American Go E-Journal » China

Chess Players Counsel Calm As Computers Close in on Go

Monday February 29, 2016

by Special Correspondent Andy Okun, with reporting by Natalya Kovaleva

In the run-up to AlphaGo’s challenge match with Lee Sedol 9p in Seoul in a little over a week, go players have been worrying about the new age whose beginning might be marked by an AlphaGo victory.  What will the go world be like when computers are so good?  Will people still want to play go?  What will change?  Taking advantage of the collegiality of the IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huaian, we sought counsel from a community that has been through this before.  We asked chess players how the game was affected by Garry Kasparov’s historic loss to IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997, the steady growth in strength of computer chess since, and how go players should greet the news.  The general view was that go players should not be afraid of the new age, but that things will be different.  There may even be some new and interesting problems to handle, as there have in chess.

“So many cheats!” said KwaiKeong Chan (right), a long time chess player, arbiter and organizer from Hong Kong. Chan is helping run the chess 2016.02.29_Kwai Keong Chansection of the IEMG as deputy chief arbiter.  The software is so strong that it has become very easy to find new ways to cheat, Chan said.  “Hiding in the toilet is primitive,” he said dismissively of a toilet-based chess scandal last year in Dubai, although he refused to detail some of the more subtle methods people use.  Strong computers also are how officials crack down on cheats, he said.  Chess software is so good that given a board position and an ELO rating, you can predict the exact set of moves a player of that strength will likely draw from.  If a player consistently picks better moves than are likely for his or her rating, officials know to pay close attention.  “You cannot play beyond yourself.   It’s not humanly possible,” said Chan, who himself had designed some very early chess-playing software.

Beyond that, chess players don’t really care about computers’ strength and said go players shouldn’t either, he said.  Rather, the advent of strong computer go will bring publicity to the game, as Deep Blue did for chess, Chan said.  “That is always a good thing, publicity, good or bad.  Publicity is what you need.”  Chess is being played more than ever before, and while Deep Blue is not the main reason for that – he cited years of community effort in presenting chess well – it did produce a second surge of new players after the Bobby Fischer surge of the 1970s.

2016.02.29_Alexandra KosteniukThe presence of such strong computers has had other effects on how chess is played and the nature of chess expertise, players suggested.  Since strong computers can provide weak and middling players with solid and accurate analysis, the role of the chess master is different than it was, said Russian player Alexandra Kosteniuk (left), a grandmaster, former Women’s World Chess Champion and author of “Diary of a Chess Queen.”  The strength of players has gone up, but the best players don’t command the same respect they might have in years past because the best critique is available to everyone.  “Maybe in a few years, there will be no go masters,” she said.

Shahriyar Mamedyarov, a 31-year-old Azerbaijani grandmaster and former rapid chess World Champion, said it used to be that when he was in world championship tournaments, he might have seven or eight fellow players with him helping him prepare for the games.  He doesn’t need to do that now, since any questions he has or analysis he needs done can be done by computer. Valentina Evgenyevna Gunina, a three-time Russian women’s champion, said computers had raised the standard of training and that “we need to memorize much more than we did before.”

Kirsan ILyumzhinov, the controversial president of both the Federation Internationale des Echecs and the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, as2016.02.29_ponomariov03 well as the head of IMSA and a long time sponsor of computer go competitions, said in the early days of the computer go project, human players and human programmers would work hard to develop the computer player and make it stronger.  “Now the computer develops and trains the human.”

Perhaps the bluntest argument against fear of computers learning to play our games well came from Ruslan Ponomariov (right), a Ukrainian grandmaster and FIDE World Champion from 2002 to 2004.

“What we can do?” he asked with a shrug.

photos credits: Kirill Merkurev (Chan); chessqueen.com (Kosteniuk); en.chessbase.com (Ponomariov)

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Korea, Japan Ahead in Elite Mind Games Men’s Tourney, N.A.’s Sarah Yu Scores Win

Sunday February 28, 2016

After two rounds, the Korean and Japanese men’s teams are undefeated in the first International Mind Sports Association (IMSA) Elite Mind Games in Huaian, China, while North America’s sole woman player scored a win to stay alive in the women’s Individual event.

