QL Chess (Sinclair/Psion) Review | Big K - Everygamegoing

Big K

QL Chess
By Sinclair Research
Sinclair QL

Published in Big K #12

QL Chess

A quite superb chess program from Psion for the QL. Psion, of course, are the folks who designed the bundled-in QL software - Abacus, Quill and the like - and who should know this strange beast's operating system better than they? The results are magnificently visual: underneath that naff keyboard lurks mighty potential for colour and hi-res, as well as high memory and real computing power. Nowhere are these qualities more in demand than in computerisations of the Oldest Game in the World, and nowhere - yet - have I seen a better job done.

You get two views: a conventional look-down on the chessboard, and a magnificent 3D three-quarter perspective, in which animation of the pieces is slick and smooth - the QL's lack of hardware sprites isn't disastrous, it seems, when you can simulate sprites using memory. There are 28 levels of play (I'm still on the easiest and still getting trashed, but then I never was that much of a chess-player), and the QL's five function keys have been designed for Help, switching between views, and so on. You can play the computer, or against a friend (though here I'd rather use a non-volatile chessboard - i.e. one made of wood). I presume the computer's progressive handicapping is achieved by gradually restricting its time-to-computer and/or look-ahead parameters.

Moving the pieces is gone by a sensible designation of the cursor keys; illegal moves are not enterable. If you're a real fanatic (and not too worried about your ego) you can get Hints, Command Takeback (i.e. Undo the machine's last move). Finally, if you just want to watch, the beast will lay on an exhibition match.

Considering that chess remains the ultimate game (someone once told me that the number of possible moves in a game of chess corresponds to the number of hydrogen molecules in the Known Universe, or some such Gigaconcept), and that International Grand Masters can still beat the cray-XMP, Psion have done a first-class, upmarket job on their version. It makes the most of the QL, and indeed is by far the best piece of software for this computer yet to fall into our hands.