Professional vs. Computer-Go Bot: 2-1

by Sorin Gherman, March 2008

During the 2008 Paris Go Tournament there was a demonstration match between Catalin Taranu 5 dan professional and Mogo which is one of the best Computer-Go programs in the world. They played a "best of 3" match on 9x9 with all games on even, komi 7.5 points. Catalin won by 2-1, but the game won by Mogo shows that there was very much progress in Computer-Go during the past few years.

There was also a 19x19 game: Catalin gave Mogo 9 stones handicap and won. Mogo is very strong on small boards only. On 19x19 there is a different story, because the number of variations to consider grows exponentially with the size of the board, and the depth of the analysis that Mogo can do is very limited compared with 9x9. You can follow all games below.

What's Mogo's level? According to one of the authors, Sylvain Gelly:

"With very little time, it can be no better than random, and with infinite time, it plays perfectly! [...] On a fast computer it should be at about 3 dan on 9x9 and 3 kyu on 19x19."

Sylvain also has download and installation instructions in order to run Mogo on your computer. Don't expect though to get a program that matches the strength of the one that won one game against Catalin. Olivier Teytaud, who is also part of the small team that developed Mogo, explains:

The mogo running against Taranu is not the one which can be downloaded on the web. It has been improved a lot, and in particular it has been parallelized. The parallel version requires a very good hardware (the one running against Catalin was 32 nodes, 8 cores per node, 3 GHz). On a standard computer, with one node and one core, MoGo is much weaker. However, if some (high-level) people want to play against MoGo, I can try to find a cluster for some games :-)

The cluster on which MoGo was supposed to run was down during the first game, and during a part of the 19x19 game.

Catalin Taranu said that 7.5 komi is probably too high; in all games, white won. I'm not a go player, only a Go-developer so I have no opinion about that.

If you have never played Computer-Go, or haven't done so in a while because you were frustrated with the level of Go programs from a few years ago, definitely give it a try, you may be surprised. I was surpised by the GnuGo bot recently. And GnuGo should be a few levels below Mogo...

For those of you interested in Computer-Go from a technical perspective, there is a discussion thread on the computer-go mailiing list about this match.

Here are the game records. Many thanks to Alexandre Dinerchtein for the commentaries.

Game 1 on 9x9, Catalin wins by resign.

Game 2 on 9x9, Mogo bot wins by resign.

Game 3 on 9x9, Catalin wins by resign.

Catalin gives 9 stones handicap to Mogo bot on 19x19 and wins by resign.

Here's some other perspective on human vs computer in Go.