Play Go on your PC, one day you might rise to challenge Google

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Lee Sedol used to be the best Go player in the world. Now that title has passed on to Google’s AlphaGo program. If the recent story of this battle of champions has triggered interest in the game, here’s how to play it on your Windows PC.

Go is a board game that is played by placing stones on a grid and it looks quite straightforward, simple even. It was invented in China somewhere around 2,500 years ago and that makes it one of the oldest games around. It is also one of the most complicated and this has meant that up until now, it has been impossible to create a computer program that can play better than a human player.

One of the reasons for this is that there are an incredible number of different board positions. Chess might seem to be a complex game, and it is, but it has only 10 to the power 120 possible game positions. Go on the other hand, has 10 to the power 170. That is 10 followed by 170 zeroes. Try writing that out on paper if you want to see how big a number it is.

One technique that computer programs use when playing games is to simply analyze every possible move and see which is best. This is not possible with Go because there are more positions than atoms in the visible universe.

Google had to use special artificial intelligence programming methods to create the Go-playing program. Last year AlphaGo played the European Go champion, Fan Hui, and won five games to none. This year AlphaGo went one better and took on the reigning world champion Lee Sedol and won four games to one, which is a pretty convincing win. The details are here.

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So what is all the fuss about? What is this game of Go and why is it such a big deal? Why not learn how to play this ancient game and then improve your skills with free Go games for your Windows PC.

Learn to play Go

If you have never played before, there is an interactive guide you can play in a web browser by clicking here.  It has 35 lessons. Many of them are interactive (you need a web browser with Flash, like Chrome), and they are brilliant for learning the basic rules of the game. They show how to capture stones and territory.

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Tomorrow we’ll check out some exciting variations on Go for you to try out.

Author: Roland Waddilove. Roland is a freelance writer for the web and print covering Windows PC, Apple Mac, iOS and Android. He can be found at http://www.rawinfopages.com