Clock Chess '89
A REAL ROASTING FOR CHESTNUTS!
Clock Chess '89 may be unlikely to trouble Gary Kasparov, but it claims to be 'probably the world's strongest 8-bit chess program' and also to reach 'those parts that other other chess programs cannot'. While such lager ad slogans might cast doubt on its seriousness, an endorsement by UK chess champion Mike Basman, together with a detailed manual suggest it isn't, in fact, a joke.
Originally a PCW disk-based program, the Spectrum game comes in two versions, 48K cassette and +3 disk. Both are inferior to the original PCW version, according to the makers. The 48K game has additional limitations: a smaller opening library and no 3-D display option, in-game text has been cut forcing heavier reliance on the manual, a special problem-solving facility is deleted, no save/load option and the 'Take back move' has been limited to ten moves. While we reviewed the disk version, the 48K game still looks pretty formidable.
Clock Chess is promoted as the most powerful such program around. It claims to have a library of opening moves of 32,000 bytes; understand all the rules of chess (including underpromotion, draw by repetition); intelligently search potential moves, and to have beaten all its potential competitors during its development. Interestingly, during play it will display what moves it's considering, and even predict what your move will be if you want.
At the start of the game you can select Easy play, have the computer Match your thinking time, rigidly limit the computer to a set number of minutes/seconds per turn, play against the clock or have it Supervise two human players. There are also special options to play 'blindfolded' with one or both sides invisible and select how 'desirable' a draw is for the computer. Once in the game you can make the program play your next move; display previous moves; take back moves, and have the game self-play.
The Easy game is refreshingly fast and I even came close to victory, until defeated by the repetition rule. Harder levels require more thinking time and are much more challenging. We tried the game against Colossus 4 Chess - which it is claimed to be superior to. We set both programs 30 seconds thinking time, but the latter program usually took longer and, perhaps because of this, narrowly won. For the beginner the more serious drawback is the lack of any joystick control, other than cursor and, even sillier, no letters/numbers on the board's edges to make obvious the chess notation.
In conclusion this is a respectable addition to the ranks of the chess programs and is worth serious consideration from all enthusiasts. Other gamesplayers should give it a look, but mediocre presentation is unlikely to attract too many new converts.