The computer program, called AlphaGo, trounced Fan Hui, the reigning European Go champion, 5 games to 0, researchers report in the Jan. 28 Nature.
Go, a game that originated in China more than 2,500 years ago, is much more complicated than chess, with an order of magnitude more possible opening moves, study coauthor Demis Hassabis of Google DeepMind said at a news conference. Many researchers thought a computer wouldn’t be able to beat a top human player for another five or 10 years, he said.
AlphaGo learned to play Go from experience. But the program needed much more practice than humans do to become an expert, Hassabis said: millions of games, rather than thousands.
In March, the program will put its skills to the ultimate test in a match against South Korean Lee Sedol, considered the world’s best Go player.