Friday 27 April 2007

Live Game Broadcasts

Despite the advances in technology, broadcasting live chess games over the net is still a tricky undertaking.
For example this years Doeberl Cup was ready to broadcast the top 6 games live, until we discovered that the venue didn't have net access. The Sydney International Open had bigger difficulties, as despite having net access, they struggled to even get 1 game going.
However it isn't impossible to do, as both the 2006-07 Australian Open, and the 2007 Australian Junior were able to broadcast multiple games live to the net.
Based on my experience at the Australian Open you probably need the following things to make it happen.
  1. Equipment that you know physically works (DGT Boards, power supplies)
  2. The right set of connectors and cables
  3. The correct computer equipment and software for net broadcasting
  4. People with the right technical smarts to trouble shoot problems as they arise.
Both at the Australian Open and Junior, there were various problems with the equipment on Day's 0 & 1, but we were able to isolate the problems and find solutions. This is a function of point 4 on the list, something that organisers can overlook from time to time. Indeed in the case of the Sydney International Open, it appears Nicholas Chernih was a big help in this area, especially as the first couple of attempts at getting the boards working came to naught.

However, when talking to Brian Jones after the event, he also criticized the "old" DGT technology. The reliance on serial connectors rather than USB plugs made the task of setting up more difficult. Now DGT do produce a USB version of their board, but it is still quite expensive to buy.

But there may be a cheaper alternative. While looking at the Closetgrandmaster blog I saw a story on USB chess boards. The link to the post is here. Visiting the actual website I was surprised to find the cost of the USB chess board is only $45(US), which is amazingly cheap. What I couldn't find were the technical specifications for the device, including board and piece size. Nonetheless it does look promising, both in terms of price, and possibly hackability.

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