Garry Kasparov Lost at Chess to an A.I. Can He Get Revenge Against a Video Game?

Blizzard puts him to the test playing Hearthstone

The 1997 chess match between Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue was both a great ad for IBM and a humbling experience for the Russian grandmaster—the first defeat of a reigning world chess champion by a computer.

Kasparov, now 58, prepares to play a new A.I. opponent, though, in a campaign for Hearthstone, a digital card game from Activision's Blizzard Entertainment that's known as a cerebral challenge for players.

Will he get his revenge? Hearthstone made the six-minute documentary below about the showdown. It's from the agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP) and was directed by Lance Oppenheim, the 25-year-old filmmaker who earned raves for Some Kind of Heaven, his documentary about The Villages retirement community in Florida.

Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov Takes on Hearthstone

It's a fun way of trying to broaden the game's appeal to potential new players. And the plot twist in the middle, while sinking the original premise, does make the piece warmer than it would have been—and probably saved Garry from some déjà vu nightmares down the line.

"I still remember Deep Blue vs. Kasparov back in 1997," Activision CMO Fernando Machado tells Muse. "That was such an iconic moment in time. So when BSSP brought us the idea of bringing Kasparov to learn and play Hearthstone against an A.I., we felt we had something powerful to play with. Hearthstone is a very cerebral game. It's easy to learn but hard to master. Kasparov also loved the idea and was all-in. He really invested in learning the game. In fact, he is still playing today and climbing the ranks of the game." 

"Kasparov's battle against the A.I. was iconic," says Sinan Dagli, BSSP's executive creative director. "We wanted to make sure we told the tales of the match in 1997 and set the scene for Garry's new challenge in Hearthstone. The documentary approach gave us the freedom to show Kasparov's incredible journey of learning Hearthstone and going up against A.I. once again."

Oppenheim has also been a big Kasparov fan ever since seeing the documentary Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine. "I first watched it when I was 10 years old, and its hyper-stylized, paranoid thriller elements—made up from the stuff of everyday life—really stuck with me and went on to influence my work as a director," he says. "Kasparov is the perfect documentary subject. One of the greatest strategic thinkers alive, he's a natural fit for Hearthstone—a game that, much like chess, requires a deep amount of strategy, preparation and mental acuity. Being involved in this project, and getting to work with a legend and one of my personal heroes, was a dream come true."

CREDITS

BSSP
Sinan Dagli – Executive Creative Director
Ed Patterson – Creative Director
Jeff Hornung – Creative Director
Justin Hargraves – Creative Director
Will Sands – Associate Creative Director
Robison Mattei – Associate Creative Director
AJ Marino – Account Director
Gustavo Feria – Account Executive
Shelby Deffterios – Creative Project Manager
Chrissy Wamsher – Senior Producer
Tess Rockers – Senior Producer
Liz Corsini – Head of Production

Blizzard Marketing Team
Fernando Machado – Chief Marketing Officer
Pelle Sjoenell – Chief Creative Officer
Walter Kong – Executive Producer
Todd Harvey – Head of Marketing
Matt Small – VP, Global Consumer & Digital Marketing
Marcella Ziccarelli – Consumer Marketing Manager
Rachel van Essen – Associate Consumer Marketing Manager
Shelina Kurwa – Associate Counsel
Lara Tran – Senior Producer
Meaghan de Wolf – Associate Marketing Manager
Melissa Smith – Brand Manager
Ajay Ravi – Senior Marketing Manager
Josh Kerwin – Senior Director, Publishing
Scott Conway – Senior Brand Manager
Andrew Reynolds – Senior Director, Corporate Communications
Fabio Lo Zito – Public Relations Manager
Cristiano Alburitel – Global Director, Consumer Marketing

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. He is the former creative editor of Adweek.

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