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The chess world is hearing about Regium:

MOST AMAZING & REVOLUTIONARY CHESS E-BOARD

REGIUM is an Automatic Chess e-Board with the latest Technology. Play chess with REGIUM against Internet opponents is a stunning experience.
Full Connection. For home use, club use or tournament, Regium is the Perfect Chess e-Board.
Premium Quality. Made with Technique and Passion.

My description:

Regium (purportedly) adds electromagnets in an ordinary-looking tournament-sized board that moves the pieces automatically (smoothly, silently, and precisely). The board can be controlled via a computer and connected to Internet chess sites, so you can watch or play live games on a board, let the board quickly set up tactics puzzles, and automatically record in-progress games. The closest thing currently available is Square Off, which has been in development for years.

Among chess players, I don't think I'd be contradicted in saying that the chess board they describe would be amazing, and many chess players would be willing to pay $1000+ for it. People and chess clubs already spend a lot of DGT boards, which have less functionality (they don't automatically move pieces) and cost upwards of $500.

However, LiChess (and subsequently Chess.com, Chesshouse.com, and Chess24) has documented multiple suspicious activities. Gadgetify, RoboticGizmos, and iPhoneness articles appear to have been taken down. An interview with its creator (in Spanish) is at ChessCC.com.

The whole thing is a scam, the product doesn't exist, and the videos demonstrating it are fake.
LiChess founder, Thibault Duplessis

Regium's website announces a KickStarter campaign starting 25 February 2020 (in about a day), and is currently open suspended:

US$ 2,055 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 4 backers minutes later...
US$ 12,277 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 18 backers 12 minutes later...
US$ 20,738 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 33 backers 25 minutes later...
US$ 27,157 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 45 backers 16 minutes later...
US$ 33,567 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 53 backers the next day...

There's reports they reached the goal (e.g. JMac's comment) while I was asleep, but pledges are being cancelled. Currently:

US$ 46,012 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 73 backers the next day...
US$ 36,127 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 61 backers the next day...
US$ 31,053 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 56 backers the next day...
US$ 33,109 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 59 backers the next day...
US$ 33,787 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 60 backers the next day...
US$ 35,295 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 61 backers the next day...
US$ 33,111 pledged of US$ 50,000 goal 58 backers

While there are new claims that Regium will not meet the minimum target of $ 50,000, the Regium KickStarter is still open is now suspended:

Funding Suspended: Funding for this project was suspended by Kickstarter about 6 hours ago
KickStarter, ~2 March, 2020

Moreover, Regium have been advertising their product on chess.com and chess24.com (the advertisements have now been retracted), probably the two largest online chess sites, and in the recent New in Chess magazine (thanks to NM Brogdoth), so in about a day many people will likely Google the question...

Question: Is the "new automatic chess e-board" Regium a scam?

A new LiChess forum post lists 15 items as evidence that it's a scam.


Proof of concept: there are multiple prior crowdfunding schemes which have been described as "scams": Zen Blanket (KickStarter, IndieGoGo); BioRing (IndieGoGo); Like Bike (KickStarter, IndieGoGo); Aido Robot (IndieGoGo, StartEngine).

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    This might be interesting: lichess.org/blog/XlE48hEAACIAQv2F/… – Adrenaxus Feb 24 at 9:30
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    There is no real-world contact data. Not on their website (which is an administrative offense for commercial websites in my jurisdiction), not on Facebook, nowhere. They claim "© Regium Chess", but there is no proof the company even exists AFAICS... – DevSolar Feb 24 at 9:45
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    I don't get how anyone can claim it's a scam if they haven't even started the kickstarter yet. Kickstarter is meant to pay for the development of the product. Any videos are meant to show prototypes. – pipe Feb 24 at 19:46
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    Yikes, they've hit their goal already. – JMac Feb 25 at 17:25
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    Wow scratch that, looks like the cancellations actually overtook the funding and now it's back below the goal. That's good to see. – JMac Feb 26 at 12:57
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The claims made by the Regium Chess company seem to be accompanied by a product that clearly has used video editing tools to present the product. For example, the pieces that move on their own are clearly suffering from more video blurring than the pieces that are moved by human hands.

In addition, the US Chess federation pulled their ads due to fallout in an attempted "Regium hosted" event that led them to publish this article.