After losing to a Korean pro in round one, Sarah Yu 6d (right) of Canada beat the European team’s Rita Pocsai 4d of Hungary in round two, moving 2016.02.28_Jin_Yu-imsaon in the double elimination tournament. Yu said she and Pocsai were well matched and that she had benefited from a few mistakes in her opponent’s endgame play. On the other hand, playing against Oh Yujin 2p in round one was daunting, the strong amateur said. “When you are playing against a pro, you just have to try to make the game last longer,” Yu said. “It forces you to play better.” In the game against Oh, “there were never any chances.”

2016.02.28_Eric_LUI-iemgOn the men’s side, the North American men were winless against Korea and Taiwan, though Eric Lui 1p believes he had an opportunity against Lin Shih-Hsun 5p of Taiwan. Lin and Lui, who are friends, reviewed for two hours after the game. Lin made left a major group vulnerable late in the game and Lui (left) attacked but was unable to bring off the kill. “Unfortunately, I went for a small part of the group instead of trying to kill the whole group, which clearly would have been the right thing to do,” Lui said in an interview in the bright white marble lobby of the New Century Grand Hotel Huaian. While the game wasn’t over then, Lin didn’t let down his guard again and won by resignation. His game on day one against Kim Jiseok 9p was not so suspenseful. “The thing about active young pro players today is their game is so well-rounded,” Lui said. “Their game has no real weaknesses.”

On board one, Jiang Mingjiu 7p lost to Lee Donghoon 5p on the first day and Taiwan’s Chen Shih-Yuan 9p on the second. Ryan Li 1p of Canada lost to Park Jeonghwan 9p of Korea and Lin Li-Hsiang 6p. The Korean and Chinese teams are thought to be the strongest, so Korea, in addition to defeating North America, may have effectively taken the lead in the round robin tournament when it defeated China by 2-1 in the second round. Japan’s very young team, including two 16-year-old 2 dans, is also undefeated, having beaten Europe in a clean sweep and Taiwan by 2-1.
- Andy Okun, reporting from Huaian, China. For more IEMG reports, game records and the tournament contestants, go to Ranka Online’s website.

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IMSA Inks Deal Guaranteeing Three More Years of Elite Mind Games in Huaian

Sunday February 28, 2016

The International Mind Sports Association will hold three more IMSA Elite Mind Games in Huaian, Jiangsu Province, China over the next three2016.02.28_imsa_ban600x90 years, according to IMSA Secretary General (and AGA VP) Thomas Hsiang. IMSA signed a memorandum of understanding on Feb. 28 at the first IEMG with officials from the Jiangsu Sports Bureau, the government of Huaian and the China Qiyuan (the Board and Card Games Administrative Center of China’s General Administration of Sport) under which a second, third and fourth IEMG will be held the second week of January in 2017, 2018 and 2019. “I am very grateful to our friends at the China Qiyuan for their crucial role in making the first IEMG possible, and now for adding three more rounds of IEMG,” said Hsiang. “The local organizational efforts have also been just marvelous! The past few days have been most enjoyable and I look forward to having this event become a regular fixture on the mind sports scene.” As part of the MOU, IMSA will open an office and a mind sports academy in Huaian and all the parties have agreed to work to spread mind sports generally and also to promote Huaian as the “Mind Sports City of the World.” The IEMG were in part prompted by the end of the successful four-year run of the similarly structured SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing.
- Andy Okun, reporting from Huaian, China

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Myungwan Kim 9P to Comment Live on Nongshim Cup Starting March 1

