June 10th, 2021—
Chess is an excellent game to play with friends, but what if you don’t have any to compete against nearby? This is what prompted maker Carlos Pendas to create an automatic chessboard that’s not only able to record which pieces got moved, but even move the pieces itself. This means you can play a game of physical chess with someone thousands of miles away.
To begin, Pendas started out by designing and milling his own chess pieces with a special cutout underneath to hold both a weight and a magnet. The magnet is vital here as it’s what gets detected by the array of 500 Hall effect sensors underneath the board and moved by the articulating arm. After a player makes their move, an Arduino Nano reads which Hall sensors were activated and in what order to determine the piece moved. This data is then relayed to a Nano 33 IoT that communicates with a Lichess server to send movement and general game commands.
Once the remote player makes their move, a command is sent to an ESP32 that controls a robotic arm with an electromagnet placed on the end. It precisely maneuvers each piece to avoid collisions and keep the board looking tidy.
You can read more about how the automatic chessboard was built on Pendas’ Hackaday.io project page.