Computer Go

Already for more than a decade computers are better than top humans in the game of Chess. In contrast, for a very long time our game seemed to be much too difficult for machines.

Surprisingly, the situation changed some six years ago by a breakthrough with a new algorithmic approach: >>>Monte-Carlo Tree Search<<<. Monte-Carlo evaluates a position by playing many many random games from this position to the very end and taking the average over the outcome as the value.

First, in 2006 only a single Monte-Carlo bot (Crazy Stone by Remi Coulom from France) existed and won immediately the Computer Olympiad for the small 9x9 board. One year later there were already some strong bots for the normal board of size 19x19. In the meantime one can find programs playing on the internet go server KGS which have - in fast games - reached the levels 4-dan (Pachi by Petr Baudis from Prague), 5-dan (Crazy Stone by Remi Coulom), and even 6-dan (Zen by Yamato San and Hideki Kato). (The best human Go player with German roots is also a 6-Dan.) In March 2012, for the first time a computer program ("Zen" from Japan) has beaten a strong human go professional (Takemiya Masaki, also Japan, professional 9-dan), although the bot got only four handicap stones.

In the EGC 2012 there will be some activities with computer bots. The main day for this is Wednesday in the second week (August 1). In the afternoon exhibition games will be played between strong humans and bots. In the evening computer scientist and go programmer Petr Baudis gives a talk on current developments in computer go. (In March, Petr's bot Pachi was able to beat the top program Zen twice in a slow KGS bot tournament.) During the congress a novelty will take place: exhibition games in Rengo, where each team consists of one human player and one bot. We will even try the case where the same bot is used on both sides. Volunteers (of all strengths) are welcome.

Local colorit: Currently there are two strong go bots from Germany. One of them is Gomorra, developed within the doctoral project of computer scientist Lars Schäfers at Paderborn University. The other members of the Gomorra team are PD Dr. Ulf Lorenz (TU Darmstadt) and as go expert the Dan player Klaus Petri. Gomorra people will be present in Bad Godesberg. The other German bot is MyGoFriend, developed by programmer Frank Karger from Dortmund. In 2010, MyGoFriend was Computer World Champion on the 9x9-board.

Current information and lively discussions on computer go can be found in the internet, for instance in the very international computer-go mailinglist http://dvandva.org/pipermail/computer-go/2012-March/date.html. Interesting is also Nick Wedd's list of exhibition games between human players and go computers: http://www.computer-go.info.