There are several suspicious tells that Regium is most likely a scam from the US Chess article:

  1. The Knight in one of the "automatic movement videos" shows the shadow of the Bishop behind it, after the bishop has moved to another square.
  2. Phil Wang, a spokesperson of "this person does not exist", a website where people's faces are randomly generated with a lot of Nvidia computing power, verified that 4 of the 6 members of the Regium "About us" team were pixel-to-pixel identical to faces on the "This person does not exist" website. Since then, the offending faces have been down scaled, making pixel to pixel comparison impossible; however, the internet archive shows the identical matches of prior versions of the images.
  3. Chess.com (considered a respectable source of chess information) has indicated that the persons promoting the board have not, when contacted directly, had much knowledge of their promotion.
  4. One of the persons listed on Regium's website as a developer has stated that he is not and has never been associated with the company.

But if you somehow believe that they are still possibly legit, their most bald faced lie is on their own website. Currently they mention a

Regium Classic e-Board

Nogal chess board. Boxwood pieces. Staunton pieces handmade

with the image

Note the image of Regium's handmade Staunton pieces

(someone might want to capture the image better before it gets updated.

Here's what handmade Staunton pieces look like

I've literally salivated over owning a handmade Staunton set for thirty years. The prices start in the $250 range for a cheap handmade set, and can crawl into the $800 range for a good quality used original Staunton set with appropriate box, paper tags, etc.

Here's what my $39.95 chess pieces (board included!) look like.

I've literally played nearly 20 years on this set of pieces. They are the cheapest wood pieces of decent appearance you'll find in nearly any travel set. That's why I couldn't believe the claim "hand carved" with the photo. I've owned three sets of these pieces, having lost one, over the last 30 years.

Compare carefully the designs of the knights, as the knights are the most prominent piece to show off hand carving (as the other pieces are turned on a lathe). Also pay attention to the wood quality. Other obvious "tells" are the cuts on the Bishop, and the Cross on the King.

On their own website, they lie about the pieces, which could have been fixed with $200 to $250 dollars.

If a company is willing to bend the truth about handmade Staunton pieces, when that is such a small thing compared to the incredible claims they are making elsewhere, odds are they're lying about the incredible claims too.

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    I think you could improve your answer by quoting from the Chess federation article you linked. The bit about them using images of generated faces on their About page makes them look very dodgy indeed. – Jerome Viveiros Feb 25 at 12:37
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    @JeromeViveiros Added in the highlights of the most important points made in the chess.com article. Hope it helps. – Edwin Buck Feb 25 at 15:18
  • "Phil Wang, a proponent of "this person does not exist"" Do you mean "spokesperson"? – Acccumulation Feb 27 at 21:28
  • @Acccumulation Yes, I probably could have picked a better word. I'll update the answer. – Edwin Buck Feb 29 at 3:30
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TL;DR: Independent evidence suggests the board does not (yet) exist; the makers themselves describe the hardware as "very advanced, between 65% and 70%". The company behind Regium has failed to refute claims that it's a scam, despite having a financial incentive to do so and despite companies and reporters reaching out. They have also engaged in multiple unprofessional and deceptive practices (e.g. fake employees).

The KickStarter has now been suspended:

Funding Suspended
Funding for this project was suspended by Kickstarter about 7 hours ago
KickStarter, ~2 March, 2020


I'll try to answer my own question. Let's begin with...

*** The chess board probably doesn't (yet) exist...

1. High-quality video manipulation

In one of the earlier YouTube videos, there's evidence that it was modified:

Analysis of the video shows signs of possible editing, leading to suspicion that this was in fact a video achieved by "stop motion" and then edited. Stop motion video is achieved by taking an individual photo, moving objects by hand, then taking the next frame of the video. As shown in the screenshot below, you can see the outline of the knight appears to change at different points in the video.
Regium: Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence, LiChess.org (emphasis mine) (see also Chess.com)

It is noteworthy that the evidence is subtle and easy to miss. This suggests that whoever is behind Regium is capable of high-quality video manipulation. There are multiple videos now (I haven't been able to keep track), and to my knowledge, manipulation has only been detected in the early ones. Regium responded:

We simply have no experience editing videos. Currently the hardware is very advanced, between 65% and 70%. But, this video has more than two months, at that time the prototype was less developed and every time we filmed, we had problems with the auto-center feature, sometimes it centered the next door piece or both at the same time. We did not want to show inopportune movements because it would have confused to the viewer and generated questions or wrong opinions.
REGIUM · Clarifications, YouTube (0:36) (emphasis mine) (A similar claim is made in REGIUM · FAQs · Automatic Chess e-Board around 4:00.)

The video above compares side-by-side the published video against the "original", and thereby acknowledges video editing.