Friday February 26, 2016

Myungwan Kim 9P will be providing live commentary in the Nongshim Cup starting Tuesday, March 1st.  The game will begin at 10p PST (1a 3/2 EST) and commentary on the AGA’s YouTube channel will begin at 10:30p PST 1:30a 3/2 EST, UTC-8).  2016.02.26_Nongshim10BracketsThe Nongshim Cup is a win-and-continue team match between Japan, China, and Korea.  On Feb 29th, Gu Li — on a 3-game winning streak after beating Choi Cheolhon, Kono Rin, and Park Jungwhan — will face Japan’s next player, Murakawa Daisuke.  Lee Sedol will face the winner of that match up, and the AGA will continue to broadcast games as long as Lee keeps winning; the remaining games are scheduled for March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
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Categories: China,Japan,Korea,World
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IMSA Elite Mind Games Begin Feb. 25 in Huai’an, China

Sunday February 21, 2016

The first IMSA Elite Mind Games (IEMG) are being held from February 25 to March 3 at the New Century Hotel Huaian, China. A re-branded 2016.02.20_IEMG_logo_240pxevent of SportAccord World Mind Games, IEMG will feature five mind sports: go, chess, bridge, draughts, and xiangqi. Thirty top players from around the world will be competing for total prize money of 200,000 EUR in three medal events: Men’s Team, Women’s Individual, and Pair. The International Mind Sports Association is organizing the event and Ranka Online  will provide full coverage of the event.
- adapted from a report in Ranka Online, which includes the list of players, tournament outline and schedule.
See also Strong North American Go Team Headed for Huai’an for Inaugural IMSA Games.

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Players Wanted for Chunlan Cup Online Playoffs

Wednesday January 27, 2016

The AGA has received a request to send a professional player to China for the 11th Chunlan Cup Selections March 25-28. Opening ceremony is on March 25th. This is the first section of the tournament and players will participate in the other sections if they advance on a date TBA. Airfare, food and lodging will be covered by the organizers. In addition, the minimum prize, for those who lose in the first round, is $2,000 pre-tax. The online play-offs will take place on the weekend of Feb. 20-21 on KGS. Eligibility: US/Canadian citizen, professional player, must meet AGA/CGA eligibility requirements. Must be able to play in the online tournament. Interested players should respond with their names, best form of contact, and KGS IDs before Feb. 10th. If there are multiple interested players, an online play-off will be held. Please send email responses and questions to cherry.shen@usgo.org
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U.S. Rep Sought for Bailing Cup

Tuesday January 26, 2016

Online play-offs to determine the U.S. rep to the 3rd Bailing Cup will take place on the weekend of February 6-7 on KGS. The AGA has received a request to send an amateur player to Beijing, China (China Qiyuan) for the 3rd Bailing Cup in March 11-15th. All expenses (travel, lodging, local transportation, and food) will be afforded by players. Players will compete in one of 48 pools and will qualify for the major competition if they take the top place in their assigned pool.

Eligibility: US/Canadian citizen, must meet AGA/CGA eligibility requirements. Must be able to play in the online tournament* and the major tournament sections if player advances. Interested players should email their names, best form of contact, and KGS IDs to cherry.shen@usgo.org before January, 31st. If there are multiple interested players, an online play-off will be held. Dates for the first, second and third rounds are June 28th to July 2nd. The fourth round will be held August 25th to 30th and the final competition will be September 20th to 22th and December 14th to 17th

*Note: This selection tournament applies to amateurs only.  Any professional players may directly register with Bailing Cup and participate in the preliminary round.
- Cherry Shen
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Strong North American Go Team Headed for Huai’an for Inaugural IMSA Games

Wednesday January 13, 2016

2015.01.09_Ryan-Li-DSC_0101In February, a strong North American Go team will head to Huai-An in Eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, for the first ever International Mind Sports Association Elite Mind Games. Mingjiu Jiang 7p and Eric Lui 1p of the US, along with Ryan Li 1p and Sarah Yu 6d of Canada will play from Feb. 24 to March 4 in the city of five million. The three men will play in a men’s team competition against teams from Europe, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, while Yu, who just competed in Los Angeles as the first woman candidate for AGA pro, will play in a 12-player woman’s individual tournament. Yu and a male player will also take part in a three-round pair go knockout. The IMSA Elite Mind Games are similar in format to the SportAccord World Mind Games, which took place each December from 2011 to 2014 but not in 2015.

