Square Off is robotic chess with Harry Potter-like magic at CES 2019 - CNET

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Square Off bring the benefits of online chess play to an actual chessboard with wooden figures.Infivention

The most surprising revelation when I interviewed GZA from Wu-Tang Clan last year was that his favorite game was chess.

"It's the best board game ever. Monopoly doesn't compare, and checkers is not in its league," said GZA aka The Genius. "It's a game of life."

After years away from chess, GZA's words inspired me to play online. But my virtual obsession felt a bit off. The convenience of playing chess on my phone came at the cost of using a screen as the board. I missed the feel of an actual chessboard and picking up pieces.

With the help of robotics, magnets and AI, the Indian company Infivention made Square Off, a physical chessboard designed to be played online. From what I've seen, it is nothing short of magical.

At first glance Square Off looks exactly like any other chessboard albeit a bit thick. That thickness houses rechargeable batteries, a processor, Bluetooth and robotic arms with magnets -- all of which give the board its special sauce.

You press a button on the side to start a game. When you move a piece, you tap it once on its current square and tap it again on the square you're moving it to. An audio beep confirms your move.

Pieces move automatically by themselves.Infivention

Now here's where things get magical. When your online opponent moves a piece on their board, the move is mirrored by pieces gliding across on your board all on their own. There is a quality seeing a wooden knight glide across the board all by itself.

Square Off connects to your phone via Bluetooth. You can play with anyone who has the Square Off app or, what seems more appealing, with someone else who has their own Square Off board.

You can even play against the board itself, which has 20 different levels of competition. If you want to develop more as a player, you can review moves from previous games via the app.

But an analog online chess set doesn't come cheap. The Square Off costs $369 which converts roughly £290 or AU$515 for the Kingdom set and $445 which converts roughly £350 or AU$625 for the larger rectangular Grand Kingdom set. I'll let the sticker shock sink in.

However, if you are a serious chess player and want the benefits of both online play and a physical board, it's worth a look. After all, it is a game of life.See Square Off Chess Set on Amazon

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