Games for the Vic-20. (evaluation) David Busch.
Vic-20 users will welcome this version of the redoubtable Sargon II chess program on ROM cartridge. All the famed Spracklen goodies--and a few new options, such as choice of screen color combination--are available.
The game comes up instantly when the power is turned on. The player is asked if he desires a game (G) or board setup (S), and is offered a level of play, from 0-6. At level 0, the computer responds immediately, and plays a good novice-level game. Average responses at higher levels run from 20 seconds (level 1) to four hours (level 6), although the documentation cautions that actual time may vary from 1/3 to three times these lengths.
The chess board is displayed in the upper left of the screen, with ranks and files noted in the border surrounding it. AT the right is a listing of the last five moves. Game level and an asterisk (indicating that Sargon is thinking, and not locked in an endless loop) are displayed at the bottom of the screen.
Pieces may be moved by entering standard algebraic notation at the keyboard (i.e., A2-A4), or by using the joystick to "pick up" a piece and deposit it in a new location. Invalid move are, of course, not allowed. While beginners may like the joystick movement, I recommend learning and using the rank-and-file notation to maintain compatibility with the rest of the chess-playing world.
Hitting a question mark causes Sargon to provide the player with hints, and works at every level but 0 once the game has progressed far enough that the computer is actually looking some plies ahead and not resorting to book moves. The game also has other features that help the beginner learn chess more quickly. For example, it is possible to take back a move, or set up the board to play from any point in a game.
For the complete novice, the instruction manual even provides a brief discussion of the rules, and charts showing how each piece moves. Only the most elementary strategies are recommended ("moving pawns and knights out first is a good opening strategy"), but enough information is given that a beginner can buy this cartridge and begin play the same day.
Given the ready availability of a flexible, challenging partner, Sargon II makes it easy for chess nuts to get hooked and go on to books and other aids.
Products: Commodore Sargon II Chess (video game)