Explainer: Go and the ‘conversation of hands’

Artificial intelligence reached a new frontier last week, when an AI defeated human Go champion Lee Se Dol four games to one. Google’s Alpha Go has made headlines for its ability to carry out the complex calculations involved in the ancient Chinese game, but I would like to give a different perspective. I want to talk about Go itself – an ancient game also known as baduk in Korean, weiqi in Chinese and Igo in Japanese – which ends, each time, with a beautiful representation of the player’s thoughts and strategies laid out across the board. Go starts with an empty board of 19×19 squares. Two players take turns to place black or white stones anywhere on it, trying to surround a larger percentage of the board with their stones,…


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