Chess Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

Computer Gamer

Commodore 64/128

Published in Computer Gamer #23

Fancy a game of chess? Gordon Hamlett checks out the latest moves


If you feel like giving the aliens a miss at the moment, perhaps you ought to consider exercising your grey cells a bit. Three different chess games have just been released, two for the C64 and one for the BBC series.

Cheapest of the three is Master Chess from Mastertronic for the C64. It is far and away the cheapest of the three versions at only £1.99 but none the worse for that. As you might expect at that price though, some of the features available on more expensive models are missing.

The number of different skill levels available to you is as many as you care to choose from as at the start of the game, you input the number of seconds that you are going to allow the computer to analyse its next move. The suggestion is that you start from about thirty seconds and work your way up but if you are an absolute beginner, then shorter times may be advisable (the editor came in crowing because he beat it on a pathetic 10s, but then he still has trouble remembering which colour he is). [There goes your payment this month - Ed]

The main problem is that the computer will take its full allotment of time for each move, which can be frustrating in the opening stages. In theory, you can press return at any stage to force a move but this did not work on my version. Entering moves is by algebraic notation only. On screen, presentation is average and the only other features available are save game and the ability to set up a position.

Also for the C64 is Cyrus II from Alligata. The first thing to say about Cyrus II is that it has by far the best on-screen presentation of any chess game that I have seen. Forget 3D, it tends to hinder rather than help you play. The pieces are large and clear and there is no problem at all distinguishing between king and queen, bishop and pawn.

There are nine skill levels to choose from ranging for a three second to three minutes response time. Other features not available on Master Chess include a demo mode and the facility to play against a fellow human should you get fed up of the computer beating you. If you discover that your master plan has gone astray, then you can step back through as many moves as you desire. You can also ask for a hint if you are really desperate although there is no guarantee that the move suggested will be the best one available! Moves are entered by moving a cursor around the board using either keyboard or joystick. There is a comprehensive set up position facility. Cyrus II is a stronger player than Master Chess and much better presented but you are paying considerably more for it.

The last of the programs to be reviewed is by far the strongest of the three currently on offer.

Colossus Chess 4 is for the Electron, BBC B/B+/Master although the full range of features only appears on the latter two models.

A results panel in the instruction booklet shows the outcome of sixteen games against a whole range of other chess programs. Colossus 4's worst result was an 11-5 victory! An incredible 15 of the 21 matches were won 16-0. In a match against Cyrus II (Amstrad version), Colossus won 13-3. Its estimated ELO rating it 1850+.

The game also features a host of features not found in the other games. There are thousands of skill levels to be selected from and you can choose from a whole range of initial parameters if you wish to do so. The computer guesses what move you are about to make and thins at the same time as you on that basis allowing for deeper analysis. You can display all legal moves for a given piece, replay a game, choose a mode that tries to match your skill and even play invisible chess!

The only thing that lets Colossus down is its presentation. The 3D representation of the pieces is not particularly clear and the method of changing to a 2D mode is not very easy being well obscured in the instruction manual. Also included in the disk version is a selection of games featuring computers and a number of problems for you to try and solve. Colossus 4 is also available for other formats but not all the features mentioned above may be present.

All the above games assume a prior knowledge of chess and I am surprised that no-one has packaged a book for beginners with the program, especially as CDS did just that with their recently released Colossus Bridge.

Which one you buy depends on your needs but if you are in the least bit serious about the game, there is no real choice. It has to be Colossus 4.

Master Chess (Mastertronic)

Impact 40%
Features 40%
X-Factor 30%
Value For Money 50%
Overall 40%

Cyrus II (Alligata)

Impact 90%
Features 50%
X-Factor 60%
Value For Money 60%
Overall 65%

Colossus 4 Chess (CDS)

Impact 60%
Features 95%
X-Factor 80%
Value For Money 85%
Overall 80%

Gordon Hamlett