This weekend saw a computer program beat a professional player of the Japanese version of chess for the first time ever. 30 year old Shinichi Sato, a master of the board game shogi, was defeated by Issei Yamamoto’s Ponanza program. Despite wearing traditional Japanese garb to help with his mental preparation, the 4th-dan ranked Sato struggled back and forth with the artificial player, eventually having his weakness exploited.
Sato’s match was the second in an ongoing team contest where five shogi pros are pitted against the top five computer programs from 2012’s World Computer Shogi Championship. The development of shogi programs is said to have begun about 40 years ago, however human players have long had the advantage due to their ability to judge each scenario in the game. But as they often do, the computers have caught up, and 27 year old Yamamoto’s Ponanza program is able to process over 30 million scenarios per second. Observers say Sato maintained the advantage until roughly the middle of the match, when he began making mistakes. Ponanza then overcame, and won without error.
At the end of the match, Sato commented, “I think I may have been able to do more, but it’s my best for now.” He added that from the early stages of the game, unique scenarios that he didn’t expect were created. 2012 marked the first time a computer beat a professional, albeit a retired one; Kunio Yonenaga lost to Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.’s Bonkuras. But Sato’s loss is the first time a program has defeated an active pro. As for the competition of five pros against five computers, the first match, played with a different program, went to Koru Abe, while the third match will be held on April 6th.
Comments Off on JDP Startup Corner: Pros & Cons of Working with a Partner in Japan