The Teeniest Chess Game Is 487 Bytes

Teeny tiny chess.

Screencap from BootChess

In 2012 the average iOS mobile game was 60 MB and the average Android game was 40 MB. Those numbers have only increased since, but there’s a countermovement happening, too. Writing tiny programs is challenging and engaging because every byte matters.

On Tuesday, Canadian development group Red Sector Inc. posted BootChess, which at 487 bytes takes the record for smallest digital chess game. The old record was held by the 1024 byte 1K ZX Chess, which reigned for 33 years. BootChess isn’t flashy—there isn’t a lot of room for graphics in 487 bytes—but most average chess players can enjoy the teeny version. (Skilled players will probably find BootChess easy to beat.)

The format uses standard chess notation with capital letters for white pieces and lower case letters for black pieces. BootChess runs on Windows, Linux, OS X, and other operating systems.

Since 1 MB equals 1,000,000 bytes and mobile games can easily reach 100 MB or even bigger (not to mention full desktop computer games), a 487-byte chess game is a tough thing to build. One commenter writes, “I just started a quick game … i am already sure i’ll win this, but hey, i am a club level chess player ;) Will dive deep into the code later, for now i’ll just say : WOW! Great release!” Chess triumphs are happening all around us.