AlphaGo aftermath: Weiqi is still fun, still relevant, still popular


So the world's best human weiqi (Go) player Ke Jie lost all three games to AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence giant that plays with itself a million times a day, progressively improving its techniques to crack the ancient Chinese board game.
With the overwhelming victory of machine over man, does that mean it's pointless now to learn or play weiqi?
"I'm glad to see that many people around the world are paying attention to weiqi because of my match with AlphaGo," 19-year-old Ke Jie told CGTN in an exclusive interview.

Ke Jie expresses his feeling about AlphaGo after the May 27 match. /CGTN Photo

The champions: Still happy

Just two days after the loss, which some media dubbed as a "humiliation", Ke Jie swept aside South Korean player Won Seong-jin in the LG Cup.
"I just realized playing with humans is so relaxing, comfortable, and happy," Ke said in a Weibo post.

Ke Jie's post. /Weibo Screenshot

In the matches played in this year's LG Cup - one of several major annual weiqi competitions -  AlphaGo's unique and devastatingly effective style of play has been widely adopted by some of the world's top players. Rather than closing the door on the human era of weiqi, the AI has opened a brand new window for people to understand more about the 3,000-year-old game, and to come up with new strategies and techniques.
AlphaGo didn't destroy the game, but gave it a rebirth.

The game: Still unsolvable

Weiqi is considered an elegant sport in eastern Asia. /VCG Photo

For games like checkers, researchers have calculated all the possible variations, meaning the best result you can get from playing with AI is a draw.
But the various possible ways to play weiqi are so many that no supercomputer in the modern world has the power to "solve" the game like it has done with checkers.
You may have heard by now that the number of possible games in weiqi is more than the number of atoms in the known universe.
We may be living longer, but not long enough to play every single possible variation of weiqi, meaning this ancient game will be a constant challenge and source of fun for the rest of your life.

Possible games of weiqi are almost infinite. /VCG Photo‍

It's true that AlphaGo is currently unbeatable, but the machine has retired as a player, according to its creator DeepMind. So you don't really need to worry about losing all matches to a computer in the same way as Ke Jie.
In addition to the fun factor itself, weiqi is a jewel of ancient Chinese culture. It's a game that embraces philosophy, and through playing weiqi, you can even strive for a deeper understanding of life.

The world: Still interested

As the world turn its attention to weiqi, it's a good opportunity for novices to start learning the ancient Chinese game. The weiqi community around the world remains very active, and new players are welcome to become the next human weiqi masterminds.

VCG Photo

"I want to tell everyone that weiqi is easy to learn, and not as complicated as it appears to be," Ke Jie told CGTN, hoping that his match with AlphaGo would inspire more people to join the weiqi universe.
"You don't need to be smart to play the game. I'm not smart. No smart person boasts on the Internet like me, right? Yet I am a world champion."
He has promised to write a book about weiqi to attract more people to play the game.
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