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A Chessboard for the Blind

      Sight isn't necessary to play chess.  Many sighted players strive to become proficient at playing without using their eyes.  Visually handicapped players don't have an option and, in fact, for the most part have been saddled with using equipment originally intended for sighted players, modified to make them usable for those who can't see.
     Usable doesn't mean optimal or even good.  Over the years some attempts to design equipment from  a blind player's point of view have been made with some interesting results, but nothing that seems to have caught on.  The reader can see some of the current and experimental equipment in an earlier article called Blind Ambition.

     There are several reasons I can imagine why the blind might still be using the same equipment designed a century ago :
               -The equipment currently in use is the best design so far.
               -New designs have proven to be to expensive or impractical
                to maunfacture for the size of the potential market.
               -The players are very indisposed to change.

For the most part designers tend to look for innovations that will appeal to the masses.  The number of visually handicapped chess players is rather tiny and improving their lot isn't something most people even think about.

 


Peter Schwarz

One product designer, Peter Schwarz, who goes by the handle ExileGerman, is trying to develop an innovative type of board/set for the blind by rethinking the problem and incorporating an imaginative solution.

 

The image above represents the pieces.

Clicking on the picture will take you to Mr. Schwarz's Chessboard-for-the-Blind blog

 

What I would like is for readers to at least visit his blog and those with ideas or thoughts to share them with him both for encouragement and as enrichment. Designing must be a difficult task, but without enough suitable feedback it must also be frustrating and even more challenging.  Mr. Schwarz's goal on this ill-trodden path is a worthy and needed one . . . a potential footprint in chess history.



Comments


  • 24 months ago

    EXILEGERMAN

    Hello

    Of course i will not give up that easy Smile

    here is the http://www.indiegogo.com/chessboard-for-the-blind?a=594893

    Link to the project funding site well its more like a presale 

    Thanks to all for helping sharing and all the comments.

    Peter

  • 24 months ago

    EXILEGERMAN

    Hello all

    here an sadly short update. Should i give up on this one?

    "Project declined

    Kickstarter Staff
    Friday May 4, 6:37pm EDT
    We have reviewed your appeal and determined that your project does not meet the Kickstarter Project Guidelines (www.kickstarter.com). This project can no longer be submitted to Kickstarter. You can, however, always submit a different project."

  • 24 months ago

    ClavierCavalier

    Flat, equally sized pieces could be nice so they can cover the whole board with their hands and be sure they don't miss anything.  I'm starting to think that regular symbols for the pieces might be better than creating new ones.

  • 2 years ago

    merchco

    Maybe just the bishops need bumps thinking about it to denote dark and light squared pieces as they are constant where the knights and rooks interchange. As they are for the blind i presume colour of pieces makes no difference 

  • 2 years ago

    clms_chess

    Hey Batgirl! I played in a tournament in which I was paired with a blind player that used a special board and pieces.

    http://www.chess.com/forum/view/general/played-a-blind-player-at-the-southern

    It was a very cool experience... and it was an honor to play Henry.

  • 2 years ago

    batgirl

    Thanks wormrose.  I'm glad to learn the need for a board for the blind turned out to be unnecessary.  Chess boards for the blind traditionally have been attempts to modify regular boards for their use. I tend to think that we're stuck in a paradigm and totally innovative designs are needed.  Your description reinforces my own feelings in this.

  • 2 years ago

    wormrose

    I have this one and it's worth mentioning that in the picture the pieces are set up wrong.

    I bought it when my grand-niece was born because the Doctors thought she might become blind during early childhood due to defects in her eyes. Fortunately she is doing much better than expected.

    A nice design but not well executed. It is not very well made. The wood is cheap and poorly assembled so that the sliding covers over the storage compartments are difficult to open and close so that even a sighted person could easily upset the board trying to close the covers which could send the pieces flying all over the place.

    The pieces are pegged and they come out of the holes much easier than they go back in even though they fit loosely. The pegs protrude through the bottom of the board so if you're not careful where you set the board the pieces can be easily pushed out from an object below.

