There is a worldwide shortage of the board game Go after Google DeepMind showcased it to 280 million people

Lee Sedol & Demis HassabisGoogle DeepMindGoogle DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis (left) and Go world champion Lee Sedol (right).

Supplies of the ancient Chinese board game Go are running low after Google DeepMind shone a spotlight on the game in a five-game tournament that pitted man against machine.

Go Game Guru, a website dedicated to promoting and selling the game of Go, said there is a worldwide shortage of Go equipment after the recent match between DeepMind’s AlphaGo AI and Go world champion Lee Sedol, which AlphaGo won 4-1.

“This is … a very intense time for us … because we’re receiving many more orders for equipment and books than we usually do, as well as a high volume of questions about Go from new players,” wrote David Ormerod, who edits the Go Game Guru website. “We’re replying to thousands of emails every week and shipping out hundreds of orders.

“We started out with a large amount of stock on hand at the beginning of March (at least by typical standards for the Go market), but a lot of it has been sold at this stage and some products have been removed from our catalogue after completely selling out.”

Go is a two-player, turn-based strategy game. Each player puts down either black or white stones in an attempt to outmaneuver and surround the other player. It’s easy to pick up but takes years to master.

The game is simple but it has been notoriously difficult for computers to master because of the sheer number of potential moves. While AI programs began being able to beat humans at chess decades ago, the best Go players in the world have always been able to outsmart Go-playing software — until last month.

Ormerod said Go Game Guru has restocked some supplies already but he explained that the factories are struggling to keep up with demand. “The factories that make the equipment we sell are facing an even heavier surge in demand, because AlphaGo has caused an even larger ‘Go boom’ in Asia,” he wrote. “Given that they are struggling to keep up with domestic demand, it’s extremely difficult for them to satisfy the export market.”

Ormerod, who stressed at the end of his post that it wasn’t an April Fools’ Day joke, warned that some products may not be available for the foreseeable future.

Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis tweeted a link to Ormerod’s article, saying it was “so cool to see the surge in the popularity of Go. Google CEO Sundar Pichai retweeted Hassabis.

Earlier this month Hassabis wrote on his Twitter profile that 280 million people watched AlphaGo vs. Sedol on YouTube. He also said 10 times as many Go boards had been sold off the back of the match.

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