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Buying an Electronic Chess Board: A Comprehensive Comparison

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Buying an Electronic Chess Board: A Comprehensive Comparison

Article by Paras Gudka.

Are you a chess fanatic looking to upgrade your chess skills? Or an enthusiast wishing to have someone to play against without the hassle of actually seeking out a worthy opponent? Or a fan just interested in looking at games played by famous chess masters from history? Maybe you’re playing a match against a rival and want your supporters across the globe to be able to follow it from their devices. All this is now possible on a physical board that you can touch and feel right in front of you. How? With an electronic version of the age-old chequered board.

What is an electronic chess board? Simply put, it is a chess board that can be connected to the internet to take the basic act of playing chess to the next level. Made of wood or plastic, an electronic chess board or e-board can be connected to the internet wirelessly through an app using Bluetooth technology or via a computer with a USB cable. It is usually powered by a rechargeable battery or a USB cable plugged directly into a power outlet or indirectly through a computer/other device.

With an e-board, you can play against an opponent sat in front of you, a friend on a different continent, or even a strong engine while the game is being broadcast live to the whole world. Such is the level of technological innovation of our times!

In this article we will look at and compare five specific e-boards: iChessOne, DGT Pegasus, Phantom, ChessUp, and Chessnut AIR. Four of these are crowdfunded projects (iChessOne, Phantom, ChessUp, and Chessnut AIR) at various stages of product fulfilment.

iChessOne

Marketed as the ‘world’s first foldable electronic chessboard’, the iChessOne is the most portable of the boards on this list. It also offers the most value for money.

Construction

Construction

Measuring 18.5 inches by 18.5 inches, the iChessOne e-board and chess pieces are handmade in Europe using beech, sycamore, and mahogany wood. Each square measures 2 in by 2 in and has a very subtle LED indicator hidden just under each individual square on two edges. All the electronic components are hidden away in the very impressive 1.1” thickness of the board (when opened up and lying flat). The colour scheme is the standard one for wooden boards with dark brown for dark squares and off-white/cream for light squares.

Like the board, the pieces have also been hand-carved out of wood and use the Staunton 5 design with a King height of 3.6 in. The pieces come in dark brown for Black and light brown for White, similar to the colours of the squares, and are finished with dark green felt under each piece’s base.

Inclusions

With its ingenious folding design, the iChessOne e-board is also the carrying case which has moulded spaces in black flock for 34 chess pieces (including 2 extra Queens), a mobile phone stand, a pen, and a USB charging cable within the hollow area formed when the board is folded. A scorebook has also been provided for those who want to record their games the traditional way. Dedicated iChessOne apps for Android and iOS can be downloaded from app stores and the iChessOne website.

Features, Technology, and Compatibility

Features, Technology, and Compatibility

When playing against an invisible opponent (such as a chess engine or a human player remotely through the app), diodes light up next to squares to show which piece is to be moved where.

The e-board connects to the user’s smartphone wirelessly through the iChessOne app using low power consumption Bluetooth technology. Integrations with the iChessOne app currently include Stockfish and Lichess.org.

The combination of LED movement indicators and RFID piece recognition makes it possible for two human players playing one-on-one to play bullet and blitz chess on this e-board.

A PGN (Portable Game Notation) file can be generated after the game has been completed for analysis on other chess programs.

The iChessOne board and pieces meet FIDE specifications and can be used in FIDE-rated tournaments (with the LED indicators turned off).

Specifications at a glance:

Country of origin: Poland

Board dimensions: 18.5” x 18.5” x 1.1”

Square size: 2” x 2”

Material: Wood

Pieces: 34 (2 extra queens)

Weight: 2.5 kg

Powered via: USB cable

Connectivity: Bluetooth + iChessOne app

Retail price: USD 379

DGT Pegasus

Marketed as the ‘first real chess board dedicated to online play’, the DGT Pegasus is the latest product from the DGT stable and one of the simplest from its range of electronic chess boards.

Construction

Measuring 13.7 inches by 13.7 inches, the DGT Pegasus e-board is made of plastic. Each square measures 1.57 in by 1.57 in. The colour scheme of this board is greyscale with the dark squares a darker shade of grey and the light squares a lighter shade of grey.

The pieces are also made of plastic but deviate in their design from the traditional Staunton one to a more minimalist and modern one for the Pegasus set. The King height is 2.75 in. Colours are quite literal with a dark black for Black and a stark white for White.

Inclusions

The DGT Pegasus e-board comes with 34 chess pieces (including 2 extra Queens), a drawstring bag for the pieces, a charging cable, a phone stand, a quick guide, and a technical data sheet. The DGT Chess app can be downloaded from app stores and their website.

Features, Technology, and Compatibility

When playing against an invisible opponent, pulsing LED circles light up within the squares to show which piece is to be moved where.

The e-board connects to the user’s smartphone wirelessly through the DGT Chess app using low power consumption Bluetooth technology. Integrations with the DGT Chess app currently include Lichess.org, Chess.com, Chess for Android, and White Pawn.

A PGN file can be generated after the game has been completed for analysis on other chess programs.

The DGT Pegasus board and pieces do not meet FIDE specifications and are unsuitable for use in FIDE-rated tournaments.

Specifications at a glance:

Country of origin: Netherlands

Board dimensions: 13.7” x 13.7” x 0.74”

Square size: 1.57” x 1.57”

Material: Plastic

Pieces: 34 (2 extra queens)

Weight: 1.36 kg

Powered via: USB cable

Connectivity: Bluetooth + DGT Chess app

Retail price: USD 295 to 417

Phantom

Marketed as ‘the most advanced chess board in the world’, the Phantom is an autonomous electronic chess board where pieces are capable of gliding across the board by themselves without human intervention.