    The light squares are recessed and can be distinguished from the dark squares but I think a texture would be a big improvement. The white pieces have a little thorn on top and are easy to distinguish. But like so many regular chess sets; the Bishops "feel" like big pawns.

    It is also bulky and it's hard for me to find a convenient place to put it when not in use. In general I would say it's better suited for sighted people than for the blind.

  • 2 years ago

    ymbr

    I think all the pieces should differentiate themselves from another but remain similar.  For example, let us say the white pieces are sandy while the black pieces are slippery.  As for the pieces, their texture should stay true to their color but carry a second texture so you end up with say a chalky rook that is slippery.  As for going through the positioning, I think it necessary that they first can visualize the set up in the begining and are great with algebraic notation.  Then it would seem to me if they are truly motivated to learn the system without seeing it, they practice and use certain neurological/psychological techniques to expand their memory, probably something involving words to pictures. 

  • 2 years ago

    EXILEGERMAN

    Hello

    Thanks all for comments, advise and critique. Smile

    @mem55 I updated some pictures and turned on the comment function on the blog.

    best regards

    Peter

  • 2 years ago

    nem55

    @exilegerman:

    I see that now, yes.  What of the board though... are the squares patterened as well?  That doesn't show currently.

    the flat, retracted pieces really is rather clever though.  Perhaps make the pieces/squares magnetic as well to help hold them in place if the board as a whole is moved and/or tipped over?  At the least it would make it easier to keep track of pieces between games or when carrying the set around.

  • 2 years ago

    DENVERHIGH

    This style of chessboard that is currently used by blind persons.

    The white square are recessed in, the black are raised and all have a hole at the center. One style all chess pieces have a peg on the bottom to be inserted into each square. They are standard pieces modified.

    The pegs keep the pieces in place will not fall over when a blind player feel the board before their move.

    Another style the white pieces have bumps on top to differentiate against the black pieces. On the board, black spaces are slightly raised over their counterparts so players can easily recognize playing fields. The pieces are low silhouette to keep from being knocked over. These are more stable.

    Another style in use:


  • 2 years ago

    DrFrank124c

    A design like this would be good for a portable chess set even for a sighted person. The small size regular chess sets are too small to play with, the regulation chess sets have roll up boards that don't fit into a small bag and what if you want to play on the beach, soft roll up boards are not stiff enough. Market this set as good for use by sighted people as a portable set as well as for use by visually handicapped. With the advent of the internet people are more and more getting used to flat sets so this set might just be the thing for use by us all. 

  • 2 years ago

    merchco

    Can anyone tell me if its possible to get rid of this new toolbar at the bottom of the page 

  • 2 years ago

    merchco

    Exile german looks like a real good board but probably best to talk with some blind chess players for some real insight as to if it is good for them.

    It might be a good idea to put a little bump on the black or white bishops knights and rooks(sorry left or right makes no difference) like the little bumps on the number 5 on calculators and phones just to make it easier to distinguish between

    That also leads to another thought, maybe the game could be thought differently if the blind person can not see colour maybe left and right might be easier to explain it would need some thinking.

  • 2 years ago

    jpr1

    beautiful!  very intelligent solution to the problem.

    I tried to post on his site, but couldn't understand the german enough to know exactly why it wouldn't let me post :-)  

    Is there any way we can convey these posts to exilegerman?

  • 2 years ago

    rick1234573

    Love it

  • 2 years ago

    Vivinski

    I think the design is excellent. Very well thought out. I'm curious as to what the size of the board will be, I think it should be small but not too small.

    Unlike what people mentioned, It's my opinion that the differentiation of the black and white squares is not that important. After all, there is no real technical reason for the different colors.

    I have shared this and will see if I can make a small funding.

  • 2 years ago

    batgirl

    "I guess nem55 already said that."


    ClavierCavalier, that's fine.  That several people (including the designer) have the same thought is a sort of validation.

  • 2 years ago

    ClavierCavalier

    OOps, I guess nem55 already said that.

  • 2 years ago

    ClavierCavalier

    What about for they have smooth pieces and squares for white and rough ones for black?

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