Electronic chessboard Chessnut Air tested
The Chessnut Air allows games against online opponents and chess programs. Thanks to its great piece recognition and broad software support, the former Kickstarter project is putting the established competition under pressure.
By Hartmut Gieselmann
Electronic chess boards are coming in fashion: They connect with one Smartphone or computer and allow games on well-known online servers. Alternatively, you can play offline against chess engines or a human opponent. The boards indicate the moves with LEDs. You draw your own pieces as well as those of your opponent and can concentrate fully on the game without looking at a screen.
In  we had already tested 15 chess apps with the electronic chess boards DGT Pegasus and Millennium eONE. Various teething problems came to light: the boards sometimes twitched with the Bluetooth connection, did not recognize individual moves correctly or blinked like a Christmas tree
Enter Lyon Li, Michael Zhou and Kyle Wong: the three Chinese developers started a Kickstarter campaign for the Chessnut Air in the middle of last year, which is supposed to do many things better than the competition. It is now also available in Germany for 210 euros. Our test purchase from the manufacturer's website arrived after a few days. There were no additional costs for shipping or customs.
With a field size of 35 mm and a king height of 68 mm, the Chessnut Air is a little smaller than the DGT Pegasus. Unlike the Millennium Air and its thin figures, however, games of two are
possible without any problems. The board records all chess games in its internal memory in the PGN format. The frame and underside of the board are made of wood, the playing surface and figures are made of plastic. They are well made and easy to hold.
The board easily connected to mobile devices with Android and iOS as well as Macs via Bluetooth LE or USB-C. Under Windows, the connection only worked via USB-C, which also charges the internal battery. According to the manufacturer, it should last ten hours. In the test we did not reach its limits. Even after a two-week break in play, no discharge occurred.
Using electromagnetic resonance (EMR), the board recognizes not only the position, but also the type of pieces reliably and quickly. Inside the figures there is small electronics that Chessnut also offers as an installation kit for other figures. In contrast to the DGT Pegasus and Millennium eOne, you can easily set up positions on the Chessnut Air and transfer them to a chess app. This also makes it easier, for example, to play games based on the Chess960 rules with a different basic formation.
You move the pieces quite naturally across the board and don't have to pay any attention to the order in which you capture them. A small LED in the corner of each square shows your moves and those of your opponent. Sometimes you have to move your head a bit if a piece blocks the view of the LEDs.
Chessnut offers a free app for iOS in the App Store for the board, as well as for Android, Windows and macOS as a download on its website. It loads games stored on the board in PGN format, allows offline games against the Stockfish 13 chess engine and online Play on Lichess.org and Chess.com. With the
latter, the Chessnut Air not only supportsgames against online opponents, but canalso be used as the first board against computers and for analyses. Thankstothe error-free move recognition, therewere no problems on either Lichess.orgor Chess.com.
Alternatively, a number of other chessapps now also play together withtheChessnut Air. This worked very well withthe free White Pawn (Android/iOS) andChess PGN Master (Android). Thedeveloper Graham O'Neill also offersfree drivers for the Windows programsFritz, Chessbase, Arena, Shredder andLucasChess R on goneill.co.nz. Contrary to O'Neill's description, onlyaconnection via USB-C worked for us, but not over Bluetooth LE.
Whether online or offline, against engines or people: Thanks to thefast, error-free piece and move recognitionand the broad app support, the comparatively inexpensive Chessnut Air is much more sophisticated and morecomfortable than the MillenniumeONEor DGT Pegasus. A big tournament version should follow in 2023. (email@example.com)
Literature  Wilhelm Drehling, Hartmut Gieselmann: Schachmit Blinker, Online-Schach mit digitalen Brettern, c’t 15/2022, S.
|Electronic Chess Board
|Chessnut Technology, chessnutech.com
|USB-C, Bluetooth LE
|Android, iOSab 11.1,Windows (x64), macOS
|Size of the board
|33 cm 33 cm1,8 cm