Google's DeepMind AI masters chess, beating expert software

Doris Richards
December 7, 2017

AlphaZero is now the most dominant chess playing entity on the planet.

AlphaZero is a modified version of AlphaGo Zero, the AI that recently won all 100 games of Go against its predecessor, AlphaGo.

"Starting from random play, and given no domain knowledge except the game rules, AlphaZero achieved within 24 hours a superhuman level of play in the games of chess and shogi (Japanese chess) as well as Go, and convincingly defeated a world-champion program in each case", they said in a paper published by Cornell University in the United States but which has yet to be peer reviewed.

The greatest chess matches are no longer played by mere mortals comprised of flesh, bone, and blood, but sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) schemes.

The system works almost identically to AlphaGo Zero, but instead of playing Go, the machine is programmed to play chess and shogi. DeepMind described this feat as being "superhuman".


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. The AI system, after managing to master Go in just eight hours, unbelievably accomplished the same for chess with just four hours of practice. The next generation of Google's AI software, dubbed AlphaZero, may do just that. "It will no doubt revolutionize the game, but think about how this could be applied outside chess". Sitting at the top, at least for now, is AlphaZero, a product of Google's DeepMind division where machine learning rules the day. The system can churn out 800,000 positions each second, as compared to Stockfish 8's 70 million moves a second. AlphaZero's favorite openings included the English Opening, the Queen's Gambit (my personal favorite), and the Queen Pawn Game.

AlphaZero was instructed only on the ruleset of chess and nothing more.

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

Perhaps obviously, AlphaZero's dominance in chess is less impressive than its mastery over Go-a game that's significantly more complex. To further punctuate this victory, AlphaZero was then taught to play shogi, a Japanese variant of chess which uses a larger game board.

This is an important point because AlphaGo has been criticized for being too narrow. The AI system's latest success is within this vein, but in reality is about so much more than that.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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