Gu Li plays with AlphaGo's "hand" watching during the "Paired Go" team match. (Photo/CGTN)
In the battle of brains between an AI program and a human prodigy, AlphaGo has so far scored back-to-back victories over the world's best weiqi (Go) player and Chinese grandmaster Ke Jie in the first two games of their three-part match.
But what would happen if the opposite sides team up?
A day before the final round with Ke, AlphaGo on Friday entertained the audience in the eastern Chinese town of Wuzhen by playing a friendly "Paired Go" game as it coupled with two Chinese grandmasters who were facing off one another.
At opposing ends of the square table sat two players: a human and AlphaGo.
The black side was played by professional 9-dan Go player Gu Li and AlphaGo, while the white team was composed of 8-dan grandmaster Lian Xiao and AlphaGo.
On each side, the human player and the program took turns to play. One black stone by Gu, the next by AlphaGo, before the white team made their moves.
Despite the demonstration game being based on cooperation between the human and the AI program, the two players were not allowed to communicate their strategies and discuss their plan of attack.
If their thoughts on how to go about the match differed, there was no way for them to coordinate. Sure enough, problems surfaced 20 minutes into the game.
The speed of the match soon slowed down by tenfold. After playing around 30 stones, Gu and Lian both fell into long hesitation.
The confusion of the human players arose from the fact that AlphaGo, on both fronts of the game, started to make moves against all weiqi traditions.
Perplexity prevailed among human watchers. The game's commentators voiced their bewilderment by quipping, "I can't understand what's happening. Who can help?"
Surprises came one after the other as AlphaGo played along, creating more puzzles for Gu and Lian to solve.
"This is so, so interesting," one Chinese commentator stated.
The enigma was so hard to crack that Lian used up his one-hour of thinking time, meaning he was forced to play every step within one minute. Time, however, was not an issue for AlphaGo, which played his moves within the time limits.
Lian's struggles paid off after he found a weak spot in the black side's strategy at the left side of the board, threatening to kill massive black stones and turn the match around.
A fierce battle ensued; its intensity increasing as the clock ticked. With bated breath, those in attendance anxiously watched over, waiting impatiently to see how things unfolded.
Lian and his AlphaGo companion eventually secured victory, forcing Gu to give up. However, we may have to wait for the after-match analysis to fully understand what actually happened.
Stay tuned to CGTN for more coverage from Wuzhen, as five Chinese grandmasters stand together against AlphaGo.