The Montreal Chess font.


See the font in some scanned images: you'll flip over these diagrams!

I have scanned three printouts of the Montreal font at 48pt, rather large, but it will let you see the detail on your screen.  The images were printed on a 600dpi laser printer, and scanned into GIF files at 100dpi.  As a result, there are some digitization artifacts in the dark square hashing which are not present on the paper output.

The initial board setup:

A position from a Ruy Lopez opening, demonstrating the usefulness of the font for study:

Technical issues.

This TrueType fonts was designed mostly for print applications, and will not look too good on screen. However, it is quite reasonble at point size 24, and still legible at 16. The font was saved without hints, which did not seem to make any discernable difference anyway.

The character mapping I used was culled from the most popular mappings which I found at the very helpful Web site of the  Nørresundby Chess Club.

Character mapping.

Character mapping
King Queen Rook Bishop kNight Pawn none
W on light k q r b n p space
W on dark K Q R B N P /
B on light l w t v m o space
B on dark L W T V M O /
Border characters
1 2 3
4 5
7 8 9

With the above mapping, the initial board setup, with borders, in text is:

4 / / / /5
4/ / / / 5
4 / / / /5
4/ / / / 5

How to get the font.

I'm willing to give you the font in return for some feedback.  I would be willing to continue work on it if there is any demand.  If the comments are favourable I will make the initial font freely available, and make a shareware version with more border styles, Informant symbols, etc.  If you would like the font, e-mail me and we can discuss delivery options.

I've done limited testing, but have seen good results on Windows 3.11, Windows 95, and Windows NT.
For some reason it there is a display bug on my NT station, but it prints properly.


I didn't set out to design a font. My first goal was to make a pocket chess set which was actually useable. There are two types of these. One is simply a scaled down version of regular pieces, which either have pegs that fit in holes in the sqaures, or they are magnetic. The problem with these sets is that the pieces are too small to be handled easily, and secondly, the detail is so small that it becomes difficult to discern one piece from another, especially king from queen and bishop from pawn.

The second type uses ordinary checkers with chess figurines embossed, stamped, printed or otherwise displayed on them. These can provide better distinction between pieces, but they are generally of poor quality, the symbols are far from standard, and every piece must be oriented toward the viewer.

I asked myself why it was that these sets, whose boards are typically five inches square, were deemed too small to use, when if fact most chess players comfortably read book diagrams only two inches square!   The answer was in the clarity of detail:  when the symbol has good contrast and a strong outline, it is usable to a very small size.

The orientation problem was something else. Sometimes I would have liked to study from printed material and see the board from Black's perspective. This takes some getting used to. I remember seeing the game of shogi being played. This Japanese game uses identical tiles with symbols engraved on them, and each player orients his own tiles toward himself, and sees his opponent's tiles upside-down. Why, I wondered, didn't they just use different shapes for the pieces instead of symbols? My second inspiration came from ordinary playing cards. Each card looks basically the same for opposing players.

I wanted to design chess symbols which were clear, easily recognizable, and symmetric. After many weeks of doodling and drawing, I came up with a set of symbols, with heavy inspiration from Staunton design sets and the Linares typeface, which I thought were usable and aesthetically pleasing. I used a paint program to draw the symbols and print them. I had these large drawings photo-reduced, copied to adhesive paper, then cut them out and pasted them on top of an existing set of checkers. This was done around 1992. I still have this prototype and find it very convenient and pleasurable to use.

Years later and I found myself with the means to buy a font-making program. Several hours of learning the tools and playing has resulted in what I think is a very novel and pleasing font. I named it Montreal, for the city in which I live, because other well-known fonts were named after cities, Linares, Hasting, and Zurich.