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CP Software
1984
Board Game
£8.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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29,30
Jeremy Spencer
Chris Bourne

Jeremy Spencer considers his endgame.

I was surprised to find that we hadn't reviewed that many chess games in CRASH, I had formed the opinion that the world was awash with them and they simply were not , good enough to find their way into these hallowed pages. This one is. Superchess 3.5 claims to be 100 times faster and 1500 times more intelligent than any other prog ram. With my chess playing ability being what it is I decided to ask in Syd, our in-house chess player. More from Syd later.

A lot of chess programs must surely be sold to people who either cannot play or are weak players as well as those who are brilliant; chess programs offer an important function as tutors, they don't laugh when you make a stupid move (they simply slaughter you) and they will quickly tell you if you attempt an illegal move. A program that can suggest moves is even more useful.

What does Superchess 3.5 offer? Well there are seven basic options, the first being to set up a new game. Having done that you can request that the computer will limit its 'think time' to your average, or you could simply set the amount of time you will allow it - effectively a selection of skill levels. This option lets you set up the board to solve chess problems.

Option 2 allows the board play to be analysed, but should you be in the middle of a game you could use this option to reset the game by moving pieces around In answer to the prompts. If the game isn't going too well for you, now's your chance to turn the tables a little. Option 3 simply allows the user to change the playing colours.

If a player is stuck for ideas then option 4 can be used either to make the computer play the player's move or to suggest a move. Option 4 can also display a review of the moves made to date. Option 5 allows the program and the current game to be saved to microdrive.

The screen displays a great deal of information. At the top there is a clock showing each player's total time and move time. On the left the computer shows its favoured move but as it continues to think it may change its mind. The score gives some idea who is ahead and below that 'nodes' show how many lines of possible moves the program has analysed so far. More often than not this figure is in the hundreds of thousands. The computer also shows the moves it is predicting it will make which gives the player a very good idea of the program's strategy, and using that information the player ought to be able to utterly frustrate the machine.

CRITICISM

'This is without doubt one of the best implementations of chess that I have come across. Given a fair time setting it will play a very strong game but more importantly the whole program seems geared to help the novice. The information given, together with the facilities to suggest moves for the player, make this program a superb tutor. The program is menu driven and very well error checked, which makes setting up the board a delight. The graphics are very well done so the board layout is clear and intelligible. My own chess playing is very weak but I shall be using Superchess 3.5 to improve my play. See you in Moscow.'

'Syd's game started very well, he had Superchess in check after only 7 moves but from there, I'm afraid to say, that it was all downhill. Syd was reduced to adopting a defensive posture fairly early on in the game, it was apparent that Superchess wits making big plans and that Syd's success was due, in part, to being able to muck those plans up in the short term. The game lasted for 1 hour and 32 minutes and in that time 56 moves had been made. Syd was left with a King, Knight and a Pawn, he was reduced to making childish moves around the board in a vain attempt to escape the inevitable. To be fair to Syd though, Superchess only claimed to be up 104 points, the capture of a Queen is worth 144 points so Syd had pretty well held his own. To sum up, Syd's attempts at a quick kill damaged the Superchess 3.5 strategy but towards the middle game the persistence of the strategy was paying off. I should point out that Superchess was only allowed the same time as Syd to make its moves that must have cramped its style. (Syd is a ZX81 playing Mikro-Gen chess at level 21.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: as requested
Joystick: n/a
Keyboard play: very easy
Use of colour: selectable
Graphics: very neat
Sound: spot only
Skill levels: varies according to time setting
Lives: n/a
Screen: n/a
General Rating: A superb implementation, well thought out and easy to use. A must for those that want to play chess with their Spectrum.

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