Board Game Champion 'Nervous' Ahead of Google AI Match

Google Deepmind go alphago watch
In January the AlphaGo algorithm became the first computer program to beat a human professional Go player. Google DeepMind

A board game world champion has said he is "quite nervous" about being beaten by an artificial intelligence computer program developed by Google, in what is regarded as the "outstanding grand challenge" for AI.

Five matches of the ancient Chinese board game Go are set to be played between Google DeepMind's AlphaGo and South Korea's Lee Se-dol, beginning on Wednesday at 4am GMT at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul, South Korea. All matches will be live streamed through DeepMind's YouTube channel.

Go has been described by DeepMind's founder Demis Hassabis as "the most profound game that mankind has ever devised". In an average 150-move game, the number of possible board combinations is larger than the number of atoms in the universe.

"I've always thought it would be a great challenge for computers to be able to play such an aesthetic game, such an intuitive game like Go," Hassabis said. "A much greater challenge than it was to play chess."

Last year, AlphaGo became the first computer program to beat a professional computer program, however beating Lee is seen as a much greater challenge. Lee is the top-ranking Go player and has 18 international titles to his name.

Lee said he was confident he could beat AlphaGo when he was first challenged last month, but at a recent press conference he was more cautious about his prospects.

"As the match is just around the corner, I feel quite nervous," Lee said, as reported by the Korea Herald. "Now I have a better understanding of the algorithms behind AlphaGo. I think it won't be a 5-0 win."

A poll by the Korea Press Foundation found that 56.3 percent of 1,038 people polled think Lee will defeat AlphaGo, while Hassabis has said he is "confident" about winning the tournament.