Has anyone developed a graphic design format for representing boards within a very tiny amount of space? I'm thinking along the lines of how sparklines were developed to allow a line chart to be embedded within a paragraph.

Is there some kind of equivalent for chess, that would allow a full board to be read at very low scales? This might be useful for analysis discussion, instead of requiring the reader to read sequences of moves in algebraic format and picture the resulting position.

As an example, here is something I have come up with (just an example work in progress).

enter image description here

Is there something better out there?


3 Answers 3


Well, the minimum recognizable size could be 3x3 for each figurine (+1 as field separator if you are spendable) thus you could even fit it in the classical 32x32 icon format. (The pics at the bottom are actually 30x30 sized figurines!) Recognizable, though, without the incessant aliasing: enter image description here As the German says: As you see, you don't see anything.

Figurine design is critical: in your example, I would immediate cry out "King and Queen are placed wrong"! Here is my design:

Mini without Mini with here

  • Sounds like my design is good - the king and queen actually are placed wrongly, oops. :) Aug 10, 2021 at 23:51

I don't think anything specific like Sparklines has been developed but using Latex you have a lot of flexibility.

For example using the Skak package for Latex you can remove/add notation from the board and Latex allows you to control the size of the diagram.

  • Thanks, I'm really looking to find out whether anyone has specifically designed a set of pieces for legibility at tiny scales though. Aug 9, 2021 at 1:13
  • @SteveBennett Tiny number of pixels (albeit big pixels) or tiny diagrams? Please remember that not everyone has eyesight keen enough to identify the figurines on tiny diagrams -- or would be willing to strain their eyes trying.
    – Rosie F
    Aug 9, 2021 at 13:33
  • I guess I mean, tiny in px units. A good solution would scale up well if the user had applied a larger text size setting, but any image will scale in some way. Aug 9, 2021 at 23:14

In addition to 'raw' size, you need to add legibility as well as readability issues. It's no use to have a minimalist design, if the user a) can't see what it says (or is a microscope expected), or b) can't interpret the symbols he/she sees (are they too artistic or too far out?).

The first possible typeface that comes to mind is Adobe Cheq -- it is not perfect as it has some details that may cause problems (such as the curved bases of the pieces, the very curvy knights, and the very narrow 'holes' in the black King).

Linares is a slightly less useful typeface: it is open, but it has a lot of small details

If you are thinking of designing a typeface:

The production mechanics enter into the question. Are you dealing with pixels or lead? Will those pixels stay as they are, or will any kind of scaling get applied, affecting legibility? If print, what quality paper are you using, and what line resolution does it have? If you try to print higher resolution, you're likely to see that details get lost or artifacts (such as doglegs) get introduced. Additionally, contrast between glyph foreground and glyph background if any is important: I currently see lots of old typefaces where white Bishop on black square are almost illegible due to lack of such contrast.

There's a lot of work down on typefaces for newspaper printing: these must work on newsprint paper (so no tiny details), and they need to print clearly at high printing speed (so they need a fair amount of background white 'inside' to separate details.) Bitstream Oranda is a fairly well known example: very 'light', very 'open', and rather robust. Cheq tends in this direction.

You may also want to consider sign typeface design: they typically emphasis very high legibility and clear 'differences' between characters such as S/8/5 and 1/l/I. The one I know best is SISPOS by Bo Berndal; there's a wiki page for 'list of public sigage typefaces' for additional inspiration.

Typefaces intended for low-resolution use, such as Lucida Fax are often useful for this type of use, as are optically 'small sizes' (6pt and less) of digital typefaces.

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