Artificial Intelligence Alpha Zero has sent shockwaves across the chess world by beating the game’s top computer over 100 games. This is probably the biggest breakthrough since then world chess champion Gary Kasparov was defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue computer back in 1997.
In a paper published by DeepMind, the company claims AlphaZero comprehensively took down the foremost chess engine over 100 games. Each played 50 games as white and 50 as black. AlphaZero scored 25 wins as white, drawing the other 25. In the 50 games as black AlphaZero managed to pick up 3 wins, drawing the other 47. Stockfish was unable to must even a single win.
DeepMind was founded by its current CEO Demis Hassabis, an expert chess player in his own right. It was acquired by Google in 2014 and is headquartered in their London offices. One of their first breakthroughs was AlphaGo. This AI took on the world’s best Go players and won. Go is an incredibly complex game and is tough to master.
As one of the most popular Chess computers, Stockfish is used by both amateurs and professionals to analyse games. It is the reigning world champion among the chess computers. Traditionally chess computers work by performing an astronomical number of calculations, working out the best moves to play. Stockfish can analyse 70 million positions per second. AlphaZero by comparison looks at a meagre 80,000 per second.
Perhaps the most impressive is that AlphaZero was given the basic rules then took just four hours to master the game. While some of its moves look unusual its approach was much more human than traditional chess engines. Only 10 of the 100 games have so far been released to study with AlphaZero showing some impressive skills.
People have been keen to point out that Stockfish was somewhat limited from what it can normally do. Its processing power was reduced and it wasn’t given access to its book of openings. Chances are AlphaZero would have won either way but it might have been a lot closer.
For its encore AlphaZero then learned Shogi – the Japanese equivalent of chess – before beating its reigning champion an AI called Elmo.