For the past couple of weeks now I've been trialling this interesting new chess server, www.chesspark.com. The official announcement of the beta launch will be tonight AEST, daytime in the US - so this post is a bit of a scoop. Actually, I learned about Chesspark when one of the site's developers, Jack Moffitt, pinged me to ask if I could blog for them (an offer which I sadly had to decline).
Users can sign up for a trial account during the beta phase but I have no idea how long the trial period will last. I'm also guessing that once the site goes into full mode, users will be asked to pay. No hint yet of what the potential hit to your credit card might be.
(UPDATE: While writing this post, Jack popped into Chess Park and we got to talking for a bit. He tells me that users who sign up now during beta phase will enjoy a discount of as much as 50% off of the full subscription fee which is still TBD. Beta testing is also expected to last til about January '07).
Chesspark.com can be accessed in one of two ways, either via your web browser or a Windows client; personally, I prefer the latter. If you're an MSN user, you'll find the UI pretty familiar. It has a nice "widgety" feel to it. Your interactions with the server are through this console:
From there you can perform the usual like enter a chat room, initiate a chat, open games and so on. But I'd like to see some improvements here. For example, I want to be able to challenge a user (that I see on the list) with either a left click or a right click on my mouse. Right now all I seem to be able to do is open a chat interface with that user.
The game interface is probably a few notches below that of Playchess' UI or even ICC's, but it's bearable. Pieces and their movements are easy on the eyes. However, right now I seem to be limited to just one design, no customisation yet. That also will need to change.
One last thing. Some users may not mind the grey-coloured skin, but I prefer a bit of bright colours myself. It's early days, so I guess we can't expect too much. Overall, the user experience is pretty much on the upside, for me anyway.
And, I promise this is it for this longish post, Chess Park are still looking for that blogger. Titled players preferred.