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University of Alberta Team Aims for Top 3 Finish at International Computer Go Event

This month, a University of Alberta (UofA) - led computer Go team will use the computational power of Compute Canada / WestGrid’s Hungabee cluster to try and improve on the 2013 top five finish of their program MP-Fuego at the Seventh UEC Cup Computer Go Competition in Japan. This international competition takes place at the University of Electro-Communications (UEC) near Tokyo, Japan March 15-16 and hosts top programs from around the world developed to play Go, a popular board game born in Asia. Known as the largest computer Go event of the year, the top two finishers will go on to challenge the famous professional Go player Yoda Norimoto 9 Dan in a (handicap) match sanctioned by the Japanese Go Federation, the Nihon-Kiin. 

Professor Martin Müller leads the UofA team, in collaboration with Kazuki Yoshizoe, a researcher from the Japan Science and Technology Agency. Access to Hungabee will provide the team with real-time, massively parallel computing power, which is essential for their participation in the two-day competition.

“I think the top two programs Crazy Stone and Zen will still be very difficult to catch,” said Müller. “I hope to improve to third this year and reach the top two next year. I think our parallel search is maybe the best of all programs, but the game-specific code still has a way to go to be competitive.”

The team’s program is based on the open-source Fuego project, which was developed largely in Alberta. To prepare for this year’s tournament, considerable work was done to improve their program’s parallel search code and game engine subystem. They have been experimenting with different parameter settings and hardware setups to measure the performance of Fuego’s parallel MCTS, which has helped them gain a better understanding of how to adjust parameters to achieve better performance. On the game engine side, Müller has built a completely new subsystem of Fuego which defines a set of features describing moves and then uses a machine learning algorithm to find values for these features.

Although this event is only a two-day competition, the experience lends valuable results for Müller and Yoshizoe’s longer-term research focus.

“It is very important to have such a competition to push our algorithms to the limits,” said Müller. “Computer Go attracts a large number of serious competitors, and we can compare both our normal, small-scale parallel code and our massively parallel algorithm to many other strong programs.”

“I think the competition pushed us to work hard on achieving a better, speedup of a difficult problem (the game of Go), and it has resulted in a more generic parallel MCTS algorithm,” added Yoshizoe.

This work depends heavily on access to advanced computing facilities.

"This research would not be possible without WestGrid and Compute Canada infrastructure and their fantastic support team because it requires a large parallel machine with an extremely fast interconnection network, which is provided by the Hungabee system," said Müller.

For full details of the 2014 competition, please visit the Seventh UEC Cup Computer Go Competition website. For a recap on the UofA team's 2013 performance, visit Müeller's blog, which shared day-by-day updates from Japan last year.