A&B Computing

White Knight Mk 2

Author: Giuseppe de Benedictus
Publisher: BBCSoft/BBC Publications
Machine: BBC B/B+/Master 128

Published in A&B Computing 2.05

This program is subtitled "The Chess Master". Certainly, compared with other microcomputer chess programs, that's not far short of the truth. The game is based on a program which performed extremely well in the PCW World Microcomputer Chess Championship and is probably the best of the chess games available for the BBC Micro.

The board display is very clear and the pieces are very similar in appearance to those found in standard chess diagrams. Black and cyan are used for the square colours but these can easily be changed if required.

Four modes of play are available; In mode one, the computer will adjust its rate of play to match the user's; mode two is used for problem solving; mode three is the so-called "Tournament" mode - here the computer can be set a time in which to make a minimum number of moves, e.g. 30 moves in an hour, it will adhere fairly rigidly to the limit;l and mode four is similar to mode three except the time limit per move is stimulated.

White Knight Mk II

In general, the standard of play is above that found on other chess programs; in mode three, presumably playing to a standard time limit, the program has been given a chess grade of over 1750 (ELO sale). This corresponds to the standard of a fairly good club player. PPlayig at this level ,most people will be comprehensively beaten - in fact even on the instant response level, the program will account for most non-serious players.

Assessing the program's strengths and weaknesses is not all that easy. As I see it, the most impressive aspect of it is its Middle game performance. On no level will it make elementary mistakes such as leaving pieces en prise. Its tactical play is particulary good for a computer; it strings good combinations together and is quite prepared to sacrifice pieces. Its positional play and strategic manoeuvres are generally sound but occasionally lack purpose.

Its Endgame display is less impressive; it has difficulty converting standard positions to its advantage. As for the Opening, most of its moves are according to well-known theory, the odd surprise can provoke complacency from the user - a fatal mistake.

Several variations on the standard game are available: positions can be set up with reasonable facility, one can step forward or backwards during a game (this allows analysis of new variations or correction of blunders) and one can change sides with the program at any stage of the game. In addition, as the computer thinks, it prints an analysis of the best line it has found so far - this sometimes extends four of five moves ahead. This is very useful as it can provide good advice for the player.

Overall, this is an impressive package which has obviously been very carefully designed. I recommend it to anyone regardless of their own standard of play.

Giuseppe de Benedictus