You’re a (chess) wizard, Bethanie

By recreating the iconic Wizard’s Chess set from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (sorry America, it’s Philosopher, not Sorcerer), 18-year-old Jambassador Bethanie Fentiman has become my new hero.

wizard's chess

Ron, you don’t suppose this is going to be like… ‘real’ wizard’s chess, do you?

Inspired by an idea she’d had last year, Bethanie decided to recreate the chess board from the book/movie as part of her A-Level coursework (putting everything I ever created at school to utter shame), utilising the knowledge and support of her fellow Jammers from the Kent Raspberry Jam community.

After searching through the internet for inspiration, she stumbled upon an Instructables guide for building an Arduino-powered chess robot, which gave her a basis on which to build her system of stepper motors, drawer runners, gears, magnets, and so on.

Wizard's Chess

Harry Potter and the ‘it’s almost complete’ Wizard’s Chess board

The next issue she faced in her quest for ultimate wizarding glory was to figure out how to actually play chess! Without any chess-playing know-how, Bethanie either needed to learn quickly or… cheat a bit. So she looked up the legal moves of each piece, coding them into the programme, allowing her to move on with the project without the need to monotonously learn the rules of the game. 

wizard's chess

Hermione would never approve.

There were a few snags along the way, mainly due to problems with measuring. But once assembled, everything was looking good.

Wizard's Chess

We’ve got our fingers crossed that Bethanie replaces the pieces in time with some battling replicas from the movie.

On a minimal budget, Bethanie procured her chess pieces from a local charity shop, managing to get the board itself laser-cut for free, thanks to her school’s technology department.

Now complete, the board has begun its own ‘Wizard Chess Tour’, visiting various Raspberry Jams across the country. Its first stop was in Harlow, and more recently, Bethanie has taken the board to the August Covent Garden Jam.

Wizard's Chess gif


You can find out more about the Wizard’s Chess board via the Kent Jams Twitter account and website. And if you’d like the board to visit your own Raspberry Jam event, send Bethanie word by owl and see what she says!



Ben O'Steen avatar

Great work! The clips on here show the pieces battling against friction a bit. Rubbing their bases in a little gliss powder (eg should help reduce friction and make for a more smooth slide.

Andrew Gale avatar

I’ve seen this in action at the Harlow Pi Club and it’s brilliant!

Len Samuelson avatar

Beautiful idea, looks like a good implementation too.

I wonder if Bethany&co have considered using a coil in the underlying movement mechanism (effectively making a solenoid)? Reversing it could blast^H^H^H^H^Hlift an opponent’s piece right off the board…

paulc avatar

hmmm how does it cope with knights jumping over other pieces on their way?

Michael Horne avatar

I’ve seen it do it. It squeezes the knight through the gaps between pieces.

Fester Bestertester avatar

I’d vote for the fellow portraying the wizard above as one of those at Unseen University in a video/movie of a Discworld (r)? scenario involving Hex the Thinking Engine. :) Perhaps Ponder Stibbons?

Fester Bestertester avatar

Further thought: I’m a fan of both – Raspberry Pi and Discworld. Anyone or team up for a project re-creating Hex? LED matrix HAT under the RAM skull? Stepper-motor to drive the scroll and robotic linkage-driven quill and inkwell for the printout? (+ + + Re-do from start + + +). Ant-hill (inside)? … :) Full of ideas, me – but sadly financially crippled.

Michael Horne avatar

This is one of those projects where the video doesn’t do it justice. It’s a wonderful project by Bethanie. Saw it in person at Harlow, so thanks for bringing it along!

Ken MacIver avatar

You know those giant chess pieces and boards you find at holiday resorts etc….. Robot Wars for genteel amongst us.

Just thinking out loud; but they would be awesome

Bethanie Fentiman avatar

I’m up for making that happen :)

Jack Chaney avatar

Did anyone have a chance to locate a copy of “Battle Chess” from back in the ’70s to get some inspiration?

Hans Lepoeter avatar
Bethanie Fentiman avatar

The website has been updated to so the links on the blog don’t work anymore

Comments are closed