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Google's DeepMind AI Claims Chess Crown

08 December 2017

That said, Demis Hassabis, CEO of DeepMind, has clarified that while mastering these games is an achievement, they differ significantly from the sorts of scientific problems they one day hope to use AlphaZero to solve.

DeeMind's artificial intelligence programme has beaten a top-level chess computer programme after learning the game in just four hours without human help. In the 100 games after that, each program had a minute to make a move.

Google's DeepMind lab has been working on this technology for years, beginning with AlphaGo, which learned how to play the Chinese board game, Go and became the first AI to beat a Go grandmaster. Chess and shogi are also relatively simple compared to Go, as both games have exponentially fewer board configurations.

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AlphaZero was instructed only on the ruleset of chess and nothing more. In a one-on-one tournament against Stockfish 8, the reigning computer chess champion, the DeepMind-built system didn't lose a single game, winning or drawing all of the 100 matches played. To further punctuate this victory, AlphaZero was then taught to play shogi, a Japanese variant of chess which uses a larger game board. AlphaZero acquired the expertise to defeat Stockfish 8 in four hours, and AlphaGo in eight hours, according to the accompanying paper, which has yet to go through peer view.

The latest iteration of AlphaGo bested a leading computer chess program known as Stockfish. And this was after "learning" chess in just four hours. When the exercise starts, AlphaZero already knows how to play chess - just not very well. "It will no doubt revolutionize the game, but think about this could be applied outside chess".

That effort was meant to assist the fledgling AI in learning strategy, but it seems it may have actually been a handicap, since AlphaGo Zero's fully self-reliant learning proved devastatingly more effective in one-on-one competition. AlphaZero's favourite openings included the English Opening, the Queen's Gambit (my personal favourite), and the Queen Pawn Game.

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Stockfish 8 had previously won 2016's Top Chess Engine Championship. Michael Wooldridge, a professor at the the University of Oxford, told the BBC.

Chess enthusiasts have been impressed with the program's immediate dominance.

AlphaGo is far from the first AI to take on chess, which was famously mastered by IBM Corp.'s Deep Blue in the 1990s.

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This is an important point because AlphaGo has been criticised for being too narrow. It may be studying fewer positions, but it's looking for the most promising ones, an approach that worked against Stockfish. But by adapting the system to learn a new set of rules for an entirely new game, the DeepMind developers demonstrated the flexibility of the system and (possibly) its potential to work outside of mere gameplay. Rather, it won 25 and drew 25 as white.

Google's DeepMind AI Claims Chess Crown