra7 61. Ra1 Rab7 62. Ra3 Ra7 63. Qc1 Kg6 64. Qd1 Rf8 65. Ra2 Rd8 66. Qa1 Kf6 67. Bf1 Ra6 68. Qc1 Kg6 69. Qb2 Kf6 70. Ra1 Rb8 71. Ra3 Rba8 72. Be2 Rg8 73. Qc1 Kg6 74. Qa1 Kf6 75. Qe1 Kg6 76. Ra2 Rb8 77. Qb1 Rg8 78. Qa1 Kf6 79. Qe1 Kg6 80. Qa1 Kf6 81. Qd1 Rd8 82. Qc1 Rb8 83. Ra3 Kg6 84. Qb2 Kf6 85. Ra2 Rba8 86. Ra4 Rb8 87. Kh1 Rba8 88. Ra1 Rg8 89. Kg1 Rga8 90. Kh2 R6a7 91. Qd2 Kf7 92. Qd1 Rg8 93. Qe1 Rb8 94. Ra3 Rg8 95. Qa1 Kf6 96. Qc1 Kg6 97. Qd1 Kf7 98. Ra2 Ra6 99. Qa1 Kf6 100. g3 h4 101. g4 Rga8 102. Kg2 Rd8 103. Ra4 Bd7 104. Ra3 Be6 105. Qc1 Rb8 106. Qb1 Rd8 107. Qc1 Rb8 108. Qe1 Bc8 109. Qa1 Raa8 110. Qc1 Ba6 111. Bd1 Rb7 112. Ra1 Rd8 113. Qc2 Qd6 114. Be2 Qe6 115. Qb2 Rbb8 116. Ra2 Rd7 117. Qa3 Rdd8 118. Qb2 Rd7 119. Qa3 Rdd8 120. Kh2 Qe7 121. Rb2 Kf7 122. Qa4 Qe6 123. Qa3 Qe7 124. Kg2 Rb7 125. Rb1 Rdb8 126. Qa2 Rd8 127. Qa1 Kf6 128. Qa4 Qe6 129. Qa3 Qc6 130. Kh2 Rbb8 131. Qb2 Qc7 132. Kg2 Ke6 133. Qa1 Rb7 134. Qa4 Rbb8 135. Qa1 Rd7 136. Qa4 Rdd8 137. Rb2 Kf6 138. Qa1 Qc8 139. Rc2 Qe6 140. Qa3 Qe7 141. Kf1 Rd6 142. Ke1 Ke6 143. Rb2 Qc7 144. Rd2 Rxd2 145. Kxd2 Kf7 146. Kc2 Rd8 147. Qc1 Ke6 148. Kb2 Bb7 149. Qf1 Qd6 150. Ka3 Bc6 151. Qb1 Ra8 152. Qe1 Bb7 153. Qf1 Rd8 154. Qf2 Qc7 155. Qe1 Qd6 156. Qb1 Ba6 157. Qg1 Qc6 158. Qc1 Qc7 159. Kb2 Bb7 160. Qa1 Ba6 161. Qb1 Qd7 162. Qa1 Qc7 163. Qe1 Rd7 164. Qf1 Qd6 165. Qc1 Qc7 166. Ka3 Rd8 167. Qf1 Rd6 168. Kb2 Qb8 169. Qb1 Rd7 170. Ka3 Qc8 171. Qf1 Qf8 172. Qg1 Qd6 173. Qa1 Qc7 174. Qb2 Rd4 175. Qa2 Qb7 176. Qa1 Rd8 177. Qe1 Kf6 178. Bf1 Qc7 179. Qc1 Bb7 180. Kb2 Ke6 181. Qb1 Rb8 182. Qc2 Bc6 183. Ka3 Qd6 184. Qd3 Qe7 185. Be2 Ra8 186. Qd2 Rd8 187. Qc1 Qc7 188. Qg1 Bb7 189. Kb2 Rb8 190. Qd1 Bc6 191. Qe1 Ba4 192. Bd1 Bc6 193. Bc2 Ba4 194. Ka3 Be8 195. b4 cxb4+ 196. Bxb4 Rd8 197. Qe2 Kf6 198. Bb3 Bf7 199. Qf2 Rd4 200. Bc3 Qc5+ 201. Kb2 Rxc4 202. Qd2 Be6 203. Qd8+ Kf7 204. Bxc4 Qxc4 205. Qb6 Qe2+ 206. Kc1 Qxf3 207. Qc7+ Kg6 208. Qxe5 Qf1+ 209. Kc2 Qe2+ 210. Kc1 Qf1+ 211. Kc2 Qe2+ 212. Kc1 Qe3+ 213. Kc2 Qe2+ 1/2-1/2

Houdini 6.03 (3185)
Komodo 1970.00 (3232)
TCEC Season 10 – Superfinal
Scotch: 4.Nxd4 Bb4+

