DeepMind Chess: Google's AlphaZero AI Beats Champion Software

Alfred Osborne
December 7, 2017

In addition to mastering chess, AlphaZero also developed a proficiency for shogi, a similar Japanese board game.

A few months after demonstrating its dominance over the game of Go, DeepMind's AlphaZero AI has trounced the world's top-ranked chess engine-and it did so without any prior knowledge of the game and after just four hours of self-training. At least, that's the case with Google's newest AI installment AlphaZero. "It will no doubt revolutionize the game, but think about how this could be applied outside chess".

AlphaZero defeated Stockfish in 25 games, in which it had white pieces. DeepMind's AlphaZero program, which teaches itself from scratch, achieved "superhuman" knowledge of chess in less than the amount of time you'd spend, say, watching the extended version of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Chess has always been used to test the ability of artificial intelligence because the game's rigid structure is ideal for programming a computer with rules, and then letting it run its own tests against those rules. If nothing else, chess champions have one more reason to be nervous. "This algorithm could run cities, continents, universes".

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Some publications are reporting that AlphaZero "taught itself how to play [chess] in under four hours", but that's not entirely accurate. Its predecessor - dubbed AlphaGo Zero - was recently retired after trashing human opponents. However, in a slight blow to the human ego, it might have actually hindered the AI, considering that AlphaGo Zero's fully self-reliant learning was so much more effective in a one-on-one competition. "It can learn whatever it determines is optimal, which may indeed be more nuanced that our own conceptions of the same", MIT computer scientist Nick Hynes told Gizmodo following the October victory.

However, it is AlphaZero's machine learning ability that has gained the world's attention. All in all, this allows the AI to understand and solve a broader range of problems.

According to a paper published by the researchers that has yet to be peer reviewed, artificial intelligence took a leap in 1997, when the program Deep Blue defeated the human world champion. Michael Wooldridge, a professor at the the University of Oxford, told the BBC.

Who knows, maybe AlphaZero will be the computer to finally crack chess forever.

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