NEW YORK: Showing that the time of artificial intelligence (AI) is right here, Google-run AI programme "AlphaGo" on Saturday defeated 18-time world champion Lee Se-dol for the third consecutive time in Go -- a complex Chinese board game that is considered the "quintessential unsolved problem" for machine intelligence.
The victory - that ensures a series win for AlphaGo -- came in the third tie of the five-match series currently being held in Seoul, South Korea.
The tournament titled "Google Deepmind Challenge match" started on March 8 and will conclude on March 15. In a "no mercy rule," the remaining games will be played on March 13 and March 15, The Verge reported.
"I do apologise for not being able to satisfy people's expectations," Se-dol said, who believes that he had no chance in the first game and missed opportunities in the second.
Despite his overall loss, he urged the people to continue to show interest in the remaining two games.
Se-dol is a South Korean professional Go player. As of February 2016, he ranked second in international titles, behind only Lee Chang-ho.
"I believe (Lee) would have been difficult to beat today (Saturday) by any other top professional," said 9-dan pro player and match commentator Michael Redmond, who called AlphaGo a "work of art" that could revolutionise Go play in the future.
Go -- a game of profound complexity -- is played by more than 40 million people worldwide. The number of possible positions in the game are more than, as they say, the number of atoms in the universe.
Google's taciturn AI arm "DeepMind" said that its programme "AlphaGo" combines an advanced tree search with deep neural networks. "Go is a very beautiful game and I think it teaches a lot about life, much more so than a game like chess," Google co-founder and Alphabet president Sergey Brin was quoted as saying after the third game.
"When you watch really great Go players play, it is like a thing of beauty. So I'm very excited that we've been able to instil that level of beauty inside a computer. I'm really honoured to be here in the company of Lee Se-dol, such an incredible player, as well as the DeepMind team who've been working so hard on the beauty of a computer," Brin added.
"To be honest we are a bit stunned and speechless," said DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis, adding that, "AlphaGo can compute tens of thousand positions a second, but it's amazing that Lee Se-dol is able to compete with that and push AlphaGo to the limit. We came here to challenge Lee Se-dol because we wanted to see what AlphaGo was capable of, and his amazing genius and creative skills have done that."
In January, "AlphaGo" defeated Fan Hui - the European champion of the game that was developed in China 2,500 years ago.
Reportedly, Facebook is also working on beating Go and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that his artificial intelligence (AI) scientists are "getting close".
"The ancient Chinese game of Go is one of the last games where the best human players can still beat the best artificial intelligence players. Scientists have been trying to teach computers to win at Go for 20 years," he wrote in a post in January.
The first game mastered by a computer was noughts and crosses (also known as tic-tac-toe) in 1952. In 1997, IBM's Deep Blue computer famously beat Garry Kasparov at chess.
The game involves players taking turns to place black or white stones on a board, trying to capture the opponent's stones or surround empty space to make points of territory.