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Blockchain technology

Go grandmaster Lee Se-dol's win over AlphaGo released as NFT

By May 11, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Go grandmaster Lee Se-dol is the only human to beat AlphaGo.
Go grandmaster Lee Se-dol is the only human to beat AlphaGo.

South Korea’s Go grandmaster Lee Se-dol has released a non-fungible token (NFT) based on his legendary winning match against AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence program developed by Google's DeepMind Technologies, according to 22nd Century Media Co. on May. 11.

On Tuesday, an NFT of Lee's victory against AlphaGo was put up for auction on the NFT marketplace, OpenSea. Deployed on the Ethereum network, the NFT symbolizes Lee’s fourth Go match against AlphaGo.

Go is a complex strategic board game that is said to have originated in China some 3,000 years ago. Two players compete against each other using white and black stones. The goal is to surround the opponent’s stones to seize territory. The player that conquers the most territory wins the game.

Lee secured his first victory against AlphaGo after a total of 180 moves in a match held in Seoul on Mar. 13, 2016. Out of the 74 official matches played by AlphaGo, this was the first time for a human player to beat the AI program.

Lee defeated AlphaGo with his 78th move, after which AlphaGo blundered repeatedly until finally resigning on Move 180. Since then, Move 78 has been dubbed a “divine move” in the Go community.

Lee's NFT is unique because instead of simply containing hash functions that signify the ownership of the artwork, the token is a digital recreation of his game against AlphaGo. The metadata contains an alphanumeric sequence that maps the entire game -- thereby allowing the owner to relive the game which is immortalized on the blockchain.

Lee Se-dol's win over AlphaGo is up for auction on NFT marketplace OpenSea.
Lee Se-dol's win over AlphaGo is up for auction on NFT marketplace OpenSea.

The NFT’s video file displays a Go board where black and white stones are laid out in the order prescribed by the alphanumeric sequence, including Lee’s Move 78. The game concludes with AlphaGo’s resignation, followed by Lee’s signature.

Lee’s NFT is being released in partnership with 22nd Century Media, the publisher of domestic blockchain media outlet CoinDesk Korea.

Regarding the NFT, Lee said he was fascinated by the concept of sharing a digital memorialization of something on a blockchain.

“The NFT symbolizes not only my game with AlphaGo but my entire 25-year career as a professional Go player. It would make me happy if people acknowledged the NFT as having its own artistic value," said Lee.

Non-fungible tokens (NFT) are unique digital assets that cannot be reproduced, altered or counterfeited as they are deployed on a decentralized blockchain. NFTs are often used to represent real-life value such as artworks, real estate and contracts.

Recently, the blockchain industry has been swept with an NFT boom, grabbing the attention of both investors and artists.

Beeple's NFT: EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, 2021. (Courtesy of Christies.com)
Beeple's NFT: EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, 2021. (Courtesy of Christies.com)

Burnt Banksy NFT (Courtesy of OpenSea)
Burnt Banksy NFT (Courtesy of OpenSea)

NFT artworks of Banksy and Beeple have been sold at an astronomical price -- around $400,000 and $69 million, respectively. Also earlier in March, Tesla founder Elon Musk's girlfriend and musician Grimes sold near $6 million worth of NFTs in less than 30 minutes.

“NFT skeptics often deride non-fungible tokens as ‘digital receipts’ of artworks. They say NFTs can’t become the art itself,” said Yoo Shin-jae, the chief executive of 22nd Media.

“But Lee Sedol’s NFT is its own work of art, a digital artwork that depicts his fourth game against AlphaGo. In that respect, it’s an important experiment that opens up new possibilities for NFTs and their value potential," Yoo said.

The auction for Lee’s NFT is set to conclude on May. 18 at 10 a.m. KST. 


Write to Chang-jae Yoo at yoocool@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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