American Go E-Journal » Tools: books, software & hardware

AlphaGo, KataGo, and the future of AI

Saturday June 6, 2020

Visualization of ownership predictions by KataGo

“There’s something magical about the game of go,” writes Branton DeMoss in a recent blog post. “For thousands of years, it has captured the imagination of those who want to learn what it is to learn, to think about what thinking means. With the recent advent of strong, open source go AI that can beat top professionals, it’s worth tracing the history of the game, why it remained so difficult to beat humans for so long, and what the future of go may hold.”

DeMoss explores the evolution of computer go, and then discusses how AlphaGo differs from the open source Katago. “KataGo attempts to predict a greater number of game outcomes than just value,’ says DeMoss, “in particular, KataGo also predicts final territory control, final score difference, and from each board state the opponent’s next move. As a result of these improvements, KataGo massively outperforms Leela Zero and Facebook’s ELF bot in learning efficiency. KataGo achieves a factor of fifty improvement in training efficiency vs. ELF”.

The creator of KataGo, David J. Wu, answers some of DeMoss’s questions at the end of the article. “I think the AlphaZero-style training loop using MCTS (Monte Carlo Tree Search) is not the last word on [things like] this,” says Wu. “Blind spots are just the most visible of the flaws, but there are some technical and theoretical details you can dig into that start to make it clear that there are some practical problems with how exploration and move discovery work in this loop, some basic theoretical flaws involving mismatches between the neural net’s training distribution and usage, and also some fundamental ‘missing’ capabilities in current bots in terms of using search effectively.” The full blog post can be read here. -Story by Paul Barchilon. image from Accelerating Self-Play Learning in Go, by David J. Wu.

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The AGA’s Ongoing Position on In-Person Play

Saturday June 6, 2020

The AGA believes that the health and safety of its members, and their communities, is a greater priority than in-person play.  For this reason, the AGA is continuing to suspend all AGA-sponsored in-person events.  
The AGA recognizes the value provided by in-person play and the camaraderie of Go communities.  Because of this, we advise our members to follow all local laws as well as the advice and guidance of public health experts when deciding when and how to safely resume in-person play during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As always, the AGA encourages its members to play Go online.  If you are looking for resources, check out this list of where to play go online, as well as this list of online resources, videos, and more.  The AGA is developing more resources to help local Go communities stay connected and eventually resume safer in-person play.  We are also in the early stages of planning online AGA events.  If you have ideas (or online resources) that you want to share – for instance, things that have worked for your community – please consider writing an EJournal story (you can submit stories using this form) or sharing them with us through this form.  We plan to publish some of the best ideas in the near future.

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Membership manager payment problem solved

Monday May 25, 2020

After being alerted to payment issues within the AGA Membership Manager the tech team consulted and patched the issue. The payments are now working again. If you have had an issue in the last month with using the membership manager to make payments, please try again. If there are any continued issues please email webmaster@usgo.org and database@usgo.org to let us know so that we can help you.

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KGS Adds Web Registration

Saturday May 23, 2020

The KGS Go Server just got easier to join and use. The Java client for KGS has been an ongoing problem for some computers and blocked by many schools. The KGS Home Page features a new link to sign up for a free account. Using ShinKGS, a web-based client developed by Justin Kramer, phones, tablets, or computers can now play on the server while avoiding Java completely. 

The American Go Foundation has been steadily working on improving KGS, but mostly behind the scenes until now. “This is the first of many upgrades to KGS that the AGF wants to see happen.” says AGF President Terry Benson. “To make KGS a better go community, we could use help on the open source ShinKGS code.  While so many people are stuck at their computers, go is a great way to stay busy and connected to other people.”  ShinKGS is still missing some features and has a few bugs, a list of areas that need work is here, access to the code is on Github here. GoUniverse, a plugin for the Chrome Web Browser developed by Ilya Kirillov, is  another way to access KGS without Java, and has almost all of the features in the full client. GoUniverse is also open source, and can be accessed on Github here.

KGS has seen a boom in users with everyone staying home due to Covid-19, and many clubs now meet virtually on the site. The AGF hopes to expand that user base by improving services and growing the community. “Many thanks to lead KGS developer Lee Schumacher for his tireless work on behalf of the server. Our thanks also to Oren Laskin, on the development team, and to all the admins who work daily to keep KGS a safe and friendly space for all,” adds Benson. – Paul Barchilon, AGF Vice-President

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BadukPop app adds AI opponent

Friday May 22, 2020

BadukPop has added several improvements in its latest update, including the ability to play against artificial intelligence. The popular go problem app, developed by Hajin Lee 4P and Dan Maas, works on both Android and iOS. The interface was designed to be fun for all ages, including kids, and now features 7 humorous AI characters you can play against. The weakest is Bobby – perfect for people who have just learned to play. Next up is Kevin whose “mind wanders off into deep space – and so do his go moves.” As players work their way up, the AI gets much stronger. “I love playing against Cora,” says Lee “she’s my new rival – I have about a 50/50 win rate against her, and it’s really fun to have a quick game with her now and then.” At the top is Max “a powerful AI that plays at human professional level.”