These videos could be considered to be a high-tech mock up. However, the advertisements have consistently indicated that it exists. Indeed, the current video on KickStarter shows it being played live:

The Chess.com forum gives a screenshot of a Facebook conversation:

The video is real. The video shows our prototype, which is very advanced in hardware and not so much in software. The Kickstarter campaign is mainly for software development and serial e-Boards production.
Angel Delgado

In response:

The boards shown in promotional videos are manufactured by Spanish company Rechapados Ferrer. A representative of the company has indicated that the boards pictured in the videos have not been modified by Rechapados Ferrer with any components that would allow for the technology presented in those videos. They also confirm that they have not collaborated with REGIUM on the modification process of these boards.
Update On REGIUM Chess, Chess.com (emphasis mine)

2. A tiny $US 50,000 KickStarter

Virtually by definition, a KickStarter campaign implies it's unfinished. If it were finished, you could start up a business, as normal.

Chess players know this, but for the non-chess readers, this is a shut up and take my money-level product (a recent report claims the well-known DGT is developing such a board). Many chess tournaments have small marketplaces alongside, so they could sell it at basically any chess tournament anywhere in the world, and get free advertising as people discuss it on YouTube and web forums.

It is also noteworthy that $US 50,000 is a tiny amount for a product that's listed as having a $US 1,300+ MSRP. (The KickStarter is all or nothing.)

There's also skepticism (on LiChess forums) around the feasibility of a board with large numbers of electromagnets being impossibly thin and cheap; have smooth movement; and whether electromagnets inherently prevent some purported functionality:

Experts consider it extremely questionable whether an integrated battery, WLAN receiver, Bluetooth, automatic figure recognition in the immediate vicinity of dozen electromagnets would work. ... It is likely that Regium still has no solution to these problems. (Google Translate)
Schormann, Wirbel um das Wunderbrett (in German)

3. Seeming inability to respond to claims the board is fake

There have been multiple attempts to get Regium to demonstrate their board is real, which have been unmet:

In order to dispel any concerns about the product, we welcome Regium to provide more open and live demos in order to substantiate these claims. When approached for comment, chess.com stated that they have already made such a request directly to Regium on Thursday of this week but this has yet to receive a response. chess24 has also been approached for comment and we will update when we receive a response.
Regium: Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence, LiChess.org (emphasis mine)

I also encourage Regium to give verifiable evidence that the board is real as an answer to this question.

*** Unprofessional, deceptive company behavior...

The listed company is High Tech Dynamics which was registered in Florida in 1991 (see Bizapedia or Sunbiz).

1. Falsified employees

LiChess forums uncovered evidence that employee images are generated from ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com, and this has since been verified by both header information and:

Phil Wang, from the site thispersondoesnotexist.com, which uses AI technology to generate faces of individuals who do not exist, ... "From my experience, it does appear to be from the released model from Nvidia," Wang said. "I can tell mainly from the distortions around the glasses, as well as the artifacts in the background."
Update On REGIUM Chess, Chess.com (emphasis mine)

LiChess reports these images have since been modified, but are available through Chess.com's screenshot (and the Internet Archive).

2. Deceptive advertising

In the most recent New in Chess magazine, Regium quotes both ChessBase as saying "Impressive!" and chess24.com as saying "It's amazing!" so that the reader would infer that these well-known companies are referring to Regium. They have subsequently denied this:

We don't have anything to do with that. We haven't seen the board or given a quote.
ChessBase

No blessing or quotes given
chess24.com

3. Comment flooding on the KickStarter page

People (some from LiChess) were adding comments to the KickStarter page declaring it's a scam. The Creator HighTech Dynamics, Inc. responded by posting lengthy comments (e.g. this), and resulted in a comment battle. The comments were moderated while I was asleep last night, and now duplicates are removed.

4. Unsubstantiated claims the board is compatible with popular chess sites

From the Regium page:

Play against your favourite chess programs and engines. Regium e-Boards are supported by the most important chess platforms: : Chess24.com; Chess.com; Lichess.org; ChessBase; ICC; FICS
Regium chess (German)

(LiChess reports this used to list Chess Cube, which no longer exists.)

However, I'm not aware of this being independently confirmed by any of these sites, and Chess.com has denied collaboration:

I clarify that while we are not working together, this could be an amazing chessboard, and we have talked about working together, though we have not seen the board, nor have we created APIs to support it working on our site.
Chess.com founder erik, chess.com forum (emphasis mine)

(Cf. Square Off (Magic Automated Chessboard!) Update where erik sits down and plays with a Square Off automated chess board, and it's KickStarter campaign.)

