The match began on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, at the Four Seasons Hotel, in Seoul, Korea.
Lee is playing for one million dollars and, perhaps more importantly, the pride of countless humans around the world who don’t yet wish to see computers triumph in the ancient board game Go.
DeepMind, on the other hand, seek to test the abilities of their machine and make another step along the road towards a general purpose learning algorithm.
The match begins
Lee Sedol sat at the Go board with Google DeepMind programmer and 5 dan amateur Go player, Aja Huang, as a storm of cameras clicked away and the world’s media looked on.
Aja stood in for AlphaGo, providing the physical presence necessary to place stones on the board and negotiate with Lee at the start of the game.
Lee Sedol drew black in the nigiri, meaning he would play first.
An unorthodox opening
Lee (playing Black) placed his first two moves on the 3-4 points in adjacent corners, while AlphaGo chose to play on the star points as White.
This set the initial tone of the game as a contest between Black’s territorial formation and White’s center influence.
Everything was fairly standard until Lee played Black 7, which was quite unusual. It appeared that Lee had prepared a strange move to test AlphaGo’s strength in the opening.
Perhaps he also wanted to play an opening that AlphaGo was unlikely to have seen before, while crunching millions of positions as part of its training process.
Regardless, it wasn’t a good idea, because it didn’t lead to a good result for Black.
White’s play in the top right corner (from 11 to 14) appeared to be heavy at first, but Black 15 was also questionable.
AlphaGo allowed Black to take territory on the right side, while developing power in the center, and then took the initiative in the fighting with White 18.
The opening up to 18 was slightly better for White.
A difficult battle ensues
Black 23 was an overplay, and White 24 to 26 was the correct sequence to punish Black.
Black 27 was also too much, and Black 39 was a bad exchange. The game proceeded smoothly for White up to 42.
Black resisted with 43, but the overall result up to White 50 still favored White.
Black’s group lived at the top, with 55, but White 58 was a sharp attachment.
Black 61 put up a powerful resistance, but White’s haengma from 62 to 76 was seamless.
Lee Sedol turns the tables
White 80 was slack, and Black started to catch up from 81 onwards. White should have defended the bottom left corner with a knight’s enclosure instead.
White’s play from 84 to 88 was also questionable, and the game was reversed up to Black 93.
White 102 was a sharp invasion, but White 106 was a bad exchange.
The trade up to Black 115 was satisfactory for Black.
Black 119 was questionable. It would have been better to play Balck B5, White B4, Black D3, aiming to squeeze White’s corner.
Black 123 was another questionable move. He should have attached at R4.
The game became even again, up to 128, and Black 129 became the losing move. Black should have blocked off the corner at White 132 instead.
The game was reversed again by 136, and White consolidated his lead with White 150 and 154.
AlphaGo didn’t give Lee any chances afterwards.
Questions about Lee’s form
It looks like Lee wasn’t in his best form, and he might have been struggling with the pressure.
He made a couple of overplays in the opening, and AlphaGo’s responses were accurate and efficient.
Lee reversed the game due to White’s mistakes, but he wasn’t able to maintain his lead until the end.
As expected, AlphaGo’s endgame was excellent, and Lee didn’t have any chances after he lost the advantage in the bottom right corner.
Reactions to AlphaGo’s first win
DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis was understandably excited:
#AlphaGo WINS!!!! We landed it on the moon. So proud of the team!! Respect to the amazing Lee Sedol too
— Demis Hassabis (@demishassabis) March 9, 2016
Other top pros
Lee Changho 9p said, “I’m so shocked by AlphaGo’s play!”
“When Google said the odds were fifty-fifty, it seems they weren’t joking. I still can’t believe its performance even though I just saw it with my own eyes.”
Lee Sedol’s comments
In a post-game interview, Lee Sedol was visibly startled by AlphaGo’s strength.
“I was so surprised. Actually, I never imagined that I would lose. It’s so shocking.”
“Regarding the game, I got off to a bad start and AlphaGo played well right until the end.”
“Even when I was behind, I still didn’t imagine that I’d lose. I didn’t think that it would be able to play such an excellent game.”
“I heard that the DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis said that he respects me as a Go player, but I have great respect for both of them [referring to Demis Hassabis and Eric Schmidt] for making this amazing program.”
“I also respect all the programmers who helped to make AlphaGo.”
The match continues
AlphaGo is off to an amazing start, but there are still four games to go.
Game two of the match is scheduled to take place tomorrow, Thursday March 10, and there will be a one day rest break on Friday before play resumes over the weekend.
Lee Sedol vs AlphaGo – Game 1
Younggil plans to post a full commentary of the game soon.