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Google’s AI mastered chess in 4 hours

The robots are coming for your … chess game.

Google’s AI, AlphaZero, developed a “superhuman performance” in chess in just four hours.

Essentially, the AI absorbed humanity’s entire history of chess in one-sixth of a day — and then figured out how to beat anyone or anything.

After being programmed with the rules of the game (not the strategy) AlphaZero played 100 games against Stockfish, the world champion chess program. AlphaZero won 25 playing as white (which has first-mover advantage) and three games playing as black. The last 72 games were a draw with AlphaZero recording no losses and Stockfish recording no wins.

“We now know who our new overlord is,” David Kramaley, the CEO of chess science website Chessable, told The Telegraph. “It will no doubt revolutionize the game, but think about this could be applied outside chess. This algorithm could run cities, continents, universes.”

Google’s DeepMind lab has been working on this technology for years, beginning with AlphaGo, which learned how to play the Chinese board game, Go and became the first AI to beat a Go grandmaster. But this AI learned through watching humans play, which introduced biases and mistakes.

Next came AlphaGo Zero — a fully autonomous AI that learns by teaching itself. In October, AlphaGo Zero demolished every AI version that preceded it — a victory that an MIT computer scientist told Gizmodo was like watching “an alien civilization inventing its own mathematics.”

The current AlphaZero takes the reinforcement learning of AlphaGo Zero and uses it in a broader approach. Meaning that, in addition to becoming a Chess God, AlphaZero learned Go and Japanese chess game, Shogi – becoming a master in each in two and eight hours, respectively.

Google hasn’t commented on AlphaZero’s achievement as the study hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed. But the findings are available in preprint.

“I always wondered how it would be if a superior species landed on Earth and showed us how they played chess,” Peter Heine Nielsen, a chess grandmaster, told the BBC. “Now I know.”

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