It all started with an idea I had many years ago.
I had just picked up a cheap-o glass chess set at my local arcade for the low low price of only 15,000 tickets. The novelty of playing with glass pieces quickly wore off, and I wondered how I could make it better. The thought of illuminating the set seemed very appealing, but there were so many different ways that could be done.
I could put alternating colored lights under the board following the checkerboard pattern. The light would shine up through the glass board and make the pieces glow. The problem with this design is that the pieces would change color with each move, and (since the difference between the two sides is not black / white but frosted / clear) this would make game play somewhat confusing.
I could put a small battery and light inside of each piece, so the two sides would each be different colors. This would probably be the simplest way to get glowing pieces; however, this design is not without its problems. The batteries would need to be replaced. Their lifespan could be extended if a small sensitive on/off switch, activated by the chess piece being in an upright position, were added. This would complicate the design though, and still only be a temporary solution, as the batteries would need to be replaced eventually. This design (with the switch) does have one more advantage. It gives the chess pieces two states, on and off. I liked the idea of the chess pieces being illuminated while they were in play (upright and on the board), and dark while they were out (dead and off the board).
The final design I chose (which will be explained in more depth in the next step), was to have each piece contain an LED that would be powered by a conductive board. The board is plugged into an outlet, so there is no need to worry about the power running out. While the pieces are on the board they are "live" and illuminated, and while off the board they are "dead" and dark.
I made a stop motion animation of game six between Kasparov and Deep Blue. The animation does not end with checkmate, because when Kasparov saw that he was going to be beaten by a computer, he threw a hissy fit and stormed off.
Step 1: How it works
A conductive chessboard is made from a sheet of copper. The sheet is wired to the positive lead from a power transformer. Insulated holes through the center of each square on the board allow magnets to pass through. The magnets connect and hold a negatively wired steel plate underneath to the negative leads from the LEDs.