Re: Chess symbols, ZWJ, Opentype and holly type ornaments.

From: James Kass (
Date: Tue Jun 18 2002 - 06:48:19 EDT

William Overington wrote:

> I am interested in the possibility of making a TrueType fount so that an end
> user may set chess positions.

It should be fairly easy to set up a chess board using mark-up,
like HTML.

Or, so I thought...

Internet Explorer on this system adds a blank space below each
glyph in each grid, so the squares aren't square. Opera doesn't
add the blank space, but the columns don't exactly line up.
Overall, Opera's display is the better of the two.

Probably I've made an error in the STYLE portion of the HTML...

(And, with the font and size used here, the white queen looks an
awful lot like the black queen...)

Since there's MathML and MusicML, perhaps there's a ChessML
batting about somewhere.

(Time out for a quick Google search...)

Sure enough, Chess Markup Language (ChessML)

(The page says the first ChessML home page link is broken; it isn't.)

Doesn't look as though they're using the Unicode chess characters.
Trying to load their example xml page generated an error message here.

But, there are alternatives to the site above.

Andreas Saremba has ChessGML, a work in progress at (It looks like the page hasn't been
updated since it was posted in April 2000, though.)

Caxton XML: XML for Chess

Many people have their own approach to XML and Mark-up languages
in general, just as many people have interesting ideas about spelling
or how to use the PUA. (Google thinks "markup" is a word, for

If it is necessary (or, merely desired) to express something like
a chess board <i>as text</i> in a plain text application, the programmer
has two choices: a non-conformant font or a conformant font. Only
way the font can be conformant is to assign any exotic glyphs to
the PUA. On many of the systems currently in use, glyphs which
aren't assigned to code points can't be displayed.

An OpenType font for chess game layout might be possible. There
would have to be some kind of agreement on the code point sequences
to be used. (I don't think OpenType for game layout is a good idea, but
have been wrong before.)

A PUA scheme for displaying a chess board would seem to get by in
plain text by simply adding a block to show the white and black
pieces on a dark grid to complement the existing Unicode chess
piece characters. Any font used should have the chess glyphs

Since the glyphs in TUS are only representative and appearance
is up to the developer, it would also be possible to have two
conformant fonts without using the PUA. (One with the glyphs
on light squares, the other font on dark squares.) Specific font
selection would be the mark-up in this approach.

Cutting it short (more or less), regardless of how the chess board (or
anything else outside the norm) is marked-up, somebody someplace will
need or want to display it on an older (which frequently means current)
system. On a planet with billions of inhabitants, perhaps there would
be several such people. Devising a PUA scheme and offering a script
to convert between it and any popular mark-up doesn't strike me as
too different from doing the same for Unicode Bengali or Devanagari.
Precedents exist, games are popular, opportunities exist.

Being exposed to fresh ideas and opportunities is one of the reasons
for liking this list.

Best regards,

James Kass.

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