Play Chess Against A Ghost

While chess had long been a domain where humans were superior to computers, the balance has shifted quite substantially in the computers’ favor. But the one thing that humans still have control over is the pieces themselves. That is, until now. A group has built a robot that both uses a challenging chess engine, and can move its own pieces.

The robot, from creators [Tim], [Alex S], and [Alex A], is able to manipulate pieces on a game board using a robotic arm under the table with an electromagnet. It is controlled with a Raspberry Pi, which also runs an instance of the Stockfish chess engine to play the game of chess itself. One of the obvious hurdles was how to keep the robot from crashing pieces into one another, which was solved by using small pieces on a large board, and always moving the pieces on the edges of the squares.

This is a pretty interesting project, especially considering it was built using a shoestring budget. And, if you aren’t familiar with Stockfish, it is one of the most powerful chess engines and also happens to be free and open-source. We’ve seen it used in some other chess boards before, although those couldn’t move their own pieces.

17 thoughts on “Play Chess Against A Ghost

  1. Would be cool if instead of placing the opponents piece from the screen, it ran a quick sub-routine that scanned the board for changes before the “ghost’s” turn. Like scan each line with the electromagnet deactivated, using it as a sensor for where the piece induces a current from the magnets below to create a map. Then compare to the previous scan to see which piece was moved.

    1. Phantom chess is not a new concept but it’s great seeing more and more DIY implementations.

      What’s fascinating to me is: Computer chess boards from the 1980’s are still very tough. And as most chess boards from the era are stand alone they are still perfectly playable.

  2. This remembers me “El ajedrecista”, created by Leonardo Torres Quevedo at 1912. Its logic was built entirely with relays, and, of course, was quite simple: it played only “king against king and rook”, but for the time it was impressive. It also had a gramophone that said “jaque mate” (check mate) when the machine won, and detected illegal moves.

    Unfortunately, as usual in Spain, he had very little recognition in its own country :'(

  3. “A group has built a robot that both uses a challenging chess engine, and can move its own pieces.”

    So now Hackaday considers robots to be ghosts? Who is your target audience these days since it’s clearly no longer technically-minded people.

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