Overtom's weblog

RUBBER CHESS BOARD  (30 august 2007)

As you may have gathered from earlier weblogs, I am a sucker for gadgets. So when I heard about a rubber chessboard that you can plug into the USB port of your computer, it's hardly surprising that I fell for it like the carrier pigeon that was given a brick to deliver.

The chessboard cost less than twenty euros, which is not such a huge sum in an affluent country like the Netherlands. Consequently, not even my family would have to suffer from my personal defects.

The game was to come all the way from Hong Kong, so a certain degree of patience had to be exercised. But this morning the postman brought me a parcel that could have contained a fairly sized dictionary, but when lifted felt somewhat lighter.

After unwrapping the parcel I found a CDROM, a set of plastic chessmen and a rubber mat with an oblong plastic box connected to a cable ending in a USB plug.

Putting the chessmen on the rubber mat was a tricky affair: the mat had been folded up in the box and when it was spread out on the table, it was not exactly flat. After I had depressed it for an hour or so with a few heavy books, it was less difficult to put the (too light) chessmen on the board.

Before the game could, however, be used, I first had to install the software. This included downloading a package of bloatware called .NET Framework, but I had no choice; the board wouldn't work without it.

But the software could be installed easily, and it didn't take very long before I could connect the mat to the USB port and could set eyes on the program screen.

I tried to play a game, but the chessmen proved to stand quite unsteadily on the rubber board, which was still not completely flat. In the end, I found it better to get the chessmen off the board and use a finger to press on the squares. After all, I could see the position of the chessmen on the screen.

There are not many chess programs that do not allow you to take back moves. Well, this software was one of those unhappy few.

After playing one game I concluded the board might be considered a funny addition to the Overtom Chess Computer Museum, but for a serious game of chess it was rather useless. I'd rather play either on the computer screen or on a dedicated computer. This hybrid model did little more than combine the worst of two worlds.

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