Yes, it can be done. A softtware add on called Rockbox will turn your player into a game machine. I’m stretching a little here, but the number of games this little conversion will give you is truly mind boggling. And yes, one of them is chess. And the improvement will also give you many more music options than the original player.
My experience is with the Sandisk Clip, Clip Plus, and Clip Zip. One reason I like them is their tiny size, approx. 1 inch by 3 inch in size. Screen size is a problem with the Plus, but the Zip has a large enough screen to be usable–and it adds color capability. Here’s a comparison of the two after being converted to Rockbox.
They’re small enough to hang from your rear view mirror, which I did for a while (yes, they both have a handy clip on the back), but now I use a binder clip attached to a fin on my air condition vents. You might think that’s awkward for listening to music, but I mainly use it for audio books, so once I get a book started, all I have to do is turn it on to resume the narration.
The Clip devices are amazing out of the box–they play music, let you listen to audio books, record your voice, play FM radio, use as a timer, and more. But the Rockbox conversion adds many more music features, like an advanced frequency analyzer, volume normalization, dynamic playlist creation, and album art support.
And then there’s the plugins, which is where the true power of Rockbox comes into play. You can add games, and even the capability to play videos.
The Clip is not the only device this software can run on. You’ll see more of this at the link I provided. The biggest downside is that you can potentially “brick” your device. Which means it may get hung up and not be recoverable. This can happen any time you start messing with the original firmware of any PC, even an MP3 player. However, I had a Clip brick on me without ever having made a change to it, so it’s not that big of a gamble. Plus, they cost so little (around $50), it’s not a big loss if it happens. I’ve converted three devices, with no problems.
You do have to modify the original firmware, but the directions are pretty straightforward. If you’re a little techy, you can handle it easily. And you do have the capability to reboot to the original firmware any time you want to. You will have to do this if you want to play DRM protected audio books (as in audible.com). All you have to do though, is hold the left rocker down while the player boots.