Automated Chess Board Plays You

If you’ve ever played chess or even checkers, you’ve probably thought about making a board that lets a computer play you without having to enter your moves and look at the board on a screen. [Greg06] not only thought about it, but he built it.

The board looks great and uses foamboard which makes it easy to reproduce. Each piece has a small magnet within and an electromagnet on an XY motion system can selectively pick up and move pieces. In addition, a reed switch under each square can tell if a square is occupied or not.

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Internet Chess On A Real Chessboard

The Internet teaches us that we can accept stand-ins for the real world. We have an avatar that looks like us. We have virtual mailboxes to read messages out of make-believe envelopes. If you want to play chess, you can play with anyone in the world, but on a virtual board. Or, you can use [karayaman’s] software to play virtual games on real boards.

The Python program uses a webcam. You point it at an empty board and calibrate. After that, the program will track your moves on the real board in the online world. You can see a video of a test game below.

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Automatic Chessboard Lets Online Players Move The Pieces

Playing chess online is all well and good, and opens up a whole world of competitors that would otherwise be unavailable in one’s local area. But there’s something to be said for playing over the board, which comes up often enough for many players that they refer to it with the acronym OTB. [Carlos] built an automatic chessboard by the name of Phantom, intending to bridge the disparate worlds of chess, from cyberspace to meatspace.

The Phantom board in action.

The basic idea is a chessboard that a player can use in the typical way, moving the pieces on the board as normal. The opposing pieces are then moved automatically to reflect an opposing player’s moves as received from an online chess server.

The board outwardly appears normal, with little to suggest anything is amiss. Only the metallic gleam at the base of each piece gives the game away. Pieces are moved by a SCARA arm hidden inside the board, which uses a magnet to drag them around from position to position. It’s quite something to watch the pieces glide around as if by magic, even more so when one is dragged off the board in a combat situation.

As for the control system, an Arduino Nano 33 IoT handles online connectivity to fetch game data from the Lichess chess server, while an ESP32 is responsible for all the motors, and a regular Arduino Nano scans a matrix of Hall effect sensors responsible for locating pieces on the board.

The system allows for seamless play, detecting when pieces are moved by the player via the Hall effect sensors, and reporting back to the chess server online. Similarly, when the game state is updated, the SCARA arm steps in to move the relevant pieces reflecting the moves of the distant player.

It’s a fun project, and one that will surely light up the many chessheads in the Hackaday community. We’ve seen other automated chess builds before too, like Trap Chess, in which pieces can suddenly fall from the board at any time. Video after the break.

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Print Chess Pieces, Then Defeat The Chess-Playing Printer

Chess is undoubtedly a game of the mind. Sadly, some of the nuances are lost when you play on a computer screen. When a game is tactile, it carries a different gravity. Look at a poker player shuffling chips, and you’ll see that when a physical object is on the line, you play for keeps. [Matou], who is no stranger to 3D printing, wanted that tactility, but he didn’t stop at 3D printed pieces. He made parts to transform his Creality Ender 3 Pro into a chess-playing robot.

To convert his printer, [Matou] designed a kit that fits over the print head to turn a hotend into a cool gripper. The extruder motor now pulls a string to close the claw, which is a darn clever way to repurpose the mechanism. A webcam watches the action, while machine vision determines what the player is doing, then queries a chess AI, and sends the next move to OctoPrint on a connected RasPi. If two people had similar setups, it should be no trouble to play tactile chess from opposite ends of the globe.

Physical chess pieces and computers have mixed for a while and probably claimed equal time for design and gameplay. There are a couple of approaches to automating movement from lifting like [Matou], or you can keep them in contact with the board and move them from below.

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Voice Chess Uses Phone, Arduino, And An Electromagnet

[Diyguypt] may be an altruist to provide the means for people who can’t manipulate chess pieces to play the game. Or he may just have his hands too busy with food and drink to play. Either way, his voice command chessboard appears to work, although it has a lot of moving parts both figuratively and literally. You can check out the video below to see how it works.

The speech part is handled by an Android phone and uses Google’s voice services, so if you don’t want Google listening to your latest opening gambit, you’ll want to pass this one up. The phone uses an app that talks to the Arduino via Bluetooth, which means the Arduino needs a Bluetooth module.

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A Colorful Way To Play Chess On An ATmega328

We’ve all seen those chess computers that consist out of a physical playing field, and a built-in computer that would indicate where you should put its pieces while inputting the position of your pieces in some way. These systems are usually found in a dusty cardboard box in a back room’s closet, as playing like this is fairly cumbersome, and a lot depends on the built-in chess computer.

This take by [andrei.erdei] on this decades-old concept involves an ATmega328p-based Arduino Pro Mini board, a nice wooden frame, and 4 WS2812-based 65×65 mm RGB 8×8 LED matrices, as well as some TTP223 touch sensors that allow one to control the on-board cursor. This is the sole form of input: using the UP and RIGHT buttons to select the piece to move, confirm with OK, then move to the new position. The chess program will then calculate its next position and indicate it on the LED matrix.

Using physical chess pieces isn’t required either: each 4×4 grid uses a special pattern that indicates the piece that occupies it.  This makes it highly portable, but perhaps not as fun as using physical pieces. It also kills the sheer joy of building up that collection of enemy pieces when you’ve hit that winning streak. You can look at the embedded gameplay video after the break and judge for yourself.

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Trap Chess Keeps Players On Their Toes

Chess is a game that originated so long ago, we don’t have concrete information as to its origins. Rules have changed throughout history, and many continue to study and experiment with the game. [Yann Guidon] has a neighbour, [Bob], who is just one such enthusiast, and together, they built a working Trap Chess game.

What is trap chess, you may ask? It’s a variant of chess where pieces randomly fall into traps at the change of turns. This is easy to simulate in a digital game, but that wasn’t enough for [Bob]. Enlisting [Yann] for his electrical skills, the duo built a board with ten trapdoors built in. Whenever the timer is hit, there’s a chance a trapdoor can open, removing a piece from the game.

The build relies on a PIC16F818, an 8-bit microcontroller from Microchip. This helps interface between the timer and servos and generally runs the whole show. The board is built into a table, and we’re impressed by the fit and finish of the final product. From a distance, it’s difficult to notice anything is awry, and it would make a great prank when playing with an unsuspecting mark. Just make sure there’s no money on the table first.

We’ve seen other impressive chess hacks before — like this board that can move the pieces for you. Video after the break. Continue reading “Trap Chess Keeps Players On Their Toes”