Google’s AlphaGo AI Go player has defeated Ke Jie, Go world champion, in the opening match of a three game series that will include matches with Jie on Thursday and Saturday. The win was by a narrow margin, but AlphaGo has been programmed to ensure victory, not to run up the score or devastate its opponent, so the margin by which it wins isn’t necessarily a good indicator of how easy or hard it was for the computer player to win.

AlphaGo pulled off the 0.5 point victory after facing moves pulled from its own playbook. Ke Jie started the match using two of AlphaGo’s signature moves, which had fallen out of favor with contemporary play but which AlphaGo resurrected after studying playbooks across the history of the game. Jie’s AlphaGo-inspired moves were for naught, however, as the AI responded using an unexpected and novel move in response, which observers suggested illuminated AlphaGo’s strategy – not aiming for overall territory gains, but maximizing the effectiveness of each stone played individually.

Jie said that AlphaGo’s performance left him “shocked” and “deeply impressed” in post-match statements, noting that the moves the computer played “would never happen in a human-to-human match.” AlphaGo’s face-off against the Go champion is part of an AlphaGo/AI conference being held in China through May 27.

AlphaGo will face off against Ke Jie in two more games, as mentioned, and the AI will also participate in a number of matches based on new game formats, including one in which AlphaGo pairs up with a human player to face off against another human/AI team in a unique doubles game.

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