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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
Having been designed in the 1980s, UltraChess is far from up-to-date as far as the chess software world is concerned. By using the OpenMSX emulator to run the game, [flok] was able to implement scripts to read and write the gamestate in UltraChess, and make it compatible with the Universal Chess Interface. This would allow UltraChess to be played off against a variety of other chess engines to determine its approximate ELO rating.
When programming for modern platforms, the restraints are different to those of 30 years ago. Back in the dawn of the microcomputer age, storage and RAM were measured in kilobytes. It simply wasn’t possible to store large amounts of graphical data, and even code had to be pared back at times. [reeabgo] found out some of these limitations first hand, when coding a tiny chess program for the Sinclair ZX81.
[reeabgo]’s project goes by the name ChesSkelet, and is truly tiny. Measuring in at just 377 bytes in its smallest version, the entire program takes up less space than this very article describing it. To achieve these feat requires certain sacrifices, of course. The tiniest edition contains no graphics whatsoever, representing the game state with simple characters and featuring no adornments whatsoever. The full-fat version comes in at 477 bytes and adds quite a lot of functionality. There’s a proper checkerboard, along with move legality checks and pawn promotion.
Unfortunately, advanced chess play isn’t quite possible – castling is not implemented, and the AI doesn’t yet handle check situations properly. Despite this, it’s a solid approximation of the real game, all packed into an impressively small space.