Computer beats pro shogi player for the first time ever

Shinichi Sato
Shinichi Sato, photo:

I expect not many of our readers are shogi (aka ‘Japanese chess’) players, but you might find it interesting to hear that over the weekend a computer program defeated an active professional shogi player for the first time ever.

According to a report from the The Asahi Shimbun, the program ‘Ponanza,’ developed by Issei Yamamoto, took down Shinichi Sato (a player of fourth dan rank) on Saturday. The software is said to be able to process 30 million scenarios per second.

Now, this is hardly a high-profile win like Deep Blue’s 1997 win over Kasparov. But it’s interesting to see shogi software make progress like this. Due to the fact that you can reuse captured pieces in shogi, the game has a far higher number of possible legal positions than the Western variety of chess, thus making it far more difficult for a computer to calculate possible moves.

This was the second game of a ‘human vs computer’ team match of five different professionals against five different programs. The next match will take place on April 6.