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Ke Jie: “I still feel like I’m in a dream”

Wednesday January 6, 2016

Ke Jie’s defeat of Lee Sedol in the M-Lily Cup is the buzz of Chinese media. The 18-year-old Chinese phenom has been on a stunning run of success, winning2016.01.06_Ke-Jie-2nd-MLily-Cup-Final-300x300 three championships in one year: the Bailing Cup, the Samsung Cup, and then the M-Lily Cup earlier this week. Ke Jie’s record in rated games for the year was 58 wins and 16 losses, with an impressive 34-game winning streak when playing with White, which was broken by Lee Sedol.

Ke Jie is the youngest person in history to win three major international tournaments, taking the mantle from Lee Sedol, who had accomplished the same feat at 22. “I was going to resign,” Ke Jie said in an interview immediately after the M-Lily final. “I still feel like I’m in a dream. I thought I had lost.” Ke Jie’s teacher, Nie Weiping, had been commentating on the game and was worried about his student. He mentioned that the game was “just too exciting.” Ke Jie had felt that he hadn’t played his best. He said “I thought if Lee Sedol is at the top of his game, then there is no way I can win. Strength was not the main factor for deciding who won. I was fortunate to win.”

Ke Jie started learning go at the age of 5 and studied under Zhou Zong Qiang 5 dan. His father was a go enthusiast. Ke Jie lived in Li Shui in Zhejiang province where there were not many places to play, however Ke Jie’s father started his own go center. This attracted many stronger players to come, making for a good environment to learn the game. Ke Jie started studying under Nie Weiping at the age of 8, won the National Youth Tournament in 2007 and became professional in 2008.
- Jonathan Hop, translated from Chinese news reports. Click here for GoGameGuru’s report as well, which includes game records, commentaries, photos and a discussion of how the final game’s result unexpectedly hinged on half point kos and the counting system used, according to Korean professionals.

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Categories: China,World
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Ke Jie Edges Lee Sedol by Half-Point to Win MLily Cup; AGA YouTube Coverage Draws Record Audience

Tuesday January 5, 2016

Ke Jie 9P edged out Lee Sedol 9P by the narrowest of margins — a half-point — to win the MLily Cup Monday night in a dramatic deciding fifth game that drew a record number of viewers to the AGA’s 2016.01.04_youtube-screencap2YouTube channel, where Myungwan Kim 9P and Andrew Jackson provided blow-by-blow commentary to a nailbiting audience that hit just over 14,000 at its peak, far surpassing the previous record of 400 viewers. The winner collected not just this year’s MLily international title and a purse of over $300,000, but bragging rights in the classic showdown between two go titans, one a seasoned veteran from Korea, the other a young rising star from China. The battle see-sawed back and forth, taking fans of both players on a wild ride, and went on until just past midnight on the West Coast, drawing intense attention worldwide — especially in Korea and China — and the AGA’s broadcasting efforts, anchored by Kim and Jackson, brought the match to a much broader gaming audience on YouTube and Twitch. A report on Myungwan Kim’s commentary was also featured in the Chosun news, helping to drive thousands of Korean viewers to the AGA’s YouTube channel as well. The coverage even inspired one viewer to donate to the AGA. “I had such a blast on the live MLily Cup Game moderated by Andrew Jackson with the Myungwan Kim 9p comments) that I just donated $50 to the org, this is truely awesome!” wrote Indigonauts. “This is amazing that I can watch a professional #baduk match in English now. Thanks @theaga,” added Christopher Annanie on Twitter. The AGA broadcast team also included Kevin Hwang, Peter Nelson, Steven Hu, Nick Sibicki, and more (we’ll update this more completely asap).
- Chris Garlock

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