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A former world champion of the game Go says he’s retiring because AI is so strong that ‘even if I become number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated’ (GOOG)

The dominance of artificial intelligence in competitive strategy games has led one of South Korea's top Go players to retire. Former South Korean Go champion Lee Se-Dol, 36, told the Yonhap News Agency that he would no longer play professionally, because AI is impossible to overcome.

“With the debut of AI in Go games, I've realized that I'm not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” Lee said in an interview. “Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.”

In 2016, Lee lost 4 to 1 in a set of Go matches against AlphaGo, an AI system developed by the Google-owned company DeepMind. At the time Lee was considered the best Go player in the world. With a history dating back more than 2,500 years, Go is considered one of the most complex board games in the world, and AlphaGo's mastery brought new attention to the rapid advancement of AI technology.

DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis and Lee in 2016.

Google Deepmind

DeepMind has further improved its program since AlphaGo's match against Lee too. The latest integration, AlphaGo Zero, was able to beat the original AlphaGo 100 matches in a row. DeepMind's AI programs improve their strategies by analyzing thousands of professional matches, which allows it to anticipate the opponent's moves and counter with the most effective strategies and counterplays.

Lee will have one last match against an AI opponent before he officially retires in December. He'll be up against HanDol, an AI developed in South Korea that's already defeated the country's top five players. Lee will be given a slight handicap against HanDol, but he still isn't confident about how the match will go.

“Even with a two-stone advantage, I feel like I will lose the first game to HanDol,” Lee told Yonhap.

DeepMind AI programs have mastered some of the most popular strategy games of our time, from classic board games like Chess and Go to competitive video games. Last month DeepMind's “Starcraft 2” AI program, AlphaStar, reached the rank of grandmaster, making it better than 99.8% of all human players. AlphaStar has also defeated some of the world's best esports competitors in head-to-head matches across different games.

While AI's superiority over human players seems to be an inevitability, these AI programs have also helped pushed the boundaries of these strategy games and matches against the world's top players evoke the highest possible level of play.