With many products, you have a choice between digital and analogue. You can get an analogue watch with a dial and moving hands, or you can get smart watch with a digital touchscreen. You can read a physical book made out of paper and cardboard, or you can read a digital copy on your e-reader or tablet. You can play the vinyl LP of your favorite band’s new album, or you stream it on your phone. Generally speaking, there are not a lot of gadgets that let you have it both ways. However, in a bit of cool news for chess enthusiasts, one gadget that does combine both digital and analogue is the Square Off Chess Set.
When it comes to chess, playing online obviously has a ton of advantages over playing on an analogue board. For starters, you’re selection of opponents is essentially unlimited. Thanks to computers and the Internet, you can find either a real, human opponent or an AI opponent literally any time you want, day or night. And, provided you have access to the web, you can play anywhere you want, whether you’re standing on a crowded bus or sitting in your own bathroom.
On the other hand, while playing chess online may be extraordinarily convenient, it does come at a cost. As anyone who grew up playing the game on an old-fashioned chess board knows, there is simply nothing like the beauty and the feel of actual pieces.
That’s where the Square Off Chess Set comes in.
Square Off made a pretty big splash at CES 2019 back in January, and it’s not hard to understand why.
Designed by Mumbai-based consumer electronics company Infivention, the Square Off Chess Set looks like a regular chess set, with handcrafted wooden pieces and a beautiful two-toned finish. However, unlike a regular chess set, the Square Off board features fully-automated movements, which means your opponent’s pieces move all by themselves.
Who are your opponents? Well, that’s the best part.
With Square Off, you can play the advanced AI, which features 20 difficulty levels ranging from beginner to grand master. Or, if you want a human opponent, you can connect the Square Off to your smartphone or tablet, and from there you can play any of the 24 million human players on Chess.com using the Chess.com mobile app.
When you use the Square Off Chess Set with the Chess.com app, the board basically acts as an analogue input/output device, and it works whether or not the player on the other end has their own Square Off Chess Set. When you move a piece, it either shows up on their phone, or the corresponding piece moves on their Square Off Chess Set. When they move a piece, whether on their phone or their Square Off Chess Set, the corresponding piece moves on your Square Off board. In this way, you can literally play anybody—from a total stranger on the other side of the world, to your granddad on the other side of town—and their movements show up right before your eyes.
The Square Off is currently available in the 19×19 inch “Kingdom Set” edition, or in the slightly wider “Grand Kingdom Set” edition. As you would expect, given the tech involved, neither of them is cheap. However, if you’re a serious chess player, and you want the tactile and aesthetic experience of a traditional board with the convenience online play, the Square Off Chess Set is worth every single penny.
Futurism fans: To create this content, a non-editorial team worked with an affiliate partner. We may collect a small commission on items purchased through this page. This post does not necessarily reflect the views or the endorsement of the Futurism.com editorial staff.