Chess Reimagined

(11/5/2019)
I recently took a bye from the TNM to be involved with a chess exhibition as part of a benefit art show at The Power Station in Dallas. There was an article on USChess.org about it: https://new.uschess.org/news/chess-moves-homeless-children/

This is a short video from the event:

Chess Re-Imagined from Zura Javakhadze on Vimeo.

IM (GM Elect) Zura Javakhadze played a series of rapid, team, and blindfold games with members of the audience. Scot Gresham-Lancaster used his software to "sonify" (convert to sound) the moves and board positions, while Sharath Chandra converted the position evaluation to sound. I wrote code to interface the DGT board and Stockfish to Scot's system over the network (using OpenSoundControl over UDP (glavin)). My software also used the board data to draw live computer-generated visuals of the position, suggested moves, and attacks.

The attempt to sonify the moves so they could be understood by the blindfolded player was largely a success, but occasionally Zura needed to ask the referee to verify which piece made a move. The overall goal, to create a fun chess experience, was a great success. The venue being an art gallery reception, the audience could be a bit noisy, but was quieted to a hush during the dramatic blindfold games, allowing Zura to better hear the move sonification.

Below are the games Javakhadze played without sight of the board against randomly selected sighted opponents. A human referee made moves on the board for Javakhadze, who sat nearby wearing a blindfold.

[Event "Chess Reimagined (blindfold exhibition)"]
[Site "Dallas"]
[Date "2019.10.05"]
[White "Javakhadze, Zura"]
[Black "NN"]
[Result "1-0"]
1. e4 Nc6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bc4 d5 6. exd5 Nb4 
7. Ne5 Nfxd5 8. Nxd5 Nxd5 9. Nxf7 Kxf7 10. Qf3+ Bf6 
11. Bxd5+ e6 12. Bb3 Qxd4 13. O-O Qb6 14. Bg5 h6 15. Qxf6+ Kg8 
16. Qd8+ Kh7 17. Qe7+ Kg8 18. Bf6 Qd6 19.Qg7# 1-0

[Event "Chess Reimagined (blindfold exhibition)"]
[Site "Dallas"]
[Date "2019.10.05"]
[White "Javakhadze, Zura"]
[Black "NN"]
[Result "1-0"]
1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. Bc4 g6 5. d4 d6 6. O-O Bg4 
7. Bxf4 Bxf3 8. Rxf3 Qd7 9. Bxf7+ Qxf7 10. Bxd6 Qc4 
11. Rxf8+ Kd7 12. Rxa8 Kxd6 13. Nc3 Nxd4 14. Nb5+ Qxb5 
15. Qxd4+ Kc6 16. Rd1 Nf6 17. Qxf6+ Kc5 18. Rd5+ Kb4 
19. Qc3+ Ka4 20. Qa3# 1-0

To make it easier for chess fans in the audience to follow the moves,I also set up a webpage with the live game and posted some QR-codes pointing to it, but only one person accessed it during the event. (You can still visit it now ( http://www.vjlove.com/~tebo/chess/ ) to see all the games played; click on the row of dots near the bottom to see a list of games, mouse-over the board to see other controls.)

Although this kind of multisensory avalanche might be anathema to many chess players during a game, it may serve to help popularize the game, or provide entertainment during matches. The sonification of chess moves and positional evaluations should be useful for learning, adaptive interfaces, and in other tabletop games. (For more information about Scot and Sharath's work on sound at UT Dallas, check https://atec.utdallas.edu/content/data-stethoscope/ )

On a personal note, I was a bit reluctant to visit Texas, after growing up near it and forming the typical prejudices. But, I found the people in Dallas to be friendly and relaxed, and met some really great people. Perhaps most importantly, I felt I returned with a deeper understanding of chess (although subsequent tournament results make me doubt it.) Special thanks to Alden Pinnell and Greg Ruppe of The Power Station.