A company called Chess Vision has an inexpensive new app that could eventually become the standard by which games and tournaments are broadcast
Early in Game 5 of the World Chess Championship in New York City, Magnus Carlsen, the reigning champion, forgot to write down one of his moves. Later on during the game, he realized his mistake and became very annoyed with himself.
The episode was a reminder that the practice of writing down the moves, which is required by the rules of chess, is rather anachronistic in the 21st century. Indeed, Carlsen only became aware of his error because he saw on the Digital Game Technology (DGT) board and clock that are being used in the World Championship that he had made his 40th move when he had only written down 39.
While DGT technology is able to keep track of moves and broadcast them over the Internet, it is only commonly used in elite events because it is not easy to set up and it is expensive.
Now a new Israeli company called Chess Vision is proposing a solution that will make tracking and broadcasting games not only simple but inexpensive.
Using a downloadable app, Chess Vision turns a standard smartphone into a digital game recorder. The smartphone sits on a small stand over any chess board and takes photographs of the board continuously. It then uses a proprietary algorithm to translate those images into portable game notation (PGN) files that can be easily transmitted or stored in a virtual cloud. Unlike DGT, it does not require a special board or chess set.
Tzachi Slav, the chief executive and co-founder of Chess Vision, said that the idea was not just to offer an alternative to DGT technology (and perhaps to ultimately replace it) but to open up chess broadcasting to everyone. “Any chess player should have the ability to record his games, share it with his close ones, with his trainer, with his friends and put it online,” Slav said.
Slav said that making it simpler to record and broadcast games would help chess players improve. “If you can measure it, you can improve it. This is my motto,” said Slav.
The app is a subscription service and costs $4.99 a month. The arm to hold the smartphone costs about $30 and will soon be available on the Chess Vision site (ChessVI.com).
Chess Vision was used during an Association of Chess Professionals tournament last year in Spain.
Though Chess Vision already works on smartphones, it is still being developed and there are still some kinks to work out. It has problems when recording blitz games because the players’ hands move so fast that they tend to obscure the board. Slav, who has tested it in tournaments, says that it works fine for games that use rapid time controls (25 minutes per player per game) or slower.
He said that he hopes to get it to work equally well for all time controls, but needs to find investors to finish the programming. He and his father, Moshe, who is the chairman of the company (and was past president of the Israeli Chess Association) have already invested about $600,000 of their own money developing the product, but need about an additional $1 million to finish development and for marketing. Slav said that he hoped to roll out the service worldwide in 2017.
Chess Vision being used to record a game in Washington Square Park in New York City.
He said that he thought that the potential worldwide market for the app was large — the approximately ten million school children who play chess and an additional five million “professional” players. “What I mean by professional players is players who play with ratings, they play in tournaments, they play at least once a week, they pay to be in their countries ratings lists,” Slav said.
“If you need to write down your game with a pen and a paper and games are not recorded because you have time pressure, or whatever, you cannot learn from your game,” said Slav. Chess Vision “will help you learn from your games. As a performance tool, this will be must for every player.”
Dylan Loeb McClain is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He was a staff editor for The New York Times for 18 years and wrote the paper’s chess column from 2006 to 2014. He is now editor-in-chief of WorldChess.com. He is a FIDE master as well.