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DeepMind is on the 'charm offensive' for Google in China

Google DeepMind's AlphaGo algorithm is back to its usual antics of beating world class Go players. The self-learning algorithm beat the world's current number one Go player, 19-year-old Ke Jie, on Tuesday in the opening fixture of a three game match in China.

Go is an ancient two-player board game that was invented in China some 3,000 years ago. Today, China boasts hundreds of millions of Go fans, including a large number at the grass roots level.

"Ke Jie fought bravely and some wonderful moves were played," wrote Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis on Twitter. "  AlphaGo won by just half a point, the closest margin possible," he added in a separate tweet.

The Financial Times decribed DeepMind's visit as Google's latest "charm offensive" in China, where Google's famous search engine has been blocked since 2010.

DeepMind's AlphaGo algorithm — which is underpinned by new artificial intelligence techniques and is arguably one of the most famous algorithms in the world at the moment — is playing a series of matches in Wuzhen this week, which is near Shanghai.

Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, has flown in for the event, as has Mustafa Suleyman, another one of the DeepMind founders. The event was also attended by officials from the Communist Party and central government, according to the FT.

DeepMind writes on its website that it hopes to uncover more secrets of the ancient game at the "Future of Go Summit," where it'll also be playing different versions of Go. But Hassabis is also planning to visit a number of Chinese companies and research institutes to talk about AI research — something that the Chinese government sees as crucial to the future of its economy.

Go is relatively simple: each player takes it in turns to lay a stone, with the objective being to surround the other player's pieces. However, it has been incredibly difficult for computers to master due to the sheer number of potential moves.

AlphaGo beat its first world champion last March, when it defeated South Korea's Lee Sedol in a five-game tournament.

The matches are being streamed live on YouTube and live updates will be tweeted through the DeepMind Twitter account.

However, the Chinese authorities banned a live stream of the first game in China, according to the FT. It's unclear why at this stage.


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