Chess has long been considered the ultimate game of logic and strategy, but the game is so ubiquitous launching a new version of it may become a video game publisher’s biggest challenge. That’s when Ripstone Games, makers of Stick it to the Man, Ironcast and Pure Hold’em, came up with a brilliant move of its own. To mark the launch of Pure Chess Grandmaster Edition today on Steam and Xbox One, the publisher decided to pit the collective mind of the Twitch audience against chess grandmaster Simon Williams (pictured above) in the first livestreaming experiment of its kind.

In many ways, the match is similar to the 1999 “Kasparov versus the World” game, where famous grandmaster Garry Kasparov took on a collective of minds that made moves using a messaging board. Users would vote on moves, and those with the most votes were executed.

Michelle Turner, Ripstone Games head of marketing and PR

Michelle Turner, head of marketing and PR at Ripstone, told [a]listdaily about how Pure Chess challenged Twitch to a grandmaster game. She explained that Ripstone’s PR manager, Mike Rose, initially came up with the idea, given his experience with Twitch. They didn’t know about the Kasparov game at the time, so the similarities were coincidental. After playing a number of games against the Twitch community themselves, they felt that introducing a grandmaster into the mix would up the ante.

“Chess in itself is quite a straightforward game to talk about, most people know what chess is even if they don’t know how to play it,” said Turner. “With the launch of Pure Chess, we had to think of something interesting that would appeal to a broad audience, and that would also showcase the stunning visuals of the game. Twitch is a great place for that, and its users are really engaged.”

Turner also described how the voting system works. “We have a Twitch bot, which was developed by Alex Rose Games (brother of our PR manager, Mike), that pulls together all the moves suggested by the chat. The Twitch chat will suggest their moves, the move with the highest number of votes will be selected by our bot; we’ll then make that move on behalf of the chat.”

Chess grandmaster Simon Williams has worked with Ripstone in testing the artificial intelligence since Pure Chess released years ago for the PlayStation 3 and Vita. So, it was only natural for Ripstone to turn to him for this promotional experiment. “He was the first person we thought of when it came to finding a grandmaster for this challenge,” Turner said. “He regularly streams on Twitch and YouTube, so we knew he’d be comfortable interacting with the Twitch audience. Luckily, he was as excited about the idea as we were and thought it would be an interesting challenge.

“He’s watched a few of our previous streams where we occasionally play forfeit chess—some of the Ripstone team have ended up with pies in their faces or underwear on their head, and he was totally up for that too! But we thought we’d go for something a little more serious this time. He’s pretty confident he can beat the chat, and has even offered to play blindfolded if he’s finding it too easy.”

When asked how Ripstone expected the Twitch game to compare with Kasparov’s, given the vast changes in technology, Turner responded: “It certainly going to be much quicker—we aren’t expecting this match to take four months! After the event, Kasparov admitted that he’d been reading the messaging board where the World were discussing their strategy on, so he knew their game plan, which they weren’t aware of. We’re planning to avoid any cheating in this game.

However, what will be really exciting is that Simon will be able to see the chat in real-time, while the people watching and playing against him will be able to hear his thoughts on the moves he’s making and how he feels like the chat is doing. We’re hoping there’s going to be plenty of trash talk from both sides.”

Having already played a few matches against Twitch without the benefit of being a chess grandmaster, Turner describes the collective gameplay style. “There is a core group of people that always tune in. They aren’t necessarily experts at playing chess, but then neither are we. Their play style usually starts off messy, and then becomes a hive-mind when the chat realizes who is actually good at chess. With that, we do see that a lot of people will wait for one or two particular people to make a move, and the others will copy their suggestion. However, recently we’ve been getting more traction with new people joining who are really good at chess. The Twitch chat now openly talks about strategy, which we ignore so we can’t take advantage of the situation—but they’re becoming more confident against us, which is making our task harder to try and beat them.”

However, Ripstone’s skill at chess isn’t necessarily the challenge it needs to overcome. The real issue is that there are a tremendous number of chess games on the market, with a wide variety of challenge and graphics, for every platform. We asked Turner how Pure Chess Grandmaster Edition would stand out from the crowd.

The visuals in Pure Chess are absolutely beautiful—it’s definitely the best-looking chess I’ve ever seen,” Turner replied. “Aside from that, the game offers the complete package for any ability of chess player. It has comprehensive tutorials teaching basic and advanced chess techniques, an in-depth ELO ranking system for online play as well as 100 chess puzzles. People can play online against up to eight friends at any one time, set up an auto matchmaking game with the existing Pure Chess community of over 2.5 million players, or go head-to-head against the custom built AI; so they’ll always be able to play.

The Grandmaster Edition includes nine different chess sets, such as the traditional Staunton and Williams set as well as exclusive sets like Easter Island and Halloween—and 6 locations ranging from a luxury penthouse to a park.”

No matter how today’s match turns out, Williams is already excited for a rematch. “Simon already said he wants to do blindfolded chess against Twitch, the thought of which just blows my mind,” said Turner. “And the Ripstone team are up for some more forfeit chess on stream.”