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So if you are like me, you like playing chess both on a real chessboard in the real world (3D) and on the computer (most 2D).

If you have followed my posts recently you might recall that I have been playing with my eBoard, the Millennium ChessGenius Exclusive. This has been fun when I don't have someone to play against and when I want to work on my over-the-board skills.

Before I purchased my eBoard, I fiddled with different ways to play an engine using a real chessboard. I used my phone, my laptop, or my iPad. I would make my move on the real board and then input it into the engine, then wait for the engine's move and make it on the board.

This was a royal pain! Inevitably, in almost 100% of games, I would move something wrong and then end up with a discrepancy somewhere on the board. And the game would be ruined at that point.

So the other day, it got me thinking... With all the technology today, why don't we have more apps and such that allow us to play against a computer using our voice commands and a regular chessboard? So I did some research.

And lo and behold, there is a way to do this. But I admit... It isn't perfect.

I imagine there are other ways to do this (if you know of one, please share it), but I did find one decent way to do it. If you happen to have access to Alexa, there are a number of chess skills you can turn on. And a few of these allow you to play a game against the computer with you and Alexa both announcing your moves.

The one I played with the most is the skill called Chessboard produced by Verto-Lab. I did a couple of games this way, and it worked. One nice feature of this particular skill is that you can ask Alexa "what is my game ID?" and she will give you a code you can plug in at the Verto-Lab website and you can see your board updated in real-time like this:

So in sum, you can set up your favorite, real-world chessboard and then have your cell phone connected to the Verto-Lab page with your game ID so that you can constantly monitor the status of the board, in case there is a discrepancy.

It worked. I managed to play two games this way. I won one of the games and the other was a draw. It does let you set the level and will modify your difficulty level based on your wins, which is nice. I felt like it timed out a little too fast if you were still thinking and I don't know if this can be adjusted. But as soon as I said "Alexa" again, I could make my move without any problem and the game would continue.

It even let me walk away for several minutes and resume the game later.

Have you tried this? Are you familiar with any other ways to play against a computer using a regular chessboard? If so, please share your experiences in the comment section!

So if you caught my last two posts about chess eboards, I recently purchased the Millennium ChessGenius Exclusive ($599). I found it lacking in just a few areas, so I decided to do a few "upgrades" to it.

To recap, I added my own notation using vinyl lettering:

Unimpressed with the stock computer it comes with, I then purchased the Chesslink module ($99) that allowed me to connect my eBoard to other chess engines. I personally chose the HIARCS software ($49, $99; depending on the package you purchase).

You also may recall that I found the provided wooded chess pieces a little... wanting? I stated that I felt like the pieces are what would come with a $30 wooden chess set from your local pharmacy; not what I would expect to come with a $599 chess eBoard.

So after doing some research and watching some YouTube videos, I found that replacing the pieces was pretty simple. It was just a matter of removing the felt on the old piece using a hobby knife, and then transplanting the felt to the new piece:

Once that was done, the eBoard was able to detect the piece without any problems.

I looked at some different chess set options and opted for The Grandmaster Chess Set in Ebonized Boxwood by The House of Staunton ($109) with a 3.25" King.

Here is a side by side comparison of the old pieces (shorter) and the new pieces (taller):

The height and (especially) the weight of the new set is fantastic and was well worth the money.

So here it is, the final board in all of its glory!

So I now beg the question: Does choosing a new, more luxurious chess set and painstakingly transferring all of the sensors over make me a chess snob? My wife votes yes. happy.png

What do you think?

  • Glenn Julich

Image © Copyright Netflix. Utilized under fair usage copyright laws.


Add my name to the growing list of patzers recommending Netflix's recent limited series, The Queen's Gambit.

The Netflix series is based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis published in 1983. It is a powerful story told in only 243 pages and is available in both printed and audiobook format.

(Quick note for fellow audiobook lovers: If you purchase the audiobook online, be careful; there at least 5 other audiobooks of the same title by other authors so be sure you get Tevis' book!)

Chess productions are commonly criticized, perhaps rightfully so, for rehashing a familiar plot over and over: a misfit kid has a talent for chess and the game changes his life.

Okay, I admit... we have that plot again. But isn't that the common plot for most movies? Misfit kid learns to play baseball... misfit kid finds a magic ring from Mordor... misfit kid finds a lightsaber and... I digress.

I'm fine with authors using familiar plot devices, as long as they add enough originality to the work and interesting characters to make their story unique. Thankfully this Netflix series accomplishes just that.

The story takes place during the time of the Cold War, around the time that Bobby Fischer would have been competing. One could argue that the story is a "what if" story; as in, what if Bobby Fischer had been female (Bobbie Fischer?).

Image © Copyright Netflix. Utilized under fair usage copyright laws.

I personally dig period pieces, and Netflix nailed the 50s and 60s here. The scenery is spectacular and some of the cinematography is astounding; with my personal favorite being when she is imagining the chessboard in her head.

(Note: As a patzer, when I try to imagine a chessboard in my head, it is usually missing a few squares and some of the pieces are actually from Monopoly... I know some of you feel my pain.)

I think perhaps the best description of the series comes from the New York Times journalist Alexis Soloski who described this show as "the thinking woman's Rocky." This is a spot-on analogy.

Are chess enthusiasts going to enjoy it? Absolutely. Both Garry Kasparov and Bruce Pandolfini were advisers on the production. They taught the actors how to move the pieces and how to hit their clocks appropriately. They even made sure that all the games they are playing are real games; unlike some movies that use footage out-of-sequence so the board looks completely different when the camera angle changes.

In sum, I was hooked on this series. It is definitely worth a binge-watch.

It is only seven episodes, so this is all where are going to get. Supposedly.

The show's creator, Scott Frank, has confirmed there will be no second season. But there are plenty of other limited series releases that were based on novels that ultimately succumbed to the demand to produce additional works beyond the original work.

So time will tell... but I'm not holding my breath.

If you have had a chance to watch it, please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Here's the trailer:

Drop Me a Line, Let Me Know What You Think

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