Unlike the other e-boards in this article, the Phantom has faced considerable delays in its production cycle and continues to undergo changes from the product promised in its crowdfunding campaign. With a delay of over 12 months and counting, it remains to be seen if the finished product will ever reach the campaign’s initial backers.

Construction

Measuring 20.1 inches by 20.1 inches, the Phantom e-board will be made from a combination of materials. Each square will measure 2 in by 2 in. The colour scheme will be the standard brown as with most wooden boards on the market.

The pieces will be made of wood with a King height of 3.38 in. Piece colours will be the standard dark and light brown as with most wooden sets available in the market.

Inclusions

The Phantom e-board will come with 34 chess pieces (including 2 extra Queens). The Phantom app will be available for download from app stores and their website.

Features, Technology, and Compatibility

Features of the Phantom set will include autonomous and voice-activated piece movement on the board.

The e-board will connect to the user’s smartphone wirelessly through the Phantom app using low power consumption Bluetooth technology. Integrations with the Phantom app currently include Stockfish, Lichess.org, and Maia.

The Phantom board and pieces do not meet FIDE specifications and will be unsuitable for use in FIDE-rated tournaments.

Specifications at a glance:

Country of origin: USA

Board dimensions: 20.1” x 20.1” x 3.15”

Square size: 2” x 2”

Material: Wood

Pieces: 34 (2 extra queens)

Weight: 5.5 kg

Powered via: USB cable

Connectivity: Bluetooth

Retail price: USD 670

ChessUp

Marketed as ‘an incredible, connected chess board with a built-in chess instructor that lights up all possible moves according to strength’, the ChessUp is an electronic chess board reminiscent of chess computers of the 90s where the focus was on improving one’s skills by playing a progressively stronger level of the computer embedded within the board until there were none left to beat.

Construction

Measuring 17 inches by 14 inches, the ChessUp e-board is made of plastic with a wood grain playing surface that consists of touch-sensitive controls for adjusting strength levels and more. The chequered board itself measures 12 in by 12 in with each square measuring 1.5 in by 1.5 in.

The pieces are made of plastic too and are weighted. Colours are black for the Black pieces and white for the White pieces.

Inclusions

The basic version of the ChessUp e-board comes with 34 chess pieces (including 2 extra Queens). A velvet pouch for storing the pieces can be purchased separately. The ChessUp app can be downloaded from app stores and their website.

Features, Technology, and Compatibility

This electronic board’s main feature is the use of coloured LED indicators to mark all possible moves, better moves, mistakes and inaccuracies, and blunders using green, blue, and red colours depending on assistance level. There are five assistance levels in all and a ‘Learn’ button to understand why a move is better than others.

The e-board connects to the user’s smartphone wirelessly through the ChessUp app using low power consumption Bluetooth technology. Integrations with the ChessUp app currently include Stockfish and Lichess.

ChessUp can be used to play blitz games.

A PGN file can be generated after the game has been completed for analysis on other chess programs.

The ChessUp board and pieces do not meet FIDE specifications and are unsuitable for use in FIDE-rated tournaments.

Specifications at a glance:

Country of origin: USA

Board dimensions: 17” x 14” x 1”

Square size: 1.5” x 1.5”

Material: Plastic

Pieces: 34 (2 extra queens)

Weight: 0.9 kg

Powered via: USB cable

Connectivity: Bluetooth + dedicated app

Retail price: USD 389

Chessnut AIR

Marketed as ‘one of the most innovative but affordable digital chess set in the world’, the Chessnut AIR is the smallest and cheapest electronic chess board on this list.

Construction

Measuring 13 inches by 13 inches, the Chessnut e-board is made of a wooden frame. Each square measures 1.37 in by 1.37 in and has a tiny hole drilled in a corner for its LED indicator. The colour of the board is dark brown and cream.

The chess pieces are made of plastic and each one contains a sensor chip for quick piece recognition when paired with a chess program. King height is 2.67 in. The pieces come in dark brown and off-white colours for the two different armies.

Inclusions

Included in the box are the Chessnut e-board, 34 chess pieces with sensor chips (including 2 extra queens), a USB-C charging cable, and a quick start guide. A carrying bag for the board, a flannel bag for the pieces, and a mobile phone stand can be purchased separately. The Chessnut app can be downloaded from app stores and their website.

Features, Technology, and Compatibility

Against invisible opponents, LED indicators in the corner of each square light up to show the opponent’s move from the originating square to the destination square.

The e-board connects to the user’s computer or smartphone through dedicated Chessnut apps for Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS.

Chessnut can be used to play blitz and bullet games.

The current version of the Chessnut board and pieces do not meet FIDE specifications and are unsuitable for use in FIDE-rated tournaments.

Specifications at a glance:

Country of origin: China (Hong Kong)

Board dimensions: 13” x 13” x 0.7”

Square size: 1.37” x 1.37”

Material: Plastic and wood

Pieces: 34 (2 extra queens)

Weight: 1.45 kg

Powered via: USB cable

Connectivity: Bluetooth + Chessnut app

Retail price: USD 199

Conclusion

While every chess player will find at least one thing appealing about the five electronic chess boards we have seen in this article, the iChessOne stands out as a clear winner due to a combination of factors such as build quality, craftmanship, use of solid wood, portability, price, app integrations and functionality, ease of use, and FIDE compatibility.

Where products like DGT’s popular e-boards (not featured in this article) are large, heavy, expensive, and difficult to set up, the iChessOne offers a portable and light product at a much reasonable price without sacrificing on size or the luxurious feel of solid wood.

If you are someone who likes being able to carry your chess set wherever you go without it becoming cumbersome or inconvenient, and being able to play with someone who’s chess strength matches yours without the hassle of scheduling games with your friends, the iChessOne won’t disappoint.Electronic Chess Board