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My 9 year old son has discovered Chess, after watching the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”.

We bought a chess set so we could play with some chess puzzles and strategies.. but we were a bit dismayed at the quality of the plastic pieces.  Anyway one thing led to another, and so I spent a couple days hacking up a web based Chess app.

The basics are there :

  • the board
  • piece movements
  • castling
  • loading puzzles in FEN format
  • chess move notation / SAN

Image

As time allows I’ll gradually add the remaining features, such as :

  • en-passant for pawns, pawn promotion
  • check-detection for kings
  • pgn game import/export
  • design & share chess board puzzle

One of the reasons I decided to bite the bullet and do this, was so I can write a few articles on developing a board game in Javascript for young programmers [ my son has been enjoying the programming environment and tutorials on khanacademy.org/cs ] and also Id like to be able to design my own puzzle games and share them, as a good way to help young people learn basic moves and strategy.

In other news, Ive been fighting stockfish chess AI.. and it wins every time, except on the lowest setting.   But its been fun to take up the game again, so I can play against my son and answer some of his questions/attacks.

Xeno is a small demo project done over the weekend.  Click matching alien heiroglyphs to dissappear them.  Basic gameplay in HTML5 was pretty quick to prototype.

You can view it using Safari or Chrome browsers.  For iPhone, open in Safari and save to Home Screen, then you click the icon to load [for some reason fails to load directly, but works fine launched from Home Screen ]

For the path checking.. at first I did an exhaustive depth first search of all empty squares, but this exploded combinatorially.. so I used memoizing to reduce the repeat subpaths.. and then added a heuristic to find straight paths if they exist.  I probably should have looked up a decent path finding algorithm.  Sometimes its good to do things the blunt way yourself, so that you understand the problem and can then enjoy the beauty of a more elegant approach.

Hope you like the pictographs.. did them myself :]

Backstory

Lost in the dense Cambodian jungle you see what looks like an outcropping of ancient ruins.  Could that plynth be the entrance of an alien spacecraft which has lain dormant for thousands of years?  You wipe away the dust showing an irregular pattern of grooves.. you accidentally spill some water on the  console.

You hear a hiss followed by a gentle deep hum, and the panel under your palm begins to glow.   You must quickly match the glyphs to enter the Xeno’ ship…