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CP Software
Chris Whittington
Board Game
ZX Spectrum 48K

Richard Blaine
Chris Bourne

Clock Chess 89 is, or so the blurb on the back of the box says, the strongest and most versatile chess program yet for the Spectrum series. I can believe it 'cos as a good, though not outstanding, chess player, I found it the equal of many of the dedicated chess computers on the market.

I'm not going to get technical, in my opinion, a chess program like this should be just as accessible to people who are learning to play the game as to people who have been playing for many years. It should be able to adapt to the strength of each player, and offer them a tough - but not impossible - challenge. And Clock Chess 89 certainly succeeds on these points.

You can handicap the computer if you are a beginner, you can make it take the same time to think as you do; or you can set it a thinking limit for anything from five seconds to over 15 minutes. The longer it has to think, the better the move it will come up with. You can also set the program so that both you and the computer have to play a certain number of moves within a set time - usually five minutes. Speed chess at its most cutthroat!

To be honest, I'm a bit hesitant about just listing all the program's features. If I do, it's a boring review; if I don't, you may not get all the information you need. At the risk of being boring, I'm going to give you a good idea of just what you get with Clock Chess 89. You can set up 'mate in x' problems; you can get the computer to analyse positions; you can play blindfold chess; you can tell the computer whether it accepts a draw, and when.

When you are actually playing, you have a wide variety of options. You can make the computer switch sides (useful when you don't want to lose); you can get the program to show what moves it is considering; you can get the computer to play itself; you can get it to take back a move... You can also save it to disk - and if you're a chess buff, that means you can go away and analyse the board for as long as you want, without giving the computer extra time to think. Cunning, huh? But it probably won't help much - it didn't for me.

To be honest, though, the options above would only really be remarkable if they weren't in the program. What matters is the strength of the game the computer plays; and it seems to play very strongly indeed.

My complaints? Well, I only have one, really. When I loaded up, I got a rather garish screen display, with a board that seemed to take up only about a fifth of the screen. The colour choice was so bad - white and black pieces on a yellow and green board - that the white pieces were virtually invisible on the lighter, yellow, squares. It was only after I had played through a few games, and had found that I was getting a headache, that I discovered from the picture on the back of the disk box that there was a 3D option, with a very handsome looking board shown as if you were actually seated at a real chess board.

Overall Clock Chess 89 is an excellent program, well worth getting if you are a serious chess player.

Fabby Chess program for the Speccy, let down by poor graphics.