This contradicts:

No es un hecho 100% pero es un objetivo muy plausible. Tenemos conversaciones muy avanzadas con Chess24 y Chess.com, menos avanzadas con otras plataformas.
It is not a 100% fact but it is a very plausible goal. We have very advanced conversations with Chess24 and Chess.com, less advanced with other platforms. (Google Translate)
Angel Delgado, ChessCC.com

Other points:

  • LiChess claims a forum user with a positive opinion of Regium is a sockpuppet for user @REGIUMCHESS.

  • LiChess reports being legally threatened; I transcribe their screenshot:

    Your forum has several threads defame us, accusing us of fraud and criminal behavior. This is in the hands of our lawyers, you have 24 hours to eliminate all defamation and write a public apologies, otherwise we will take all legal measures to claim damages for allowing this in your forum.

    You are notified.

    Alex, Marketing Manager, REGIUM TEAM

  • Chess.com reports Alfonso Belcells was falsely listed as an employee:

    Alfonso Belcells, who is labeled as a Full Stack Developer for REGIUM, has indicated to Chess.com that he is not associated with the company in any way and has not been associated with them.

  • Regium claims to have handmade pieces (which are expensive), however all evidence indicates the pieces are not hand-carved (of those depicted, one is the Ulbrich set, the other you can see at many chess tournaments).

    Elegant wooden chess board with magnificent African wood and European maple. Maple and Ebony Pieces. Deluxe pieces handmade ...

    Boxwood pieces. Staunton pieces, handmade
    Regium KickStarter

*** Professional entities distancing themselves from Regium...

chess24 recently ended a sponsorship agreement with Regium Chess, which claims to be developing an automated electronic chessboard. We urge any potential backers of the related Kickstarter project to exercise extreme caution and first verify any claims made about a board which may well be “too good to be true”.
Chess24.com

After completing the process of due diligence that is required when partnering with a third-party product, we have continued our research and interactions with REGIUM and have not been able to verify some of the claims made by the company.
chess.com

News articles appearing to be withdrawn from Gadgetify, Robotic Gizmos, and iPhoneness.

Sadly, all evidence now points to a sophisticated scam complete with a Kickstarter set to attract cash on February 25.
Chesshouse.com

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  • My Spanish is a bit rusty, but I think your translation of "No es un hecho 100% pero es un objetivo muy plausible" better translates to "This is not 100% done; but, is a very reasonable objective" As for their converstations with Chess24 and Chess.come; yes, they've had them, but their contents eventually turned against the Regium claims. – Edwin Buck Feb 26 at 4:14
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    I'd add that, High Tech Dynamics was administrately dissolved in 1992 (likely due to failure to provide the required reports to the state) and is still inactive, so it has no relation to this High Tech Dynamics. There is no indication, that this High Tech Dynamics is even a company. Their website is barebones (two short, nebulous paragraphs in bad english and a contact form) and the image there does indeed show the correct address, but it's never mentioned, that this is a virtual office building, so it's implied that high Tech Dynamics owns the entire building. – Dulkan Feb 26 at 14:20
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    @RebeccaJ.Stones Well, Google translate is better than nothing, but it is far from being a stand-in substitute for proper translation. "Hecho" can mean "fact" but only when it's used as a noun. Here it is used as an adjective, (the implied "it" is the noun) which means it roughly translates to "made / done". "It's not 100% a fact" is not a common (Engilsh version of a) Spanish phrase; but, "it's not 100% done" is in some regions. Since the Spanish is sort of slang-ish, odds are Google got the parts of speech wrong on this one. – Edwin Buck Feb 26 at 21:10
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    There's many annoyances: setting up pieces, moving your opponents pieces (remote games), inputting the game into a computer, broadcasting your game, etc. As depicted, you could smoothly play a proper tournament-style game. You can also instantly set up a tactics puzzle (for training). Also, a lot of people also watch games live (e.g. world championships) on a board and not on a screen. There's a lot of back-and-forth if you have to manually go from screen to board. [People already spend a lot on [DGT boards].(digitalgametechnology.com/index.php/products/… – Rebecca J. Stones Feb 28 at 6:22
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    @defaultlocale As you're probably aware, chess is a game where people spend a lot of time (and even sometimes money) learning how to play better. That said, there is some serious money spent on actual items (which is remarkable considering how few items are needed). Of course, you don't need to spend a lot of money to play chess very well (or very poorly); but, premium boards, premium pieces, and premium chess clocks are big ticket items. This would fit two niches "premium board" and "technology enhanced" One (not Regium) exists too, but it's bulky. There's a market. – Edwin Buck Feb 29 at 3:28

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