The Chess Dominance of Google’s AlphaZero Teaches Us More About Chips Than About Brains

Brad Shimmin – Research Director, Business Technology and Software

Summary Bullets:

• How did a computer algorithm like Google’s AlphaZero manage to learn, master and then dominate the game of chess in just four hours?

• AlphaZero’s mastery of chess stemmed from the sheer, brute force of Google’s AI-specific Tensorflow processing units (TPUs) – 5,000 of them to be exact.

“How about a nice game of chess?” With that iconic line of dialog from what is one of my favorite films, the 1983 cold war sci-fi thriller WarGames, nuclear war was narrowly averted by a machine (named Joshua) capable of teaching itself how to play a game. This week another machine, one of Google’s DeepMind AI offspring, AlphaZero, did something similar in that it took four hours to teach itself how to play chess and then proceeded to demolish the best, highest rated chess computer, Stockfish. After 100 games, AlphaZero racked up 28 wins and zero losses. So much for more than a millenium of human effort in teaching a computer how to play chess. But how was this possible? Was this a fair match? How did a computer algorithm like AlphaZero manage to learn, master and then dominate the game of chess in just four hours? Read more of this post