Back to the old black 'n' white board for another round of the earliest of wargames and today I'm in a medieval Scottish mood so I select my Isle of Lewis set. But what, you ask, is Gwyn doing, reviewing ornate chess men rather than computer games? Read on and all will be revealed.
Psi Chess offers something which is, as far as I know, unique on the Spectrum - alternate chess sets. Not just the standard Staunton set... not just the diagrams found in chess books, there's also the aforementioned Lewis set, with its squat kings and warriors too.
Not that it's the most playable set - the manual admits as much - but it's a novel touch. There's also a Load Set command, so we can expect further options from The Edge, including, I hope, the notorious YS set, with Ed as King, T'zer as Queen and us minions as the pawns!
The graphics are indisputably great. The board is not only seen from a high angle in 3D (which makes it an Ultimate clone, I suppose) but can be viewed from the sides, as well as either end. If you want a sense of being in the action, this is the one. Moving pieces is easy too, with a neat little arrow cursor, though you can go algebraic if you prefer.
That said, there does appear to be a plethora of keys to learn if you want to change the variables. Even aborting a game takes several keystrokes to re-set the clocks and board separately. Personally. I'd have preferred an easier path through the program's facilities.
Blitz games against the clock are catered for, though the timed facilities aren't as wide-ranging as Colossus 4's, and there's no problem solving mode. You can't ask the program for advice either, though there's a beginners' level, which actually makes the Spectrum play badly... a welcome change 'cos computers can play this game exceptionally well and it's disheartening to be thrashed all the time.
In all honesty, I can't comment on how expertly Psi Chess plays compared with its competitors in the computer chess championship, but I'd guess that the memory required for graphics could've taken the edge off some of its strategies. Then again, I could be wrong and most people don't want an invisible opponent, so if you're looking for an attractive game, this is the smartest set in town.
Our historical correspondent writes: The Lewis pieces are the earliest authentic European chess men, discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis but dating from the 11th or 12th century.
Traditionalists among you will get ecstatic at the classic Staunton set, seen here from the side, though quite what use this option is I'm not sure, unless you want to pretend that you're a spectator at a battle of the chess giants.