French software and Dutch national Supercomputer Huygens establish a new world record in Go

At the Taiwan Open 2009, held in Taiwan from Feb. 10-13, the Dutch national supercomputer Huygens, which is located at SARA Computing and Networking Services in Amsterdam, defeated two human Go professionals in an official match.

This is the second victory of Huygens playing Go against professional players. During the first two days of the event, the Go program MoGo TITAN sets two new world records by winning a 19×19 competition with a 7-stones handicap against the 9P dan professional Go player Jun-Xun Zhou, and a 19×19 competition with a 6-stones handicap against the 1P dan professional Go player Li-Chen Chien.

The first victory of the Huygens supercomputer was achieved in August 2008 at the 24th Annual Congress of the Go competition, held in Portland, Oregon when the 8P dan human Go professional Kim MyungWan was defeated in an official match with a 9-stones handicap.

After the victory of IBM’s Deep Blue against Garry Kasparov, the game of Go has replaced chess as a test bed for research in artificial intelligence (AI). Go is one of the last board games where humans are still able to easily win against AI. Although there has been quite some research in the Go domain for 40 years, the progress in Computer Go has been slow. However, researchers have discovered new performing algorithms and computers are catching up really fast. Since 2006, when a new algorithm called Monte-Carlo Tree Search was proposed, the level of Go programs has improved drastically. The application ‘MoGo TITAN’, developed by INRIA France and Maastricht University, runs on the Dutch national supercomputer Huygens, which is one of the PRACE prototypes.

The French partners are Tao, INRIA, CNRS, LRI, Université Paris-Sud, Grid5000 with “top” contributors Jean-Baptiste Hoock, Arpad Rimmel and Olivier Teytaud. Top contributor for the Maastricht University was Guillaume Chaslot. Other contributors were Christophe Fiter, Sylvain Gelly, Julien Perez, Yizao Wang. The games were organized mainly by Chang-Shing Lee and MeiHui Wang, National University of Tainan (Taiwan).

Dr. Anwar Osseyran, SARA Managing Director: “This new milestone in AI research once again clearly demonstrates the great potential of Huygens in many non-traditional areas of usage of Supercomputing.”


The research in this project has been financed through the GoForGo project by the Physical Sciences council of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and by the French financers Tao, INRIA, CNRS, LRI, Université Paris-Sud, while the CPU hours of Huygens were granted by the Netherlands National Computing Facilities Foundation (NCF).

Dr. Patrick Aerts, NCF Director: “One of NCF’s aims is to facilitate all scientific research disciplines which can benefit from High Performance Computing (HPC). Apart from traditional areas as computational fluid dynamics and theoretical chemistry, it is encouraging to see that more and more other areas, like AI, explore the opportunities offered by HPC for their research fields.” System

Huygens, an IBM Power 575 Hydro-Cluster system, is the national supercomputer and located at SARA Computing and Networking Services in Amsterdam. The system, which is in production since August 2008, has a peak speed of 60 trillion calculations per second (Teraflop/s), 3328 Power6 processor cores at 4.7 GHz, a total memory capacity of more than 15 TB, and almost 1,000 TB disk capacity.

The PRACE project has identified several prototype architectures, which will be assessed within the project. The Huygens system is one of these prototype architectures.

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