Lee Sedol didn't think it would be a challenge. 5-0. 4-1, at a stretch. That was the expectations of the South Korean Go professional heading into his five game, US$1 million exhibition match against Google's AlphaGo, the DeepMind-powered agent of board game destruction.
The score's currently 3-1 and not in the South Korean's favour, and it took a fairly gargantuan comeback to get the score to that. The 18-time world Go champion even said he wouldn't trade the win for anything in the world. But do you think that has have stopped StarCraft players from being cocky over their potential man vs machine match? Of course not.
Only days after recently retired StarCraft legend Lee "Flash" Young Ho posited that StarCraft might be a step too far for Google's creation, another former professional has come out swinging in much stronger terms.
Lim "BoxeR" Yo-Hwan, one of the most enduring legends of StarCraft and esports since he started playing professionally in 2001, has told Yonhap News that he would gladly accept a chance to face off against AlphaGo in the future. Because there's no way AlphaGo could win.
"It would be a mistake to think artificial intelligence could beat humans in StarCraft," an English translation of the article provided by a former TeamLiquid editor in chief reads.
"StarCraft is a game where situational strategy is far more important than in [Go], so it's an area where AI cannot catch up." Lim, whose popularity grew to the point where a DVD compilation of his greatest games was released in South Korea, even went as far to say that AlphaGo couldn't reach the level of StarCraft pros.
It seems more bluster than anything, given the public's current stance on AlphaGo's capabilities. On the English version of their website, Yonhap News complained in an editorial about the AI's raw computational power and suggested that the number of CPUs and GPUs it can access in the cloud should be reduced.
"No matter how much hype there may be, it wouldn't bury the fact that the ongoing battle pitting Korea's world go champion Lee Se-dol against Google's AlphaGo is not a man-vs.-machine fight but a lopsided match pitting one person against an army of super-smart people armed with unfathomable computing power provided by the global multinational, Google," the news agency argued.
Many StarCraft observers have already suggested that AlphaGo is imposed with a limit its maximum actions per minute, as people have pointed out — particularly in Brood War — the immense advantage an AI would have being able to micromanage units without missing opportunities to keep its economy rolling.
That doesn't seem to have stopped Lim, and Lee before him, from beating their chests publicly. That's part of their job as former pros and serving ambassadors of the game. On top of that, they do have a point. But it surely won't be too long before AlphaGo turns its scorched earth policy towards opponents to the world of StarCraft, and its capacity to learn undoubtedly should have the RTS pros concerned.