SparkChess

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Software

SparkChess is a commercial chess program with single-player and multiplayer capabilities and learning features, including chess lessons. Originally intended to be played online, it was ported on a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android.

History

The first version of the program was called flashCHESS, written in ActionScript 1. It was released in 2002, intended as a technology demo for Macromedia.[1] A slightly improved version was released in the next year, with a 3D isometric view. Because of the limitations of the programming language, the game was very slow and did not implement all the chess rules.

Development was resumed in 2007 and the game was rewritten from scratch. The new version, entitled flashCHESS 3, was released in 2008. The new engine was much faster and implemented all chess rules correctly.

Citing complaints from Adobe Systems, owner of the "Flash" software brand, the game was later rebranded as SparkChess.[2]

In 2009, SparkChess was featured in a technology demo by Google for Chrome OS.[3]

In 2010, SparkChess was ported to iPad and Android tablets.[4]

In 2011, version 5 added online multiplayer support and HD graphics.

In 2016, the game was rewritten in JavaScript and subsequently, in 2017 introduced a WebGL-based board view.

Features

SparkChess is a single-player and multiplayer chess program. It includes the chess engine and the graphical interface. The board can be represented in 3D and in 2D (diagram mode). The game progress is saved automatically after each move and additionally it offers a limited number of "save slots". Games can also be imported and exported as PGN.

The game also has a PGN player that shows comments, annotations and Recursive Annotated Variations. The game can import an entire PGN database at once. There is also a board editor with the ability to import and export board configurations in FEN format.

SparkChess has some tutoring facilities, including a "Help me move" option that suggests the best move the player can do and visual hints, an option that highlights player's pieces under attack, squares controlled by the opponent and other hints aimed at beginners. The board analysis explains the current board in plain English based on criteria such as material, positioning, mobility, pawn structure and king safety. There are also over 20 interactive chess lessons explaining the basic rules, tactics and strategies.

The online multiplayer mode is built upon Union Platform,[5] a multiplayer server written in Java. There's no automatic matchmaking; the users can enter different "play areas" depending on their skill level and challenge other players. Players' scores are Elo-based but slightly tweaked to encourage players to play even with low-rated ones, with the downside of being more prone to inflation. Users can also watch live games. In a December 2011 interview[6] the author states 420,000 weekly users for SparkChess.

Platforms

SparkChess runs in any modern browser. It also runs as a standalone application on Windows and Mac OS X. More recently it has been ported on mobile devices, including iPhone and iPad.

Engine characteristics

SparkChess uses alpha-beta pruning with principal variation, iterative deepening and aspiration window. It also uses quiescence search, history heuristics and transposition tables and optimizations such as Null-move pruning and razoring. It has an opening database with about 15000 moves.[7] Because of programming environment limitations, it does not use bitboard tables or end-game tables.

The game is aimed at beginners and it's designed to be beatable even on the highest difficulty level.

See also

References

External links