AI World Cup is a Fully Simulated Football Tournament Powered by Neural Networks!

Pranav Dar 07 May, 2019 • 2 min read


  • The second edition of the ‘AI World Cup’ was held in Korea last week with 24 teams from 12 countries participating
  • The winning team used an algorithm based on Q-Learning, a reinforcement learning technique
  • The team simulated three million different steps to design their final winning algorithm



24 teams. 12 countries. 1 trophy. This was the 2nd edition of the ‘AI World Cup’, a tournament that combines the power of artificial intelligence and football. And it was as intriguing as it sounds!

The tournament was hosted by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist) last week and saw participation from around the globe. The hosts, Kaist, ran out winners in the end, seeing off competition from the big giants like Google and MIT (according to this report).

Below is a high-level overview of how the tournament was structured:

  • Each team had 5 players
  • Each player was cube shaped and had been programmed with algorithms
  • Each half was of five minutes

This was reinforcement learning and neural networks being put to the team on a virtual football field, and it passed the intense examination with flying colors. According to the winning team’s leader, they used an algorithm based on Q-Learning. It was designed to maximize rewards if the ‘agent’ (in this case the virtual player) took the right action, and correct itself if it did not.  If you want to learn more about reinforcement learning and and how to implement it, check out this beginner-friendly article.

In their particular algorithm, the player could take five steps in a second. The team simulated three million different steps to get the ‘agent’ to understand the environment and optimize the final results. The tournament even had journalists and commentators powered by AI!

Intrigued? Now watch the below video from last year’s event to understand how the virtual players were trained using neural networks. The video contains different cases which further illustrate how crucial these algorithms are to clinching the ‘AI World Cup’:


Our take on this

This is quite an entertaining use of AI, wouldn’t you agree? Not even single breakthrough or development has to be groundbreaking, it’s refreshing to see the light side of AI once in a while. Being a huge advocate from AI and ML in sports, it was a joy covering this world cup event here.

However, it adds to the belief that researchers are not quite able to find a practical use of reinforcement learning algorithms outside a simulation environment. We seem to still be quite a while away from that scenario. Watch this space for more!


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Pranav Dar 07 May 2019

Senior Editor at Analytics Vidhya.Data visualization practitioner who loves reading and delving deeper into the data science and machine learning arts. Always looking for new ways to improve processes using ML and AI.

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Responses From Readers


Pranov Shobhan Mishra
Pranov Shobhan Mishra 28 Aug, 2018

Great work. The video was gripping and intriguing. Would love to see more progress in the field

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