Chess against a computer through SMS using Twilio
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Chess against a computer through SMS using Twilio. Pronounced "chess emm ess".

Author: Jahn Veach <>
License: Public domain


This was hurriedly cobbled together from 6pm to 11:45pm on 10/17/2012 at the TwilioCon 2012 Hackathon. There are bugs, kludges, hardcoded paths, unused variables, multi-page functions, and other monstrosities in this codebase. Also, it works.


Using Twilio and the Stockfish Chess Engine, you can text 'play' to 262-67-CHESS (262-672-4377) and the application texts you back a URL to a page with a chess board of your game (although, there are people who can visualize the game mentally without the use of a board). As you text in moves, Stockfish replies with its own moves and your chess board updates. The main page of the application has boards for all games currently in progress. For a screenshot of the main page, see main_page.png, and for the individual game page, see game_page.png.


Here's an example text session. If you'd like to try it yourself, text 'play' to 262-672-4377 and visit

Me texting 262-67-CHESS: play
[Ches(s]ms): Hello! Text back moves in algebraic notation (e4) or square to square (e2 e4). A URL for your game board is coming.
[Ches(s]ms): Here's the URL for your game board as promised:
Me: d4
[Ches(s]ms): The computer replies g8 to f6. Your move!
Me: c4
[Ches(s]ms): The computer replies e7 to e6. Your move!


Couldn't have done it without these projects:

I don't know what the licenses are on any of the above projects, so I'm throwing [Ches(s]ms) into the public domain for simplicity's sake. Enjoy!

Great Minds Think Alike

Interestingly enough, Chad Selph of Twilio heard about my project and by complete coincidence, he had also developed a Twilio chess SMS app called ChesSMS. However, instead of a web interface for the board, he did some very clever work with Unicode to text the board back to you! He talked about the technical details on Twilio's engineering blog.