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bb4+ 5. c3 Be7 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d6 8. O-O Nf6 9. h3 O-O 10. Be3 Re8 11. Qc2 Bf8 12. Nd2 a5 13. Rae1 Bb7 14. Rd1 g6 15. Bg5 Be7 16. Rfe1 Nd7 17. Be3 Bh4 18. a4 c5 19. Bb5 Re6 20. Kh2 Rb8 21. g3 Bf6 22. f4 Qe7 23. Bf2 Nb6 24. Rc1 Rc8 25. Re2 Bg7 26. Rce1 Rb8 27. g4 Qd8 28. Bg3 Nd7 29. Nf3 Re7 30. b3 Kh8 31. Nd2 Kg8 32. Bh4 Bf6 33. Bf2 Re6 34. Bg3 Nb6 35. g5 Bg7 36. h4 Re7 37. f5 Be5 38. Bxe5 Rxe5 39. Nf3 Qe7 40. f6 Qe6 41. Qd3 c4 42. Bxc4 Nxc4 43. bxc4 h5 44. Nxe5 Qxe5+ 45. Qg3 Qc5 46. Rb2 Qxc4 47. Qe3 Kh7 48. Rb5 Qa2+ 49. Qe2 Qe6 50. Qg2 Qc4 51. Qb2 Qd3 52. Qe2 Qxc3 53. Qe3 Qc2+ 54. Re2 Qc4 55. Kg1 Qxa4 56. Qb3 Qxb3 57. Rxb3 a4 58. Rb5 Ba6 59. Rxb8 Bxe2 60. Rb7 c5 1-0

After this game Houdini has a commanding six point lead with only two dozen games left to contest.

