AsianScientist (Sep. 16, 2019) – Microsoft researchers have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that has taught itself the intricacies of Mahjong and can now match the skills of some of the world’s top players.
Mahjong—a complex board game of chance, bluff and strategy—was invented in China thousands of years ago and remains a passionate pastime for millions of Asians today, with many dedicated competitors playing online.
Computers have learned to play Chess and another ancient Chinese game, Go, amid much fanfare in the past. Now, scientists at Microsoft Research (MSR) Asia have developed technology to master yet another game.
The researchers, who named their system Super Phoenix, or Suphx for short, developed a series of AI algorithms to navigate the uncertain nature of Mahjong. With more work, these could potentially be applied in real situations where problems are often thrown up by unknown factors and random events. “For as long as researchers have studied AI, they have worked to build agents capable of accomplishing game missions,” said Dr. Hon Hsiao-Wuen, corporate vice president, Microsoft Asia Pacific R&D Group and MSR Asia. The MSR Asia team designed Suphx to self-learn Mahjong’s strategies, tactics and subtleties through the experience of playing against thousands of people on Tenhou, a Japan-based global online Mahjong competition platform with more than 300,000 members.
With constant machine learning, Suphx went from being a novice to an expert after more than 5,000 games over four months. It has now honed its own playing style and can balance attack and defense moves, strategically weigh short-term losses against long-term gains and make quick hand calculations and decisions with unclear information.
Suphx has become the first AI system to compete at Tenhou’s ‘10 th dan’ ranking—something that just 180 people have ever done. Only a handful of professionals now play at a higher level in a private room for human players only. “Mahjong is more complex than other board games, so playing becomes an art as well as a science,” said Hon. “Good Mahjong players rely on a combination of observation, intuition, strategy, calculation and chance that presents unique challenges for an AI system.”
Source: Microsoft Asia . Photo: Pixabay.
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