With one day left before a five-round match of the classic Asian boardgame Go kicks off in Seoul, South Korea's Lee Sedol on Tuesday voiced his respect for the rival he is about to face: a Google artificial intelligence programme.
"I'll do my best to win 5-0, but people make mistakes," said Lee. The 33-year-old professional Go player is due to square off against Google's AlphaGo software on Wednesday for a prize of 1 million dollars.
"If I make mistakes, I could lose," Lee admitted.
The rules of the boardgame Go, which originates in China, are easy in principle: Two players try to conquer spaces with white and black stones on the board, which is divided by vertical and horizontal lines into a grid.
Lee, who is considered one of the top three Go players in the world, declared with confidence two weeks ago that he would be able to beat the AlphaGo programme without a defeat.
Now, after learning more about the software from its programmers, the 12-year Go professional with 18 international tournament victories was more cautious.
"I think AlphaGo can imitate human intuition," Lee said.
The competition against Lee will be the ultimate challenge for AlphaGo, developed by Google's DeepMind AI branch to forecast the most probable moves of its human opponent and adjust itself accordingly.
The goal of the match against Lee is to show just how flexible and powerful algorithms can be, DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis said in Seoul.
"It will be a testimony to human ingenuity," Hassabis said.
In October, the programme won a five-game match against Fan Hui, a top European player who is nevertheless considered below the playing level of Lee.
The five games between Lee and AlphaGo will be played from March 9 to 15 in Seoul and will be streamed on YouTube.