Chess is an age-old game that many cherish for its elegance, simplicity, and depth. In a time when technology is seeping into every aspect of life, the ChessUp board emerges, promising to elevate the game without losing its essence. But can it deliver?
I am relatively new to chess. My eight-year-old son has been playing chess since he was four, and he was the one who taught me how to play funnily enough. He beats me quite often, and the gap has widened because he gets chess lessons at school. I wanted something with some smarts to help me improve at chess and improve my son’s game too.
This isn’t just a review; it’s an exploration, a journey into the heart of what makes chess unique and whether the ChessUp board enhances or detracts from that experience. Let’s dive in.
It feels different from when you lay your hands on the ChessUp board. It’s hefty and solid, and even the rocker switch has satisfying tactile feedback when you turn it on and off. The pieces, the board, and everything feels premium and well-crafted.
But it’s not just about the look and feel. The touch-sensitive pieces and intuitive design make it more than a board; it becomes a responsive partner in the game. The ChessUp board’s physical aspect combines tradition and modernity, showcasing attention to detail without being overly flashy.
Before you play, you have to calibrate the board. It is a simple process of holding down a combination and waiting for it to flash to say it’s ready. Then, you place your pieces on the board in the appropriate positions, and a colour wave shoots through the board to let you know it’s ready.
Lighting the Way: Interactive Guidance
Imagine tapping a chess piece, and a spectrum of coloured lights guides your next move. Green lights show the best moves, blue indicates good ones, and red warns of potential danger. It’s an interactive experience that brings a new dynamic to the game. Chess is a mental game, so knowing where to move your pieces can mean win or lose.
The coloured guidance isn’t about making the game more accessible; it’s about making it richer. For new players, it’s a gentle nudge toward understanding; for seasoned players, it’s an additional layer of strategy. The ChessUp board takes a visual approach to an often abstract game and works wonderfully. Over time, the idea is you remember some of the combinations it has taught you, and you improve as a chess player.
In a way, the lighting system is a dialogue between the player and the game. It’s not intrusive; it’s engaging. It’s an addition that feels natural, not gimmicky, bridging the gap between instinct and intellect.
After playing a few games with guidance, muscle memory kicks in, and I think of good moves I wouldn’t have had before ChessUp. It has made me think differently, one of the biggest surprises.
Your Next Opponent: AI and Real Players
The ChessUp board isn’t just your local chess partner; it’s a gateway to the world. With integration with chess.com and Lichess, players can engage in real-time matches with opponents globally. It’s a connected experience that means two people don’t need to play in the same room.
But what if you’re in the mood for a solo game? The ChessUp board’s AI, powered by Stockfish, offers an intelligent and adaptive opponent. From beginner to expert levels, it tailors the game to your skill, providing a challenging yet rewarding experience. I was surprised the AI chess player was quite a challenge, even my son who is quite good at chess noticed how the higher levels of the AI play quite aggressively and smart.
The built-in lessons and guidance ensure that learning and growth are at the core of the ChessUp experience. It’s not just about playing; it’s about evolving, understanding, and mastering the game. It’s a chess mentor that fits right in your living room.
Mobility and Flexibility: Play Your Way
ChessUp isn’t confined to your study or living room. With a rechargeable battery, you can take it anywhere, playing a game in the park or during a trip. It’s unchained chess, allowing for a more flexible and spontaneous experience. A full charge seems to last a long time. We play every day and charge it about once a week.
But the flexibility isn’t just physical. The board offers adjustable assistance levels, creating an adaptable experience for players of varying skills. It’s like having a handicap in golf, ensuring that every game is engaging and competitive, regardless of the players’ proficiency.
These features give the ChessUp board a sense of adaptability rarely seen in traditional chess sets. It’s about the player’s comfort, about tailoring the game to suit individual needs and preferences. It’s chess, personalised.
Those Little Touches: Shortcuts and More
The ChessUp board is full of surprises. Hidden shortcuts for saving, drawing, or resigning a game are delightful additions that add a playful touch.
These shortcuts aren’t essential, but they’re a testament to the thoughtfulness that’s gone into designing the ChessUp board. Those small touches, those unexpected things, elevate a product from being merely functional to genuinely engaging.
I won’t go through each of the shortcuts, but if you look in the user guide and online, you’ll learn the board is more than just moving pieces on a chessboard.
Stockfish and Strategies: Learning Made Fun
Powered by Stockfish, known for its strategic depth and accuracy, the ChessUp board offers a fun and profound educational experience. It analyses gameplay and match levels and helps players understand their strengths and weaknesses.
This is a path to mastery for newbies, with lessons on openings, endgames, and everything in between. For veterans, it’s a tool for refining strategies and understanding nuances. It’s chess education without the dry textbooks or monotonous drills.
The ChessUp board transforms learning into an engaging process, making it interactive, intuitive, and fun. It’s not just about winning or losing; it’s about growing, exploring, and enjoying becoming a better player.
Conclusion: A New Spin on an Old Game
The ChessUp board doesn’t seek to redefine chess; it seeks to enrich it. It’s a thoughtful and meticulously designed product that respects the game’s integrity while introducing modern elements. The size of the board, quality of the pieces and features make ChessUp better than I expected.
It’s a board for those who love chess, for those who appreciate quality, and for those willing to explore new dimensions without losing sight of what makes chess enduringly beautiful.
Is the ChessUp board for everyone? Perhaps not. It’s certainly not the cheapest chess board you can buy. This set me back over AUD 500. But for those drawn to the blend of tradition and technology, those who seek a fresh and engaging experience, ChessUp may be a game-changer.