Flowing With Intuition

After moving to Hendersonville, NC, I found myself sitting across the chess board playing a speed game at the weekly chess club from Expert Jimmy Hardy. It was my move. I saw the opportunity to retreat my Queen, bringing it back to the center of the board where it would be surrounded by enemy pieces. Nevertheless, it looked like a strong move.
I was never much of a speed chess player and have always thought the reason was because I began playing chess as an adult. While playing speed chess I would often see what to me was a beautiful position and wish there were more time to look into the depths of the position. Sometimes I would try to remember the position so it could be looked at later. When I mentioned this to Big Al after losing yet another speed game after my flag fell, he said, “That’s crazy.” The last time we played speed chess Al won again. He got up from the board saying, “It happens every game…You have a winning position and I win on time. This is no fun.” I beat Oscar Al Hamilton in only twenty moves in what would now be called a “classical” game at a Thad Rogers event, called by the Legendary Georgia Ironman “another nameless, faceless weekend swiss.” Big Al got up after resigning saying, “Nobody beats me like that. NOBODY!” It was only years later I realized how much the loss had affected our relationship.
Another time I was facing Uylsses Martin, a man who had served seven years in the state penitentiary for murder before being paroled. I sat there contemplating whether of not to move my h-pawn and launch an attack. The logical, “Mr. Spock” side of my brain was arguing with the intuitive, “Captain Kirk” side and I went with Spock holding back the pawn move, hoping to make the pawn move next. Without even writing down my move, Uylsses immediately played a move to prevent my moving the wing pawn. I looked at him and sort of grinned. He looked back at me as if to say, “What?” I went on to win that game, but it took much longer than it would have if I had listened to Kirk. As an aside, I won another game against Uylsses, one of the nicest fellows you could ever meet, when his flag fell before he made his twenty fifth move!
I could give many more examples, but you get my drift. Because of the battle between Spock and Kirk that has raged in my brain over the course of my chess career I have been interested in reading about chess intuition. Just this week a new book, “The Enigma of Chess Intuition,” by Valeri Beim, arrived. The book, in excellent condition, cost only $7.95, plus shipping.
The Ironman has a book, “The Magic Tactics of Mikhail Tal,” by Karsten Muller & Raymund Stolze. Like the aforementioned book, it too is published by New in Chess. I allowed Tim to open “Enigma” and the first thing he said was, “If it’s published by New in Chess you know it has got to be good!” When young and on his way toward the battle for the World Championship with Mikhail Botvinnik, Tal was a creative genius who was an intuitive player. He played moves that defied calculation by humans of the day. Computer programs may be able to refute some of Tal’s moves now, but human players were unable to do so “back in the day.” Just how much chess programs have affected the game of chess is illustrated by this from GM Rafael Vaganian in an interview with Sergey Kim on the website:
“Sergey Kim: Both at the board and simply in life you met all the Soviet world champions from Botvinnik to Kasparov. The world champions of the twentieth century – of your generation – and the champions of the third millennium – first and foremost, Carlsen: how do they differ?
Rafael Vaganian: It’s hard to compare, because the chess is totally different. Those champions worked in another setting, playing another kind of chess. With no computers, they worked and created on their own, and their creativity was immense. If they found something it was with their own minds, while now there are these amazing programs. Theory has “grown” to 30-35 moves, and you simply can’t compare the two types of chess. Frankly speaking, I don’t like modern chess, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen next. After all, a person isn’t capable of remembering so much, so they simply suffer because of it. They need to remember and learn it all, but then what of creativity? They barely play at the board, but at home, and that’s bad.
I consider those champions to have been greats, though perhaps that’s natural, since I’m a chess player of that generation – the Soviet School – and it all means a lot to me. I find modern chess alien, so it’s possible I’m not objective. Botvinnik, Karpov, Kasparov – they beat everyone for 10-12 years in a row, while for me the thirteenth champion is a separate topic. The way Kasparov and his group worked was incredible. They were a class above the rest and therefore he crushed everyone. Garry won a huge number of games in the opening. His preparation was colossal! But he found moves himself at the board rather than the computer coming up with them. Back then people still beat computers, while now even the world champion can’t beat a computer.” (
After one tournament Gail told me Big Al had mentioned to her that I was “trying too hard.” I gave his words considerable thought, coming to the conclusion Al was right. When at my best I did not have to try so hard because it seemed easy and just kind of flowed. Many years later, after devoting all my time and energy to backgammon, chess was anything but easy. When playing baseball I had to give it my all since I was smaller than the other players. When a senior in high school I was awarded a small trophy that meant all the world to me because my teammates had voted it to me for being the player that best showed what our coach called the “105” spirit. We chattered “105” on the field that year, which meant giving that little extra. It was the only way I knew to play, and it carried over into my chess.
I read something earlier this year by a Go player, Michael Redmond, that seems applicable to a discussion of intuition. “The charismatic Redmond, an American, is one of very few non-Asian Go celebrities. He began playing professionally in Japan at the age of 18, and remains the only Westerner to ever reach 9-dan, the game’s highest rank.”
“The trouble is that identifying Go moves that deserve attention is often a mysterious process. “You’ll be looking at the board and just know,” Redmond told me, as we stood in front of the projector screen watching Crazy Stone take back Nomitan’s initial lead. “It’s something subconscious, that you train through years and years of playing. I’ll see a move and be sure it’s the right one, but won’t be able to tell you exactly how I know. I just see it.” (From-The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win, by Alan Levinovitz 05.12.14)
Substitute “chess” for “Go” above and you will understand, grasshopper. “You’ll be looking at the board and just know.” You do not have to calculate, and sometimes it will not matter because no matter how long you calculate you will never to be completely certain as there are just too many possibilities.
Intuition can be found in every endeavor. For example, in a 1997 interview with Robert Hilburn, found in the “Dylan Companion,” while referring to Neil Young in the song “Highlands” from the “Time Out of Mind” album, Bob says, “It’s anything you want it to be. I don’t give much thought to individual lines. If I thought about them in any kind of deep way, maybe I wouldn’t use them because I’d always be second-guessing myself. I learned a long time ago to trust my intuition.”
In a 1995 interview in the USA TODAY not long after his “Unplugged” performance, Dylan said, “As you get older, you get smarter and that can hinder you because you try to gain control over the creative impulse. Creativity is not like a freight train going down the tracks. It’s something that has to be caressed and treated with a great deal of respect. If your mind is intellectually in the way, it will stop you. You’ve got to program your brain not to think too much.”
The first line reminds me of Mikhail Tal. His style of play changed as he grew older. Part of it may have been a natural process, but being forced to work with Karpov also had a lasting effect on his style of play.
What it all boils down to is that one must go with the flow and play what you know, Joe. This is exactly what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a “Positive psychologist,” means when he says that flow is, “A state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work.” (
Viswanathan Anand lost his “flow” but somehow managed to get back into the flow for the Candidates tournament, one of the most amazing things in the history of chess.
After losing the game to Jimmy, our friend NM Neal Harris walked over, asking the result. Jimmy said, “I won, but take a look at this position!” He immediately set up the position to which I referred at the beginning of this article. Jimmy looked at Neal with blazing eyes and said, while moving the Queen to the middle of the board, “Mike missed this crushing blow. I don’t see how I can continue after this move.” The two mountain men continued moving the pieces around while I debated telling them I had actually seen the move, but rejected it. Instead I said, “Yeah, that looks like a real strong move.”

Watching The River Flow by Bob Dylan

What’s the matter with me
I don’t have much to say
Daylight sneakin’ through the window
And I’m still in this all-night café
Walkin’ to and fro beneath the moon
Out to where the trucks are rollin’ slow
To sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow

Wish I was back in the city
Instead of this old bank of sand
With the sun beating down over the chimney tops
And the one I love so close at hand
If I had wings and I could fly
I know where I would go
But right now I’ll just sit here so contentedly
And watch the river flow

People disagreeing on all just about everything, yeah
Makes you stop and all wonder why
Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
Who just couldn’t help but cry
Oh, this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow
And as long as it does I’ll just sit here
And watch the river flow

People disagreeing everywhere you look
Makes you wanna stop and read a book
Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
That was really shook
But this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow
And as long as it does I’ll just sit here
And watch the river flow

Watch the river flow
Watchin’ the river flow
Watchin’ the river flow
But I’ll sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow
Copyright © 1971 by Big Sky Music; renewed 1999 by Big Sky Music

Bob Dylan Watching The River Flow