Bob Hearn writes "I was in attendance at the US Go Congress match yesterday where history was made: the go program MoGo, running on an 800-core supercomputer, beat 8-dan professional go player Myungwan Kim in a 9-stone handicap game. Most in the audience were shocked at the computer's performance; it was naturally assumed that the computer would be slaughtered, as usual. Go is often seen as the last bastion of human superiority over computers in the domain of board games. But if Moore's law continues to hold up, today's result suggests that the days of human superiority may be numbered." Read below for more details in Bob's account of the match.
Computers are still a long way from beating the best human players in an even game; nevertheless, today's performance represents a huge stride forward. In the last such high-profile matchup, in 1997, Janice Kim (then 1-dan professional) beat then-champion program Handtalk with a 25-stone handicap. In fact, most of the improvement in the level of computer-go play has happened in just the past few years. Today's top programs, including MoGo, use a Monte Carlo approach: they simulate thousands of random continuations per second from the current position to the end of the game, accumulating statistics in a tree on which moves lead to wins most often. One of the strengths of this approach is that it is highly amenable to parallelization. Thus, today's 800-core incarnation of MoGo is by far the strongest go computer that has yet existed. After the game Myungwan Kim estimated the strength of MoGo as 'two or maybe three dan,' corresponding to a reasonably strong amateur player. (Professional dan ranks are at a much higher level than amateur dan ranks.)