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Perhaps the highest-profile display of the technology’s potential came in 2016, when a system built by DeepMind, a London-based ai firm owned by Alphabet, Google’s corporate parent, beat one of the world’s best players at Go, an ancient Asian board game.

I am expecting the verb "beat" to be "beats" since "a system" is singular. Can anyone explain why it is "beat"?

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Because it's in the past.

"He beats me when he plays me" is present, but "He beat me in 2016 when he played me" is completely correct.

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