The app only supports games on 9×9 for now, but 13×13 and 19×19 are coming soon says Maas. A new section of lessons has been added as well. Designed as short sequences to teach new players, you can go from learning the rules to mastering basic corner and side positions. Like everything in BadukPop, the lessons are designed to be quick so one can learn something in just a few minutes, but build deep knowledge over time. Lee goes over the new features on her Youtube channel here. The app is free, but has in app purchases for extra features. Download from the Apple or Android stores, or from BadukPop’s website here. -Paul Barchilon, EJ Youth Editor

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Shawn Ray’s new Go club simulator allows clubs to make their own rules

Wednesday April 8, 2020

The coronavirus lockdown has inspired creativity in developers, and Shawn Ray has released a Go club simulator that is designed to give online players more of an in-person Go club feel. After being inspired by Haskell Small’s pioneering use of Zoom for Go club meetings as published in our story on Sunday, Ray was inspired to create an online space for players to interact without building in the usual rules by which Go servers are bound.

A note to Go clubs trying to use this as a way to have a club meeting: please watch Ray’s YouTube video describing this venture and explaining the technical details that you may need in order to make this work. The games in play are not governed by any rule-sets and allow players to interact with each other as the might do in person. Ray recommends that his service be used in conjunction with a voice or video chat service such as Skype or Zoom so that players can speak with each other and work out any issues while using the platform.

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NY Institute of Go launches new “Epic Battle” series on YouTube

Wednesday March 25, 2020

NYIG_Go, the YouTube channel of the New York Institute of Go and the New York Go Association, launched a brand-new series, ‘Epic Battle,’ earlier this week on March 22. This series, produced, directed, and edited by Allen Moy, features professional 1-dan players Stephanie Yin and Ryan Li facing off one another while proving viewers with both players’ perspectives and commentaries; similar to the successful New Year’s special video. Following each game, Stephanie and Ryan will give their reviews of the entire match and their strategies, as well as adding some entertainment and chemistry to the video. Videos are expected to be posted on Mondays and Fridays.

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Redmond and Garlock release “AlphaGo to Zero”

Sunday March 8, 2020

Four years ago today, the whole world watched as a computer program took on one of the top go players in the world. And won. From the historic AlphaGo-Lee Sedol showdown in Seoul in March 2016 to the release of AlphaGo Zero in November 2017, Michael Redmond 9P and Chris Garlock have had a front-row seat, commenting, analyzing and reporting as the AlphaGo AI upended thousands of years of human history. Today, on the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the AlphaGo-Lee Sedol match, they’ve released Volume 1 of AlphaGo to Zero, the first of a 4-volume EPUB series that will thoroughly cover the AlphaGo phenomenon.

Redmond (right) and Garlock commenting AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol 9P Game 1, March 8, 2016

Redmond and Garlock will discuss the book and review games from the AlphaGo vs. Lee Sedol 9P match on Twitch at 7p EDT on Thursday, March 12. They’ll also discuss their experience doing the commentary on the historic match and take viewer questions.

Since the 2016 AlphaGo-Lee Sedol match, Redmond and Garlock have released a popular series of AlphaGo videos and game commentaries on the American Go Association’s YouTube channel. In AlphaGo to Zero, Redmond and Garlock use the power of the EPUB platform to take an in-depth look at the March 2016 showdown between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol 9P. The EPUB not only includes new insights into the match and each game, it enables readers to easily review video game summaries Redmond and Garlock recorded after each game, including some never before released to the general public. The game commentaries include clickable diagrams and Redmond’s original commentaries alongside brand-new comments. It’s also illustrated with color photos of all the action, including some never previously published.
In addition to EPUB, the book is also available in the Go Books app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

As the AlphaGo Team says in their introduction, “Chris and Michael experienced first-hand the anticipation and excitement felt by the entire AlphaGo team, and understand better than anyone the significance of these games in showcasing what can be achieved when human and machine come together to solve complex problems.”

“This book is our attempt to capture that story,” say Redmond and Garlock, “to tell you what we saw at the time, what we see now, and to try to place this moment in the history of the game, to get a sense of where we may be headed. When AlphaGo defeated Lee Sedol, some said it was the end of go. As we have seen since then, it is rather more likely that in many ways the game has just begun.”

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New 3D tsumego app BadukPop launches

Sunday March 1, 2020

BadukPop is a new mobile app that provides Go problems with fun visuals and game mechanics featuring a 3D-animated Go board, a curated library of Go problems for all levels, and a global leaderboard. Players start at Level 1, low double-digit kyu, and can progress up to Level 6, the high-dan to professional category.

Hajin Lee, a former professional Go player and creator of “Haylee’s World of Go” on YouTube, participated in the design and development of BadukPop. “Many Go players are too busy to play a full game every day. Playing BadukPop can be helpful practice – it’s quick, fun, and trains your intuition, pattern recognition, and reading skills,” Lee says.

The app is currently available in English, Korean, and Chinese, and is compatible with all recent Android and iOS phones and tablets. It can be downloaded for free on both Google Play (Android) and the App Store (iOS). Visit https://badukpop.com for details.

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Learn to Play Go series now available as ePub

Monday February 24, 2020

The five volumes of Janice Kim’s popular Learn to Play Go series are now available as ePubs from SmartGo Books, which opens them up to readers on Android and Windows. “Janice Kim’s award-winning series takes the complete beginner step-by-step all the way to playing real go,” says SmartGo’s Anders Kierulf.

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