Chess Wars - Battle of the 8 Bit Micros

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Chess Wars - Battle of the 8 Bit Micros

Post by Commodore »

Moving on from this thread:


I thought it would be good to have its own thread, a battle to discover king of the 8 Bit micros as far as Chess goes.

Previously, the VIC 20 beat a Saitek Mephisto electronic Chess Game. The VIC 20, with Sargon II Chess then played the Dragon 32 with Cyrus Chess.
The VIC 20 did very well, but ultimately, the Dragon 32 and Cyrus won.

This was all 5 years ago.

I have decided that I will now continue this with a re match between the Dragon 32 and the VIC 20, but this time the VIC will use BOSS Chess.
I will then play both machines against the ZX Spectrum, and the overall winner (I fancy the Dragon in this) will go on to play the BBC Micro and the Commodore 64. After that, we may get an Apple II involved.

I shall take notes and enter all moves into the updates for each game.
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Re: Chess Wars - Battle of the 8 Bit Micros

Post by Commodore »

Well I got off to a false start today.

Firstly BOSS Chess on the VIC 20 was taking an eternity to make its move, so I gave up on it.

So then I thought I’d try the Spectrum against the Dragon. I loaded Super Chess, the first one I found on my SD card. Another mistake; it was taking several minutes between moves. I set it to 3 ply, as I know the Dragon thinks ahead several moves. I had the Dragon set for level 1 and it responded pretty much instantly with its moves, and was doing quite well. The problem was I was running out of time and then the old ZX decided to castle, and I couldn’t recall how Cyrus does that, so I had to abort mission again!
Until that point, I’d say it was probably the Dragon with the upper hand.
I’m planning another session tomorrow night, while strictly and I’m a celebrity are on.
I now have the instructions for Cyrus, and I fished ZX Chess out of the loft for the spectrum, for which, I also have the instructions.
I think some of the later chess games may beat Cyrus, but I’ll try it against the earlier ones for the other machines first.
As a program I really like it: a nice big bold screen, decent graphics, decent controls, helpful sound effects. Much better than the awful one I was playing on the Spectrum today, it only filled about a quarter of the screen!
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Re: Chess Wars - Battle of the 8 Bit Micros

Post by Commodore »


ZX SPECTRUM 48K using Sinclair/Psion Chess Vs Dragon 32 using Cyrus Chess

The Spectrum Game has 10 difficulty levels, as opposed to the Dragon's 9.
The first game was played with both machines set at difficulty level 2, and the Dragon playing White.
The Dragon won in 22 moves. +Denotes Check, CM denotes Check Mate. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have recorded the last move made by the old ZX.
Spectrum Dragon

C7-C5 E2-E4
B8-C6 G1-F3
D8-A5+ D2-D4
A5-B6 C1-D2
B2XA1 D2-C3
E7-E6 C3XA1
C6XD4 A1-D4
G8-H6 D1XD4
A7-A5 B1-C3
F7-F6 F1-B5
E6-E5 E1-G1
G7-G6 D4-D5
A8-A7 F1-D1
E8-D8 B5XD7+
F8-D6 D7XC8+
B7-B6 D5-E6
D8-C7 D1XD6+
C7-B8 C5XB6+
B8XA7 B6XA7+
A7-B8 E6-D7+
? D7-B7 CM
The second game was played with the Spectrum on Level 2, playing White, and the Dragon on Level 1 playing Black. In this game the ZX should have had a clear advantage as it was playing on its third level, (0, 1, 2) and playing White, whereas the Dragon wa splaying on its entry level, and playing Black. Even then the ZX could not manage a victory. The game ended after 55 moves when the Dragon declared a Draw.

I really can't be bothered to type in 55 moves that ended in a draw.
So from these two games, I'd say that the Dragon 32 and Cyrus were the clear winners.

What were the programs like to use?

The Spectrum game only used about a third of the screen (if that) for the board and the Graphics weren't very special. There was no option to inverse the board, but it was annotated with letters and numbers, Moves are entered by typing the coordinates eg A7-A5, the dash is automatic.
Annoyingly it only announces Check when it gets the other player in check, not the other way round. As expected from this machine, there is very little in the way of sound apart from a few barely audible beeps. The Spectrum took noticeably a much longer time to play its move than the Dragon did. It often exceeded 5 minutes in game 1.

Cyrus Chess on the Dragon is a much nicer interface, but still not perfect. The board uses the whole screen and is presented in magenta and yellow, which sounds odd, but works really well. Unfortunately, the board is not annotated with numbers and letters, so that's a bit awkward.
Movement is achieved by means of a cursor on the board which is moved by the cursor keys. The cursor is moved, the piece to be moved is selected by pressing ENTER, the cursor is then moved to the destination square, then ENTER is pressed again. The Dragon shows the move, and then makes its move, usually within very few seconds. At any point you can toggle to the scoring screen by pressing the Space Bar, this shows the last 5 moves and various other information. The Dragon shows Check for both sides by showing + after the move.

Overall I would definitely rate Cyrus as the superior product, both in terms of Chess engine and in terms of user experience.
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Re: Chess Wars - Battle of the 8 Bit Micros

Post by Commodore »

Well, what an unexpected turn of events! In a mammoth match the VIC 20 playing Sargon II in the White Corner, and the ZX Spetrum playing Sinclair/Psion Chess in the Black Corner - and the VIC 20 won!!!!
The VIC 20 was set to level 1 of 7, the Spectrum was set to level 3 of 10, I felt that this should give us some equivalency. It was an epic match, with the VIC coming back from the brink to win in 61 moves, taking 51 minutes to do it.

I don't have time right now to post the moves, but I'll do that tomorrow.

A few words about the Sargon II Program:

For those not familiar with it, this comes in the form of a ROM Cartridge that goes into the VIC 20 Expansion Slot, it retailed for about £15.99 when new. The ROM image is approx 8K. The program loads automatically and instantaneously on power on.
This program allows the user to change the colours of the display. Most of the display is taken by the board, with the moves displayed to the right.
When moving, you can enter the coordinates by hand, or use a joystick to move the pieces. The letters and numbers are displayed on the edge of the board.
When the VIC 20 is thinking, the Commodore sign at the bottom of the screen changes to Red, and also an asterisk occasionally flashes to let you know the game hasn't frozen useful in the highest levels). The VIC also displays how many ply it's thinking ahead, at one point it was 5; it also displays moves as it's thinking of them, and then sometimes changes its mind.

I did have high hopes for Sargon II and the VIC, as it is quite a tough cookie, but I doubted that the VIC, with 8K of expansion could beat a 48K program for the Spectrum. I don't feel that a second game is necessary in this category, I'm calling a win for VIC 20 and Sargon II. Later in the contest I'll try Sargon II against a better Sectrum Chess Program; I think that would tell a different story!
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