A computer program has beaten the world champion of one of civilisation’s oldest board games for the first time in history.

Lee Se-dol, a 33-year-old South Korean, resigned the first of five matches of the fiendishly complex strategy game against the AlphaGo program, which is built by the Google-owned British company DeepMind.

The game, which lasted a brief 3.5 hours, was officially declared as a win for AlphaGo in Seoul today. Commentators called it a “superb” game that would be studied for years to come.

The breakthrough is seen as a watershed moment for artificial intelligence, a milestone potentially more significant than IBM defeating the world champion Gary Kasparov at chess in 1997. Go takes a lifetime to master and unlike chess, a computer cannot play by simply assessing all possible moves but must rely on something akin to intuition.

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