Chess 7.0. (evaluation) Frank Sommers.
The true aficionado of electronic chess who has turned to his computer for additional pleasure has bemoaned the lack of a computer chess program to equal the dedicated boards--those well-remembered preceding generations of Boris, Fidelity 7, Sensory Chess challenger, Sargon II, and finally the best of the wireds, Chess Challenger Champion.
As Chess 7.0 boots up and a majestic knight announces the program, there ensues a 10-minute demonstration that is both intriguing to watch and a documentatioin tutorial of the first rank. The 27 cursor-controlled features prance before you at a speed that holds your attention, familiarizes you with the multiplicity of functions, and expands upon the skillfully done 64-page user's guide.
Any chess program must have the basic moves, including en passant and pawn promotion an essential functions. The better games allow you to take back three or more moves, and Sargon II and Chess Champion will let you look ahead, i.e. give you hints. They also are expected to set up chess problems and and perform mate-in-two maneuvers.
Until now the current top-of-the-line, for my taste, was Chess Champion, which allows you to call up games which exhibit 50 openings and 50 famous games for you to follow or play against. Chess 7.0 allows you to call up over 30 chess classics and watch them march across the board automatically, or in single step fashion, if you wish to study the play.
Then there is the save feature, unparalleled in any existing electronic chess game, which allows you not only to save the game you are playing but to create an entire library of your own games (40 to the disk).
One criticism of Chess 7.0 is that although there are 7000 openings built into the program which permit faster and stronger programmed openings, you cannot summon a particular one. This may be a disadvantage for the advanced beginner or intermediate player who is still trying to mater his openings. This lack can be overcome, though, by setting up a library of games exhibiting the openings you wish to study on a separate disk or disks. You may then load these at will. Levels of Play
Chess 7.0 is programmed at level 6 to play the standard tournament 40-move game in two hours. It advertises 17 levels of play and indeed has them. Levels 0-2 are for familiarization and beginners. Levels 3-6 are for standard game play. For positional analysis levels 7 and 8 will search ahead to a depth of 7 and 8 moves.
The levels are divided into two categokries, 1-8 and A-F. The numerical option selects a specified time per move and a certain level of search, say 3 which will give you from 1-3 levels of search, but each move must be completed within 20-40 seconds.
Will the A thru F settings you dictate the minimum ply search to be completed regardless of time. A C setting for example would search 3-5 levels and might take from 1 to 10 minutes, depending on the complexity of the board. Thus with the letter settings for a slightt increase in time you can select a stronger program.
Two other settings, M and P allow the chess-by-mail fan to search 22 ply while waiting for his next postcard, and the problem solver can do mate-in-11 problems. Beginner's Paradise
For beginners there is a host of assists built into the program which make it one of the best chess teaching programs extant. The beginner can select an option that offers a screen image of the power and range of each piece. This evolves to a capability that helps the novice to check, at any point, to see what pieces might be threatening or to assess the killing powr of any of his pieces.
Coupled with the Advice function are the Look and Enact options which reveal your opponent's intentions for the next several moves, and then allows you to enact the series or, if you choose, to select more wily moves. The take back of all or any moves and the replay function which will play the game over up to the point at which you commenced the take-back make the teaching potential of this program high indeed. Documentation
With so much power and so many options, the question arises: how can a beginner hope to use the program without a night school course? Part of the answer is David Harmon's 64-page user's guide.
One page is devoted to "Things Everyone Should Know," a lesson to help you decide whether to use keys or paddles to run the program. This is possibly the most confusing part of the documentation, trying to decipher whether you press RETURN or the button on the paddle something else.
The rest of the book is a jewel of triple level familiarization. First, you find two pages of Quick Start for the person who has used other chess programs. Then there are 10 pages describing step-by-step concise use of the functions, neatly expanding your existing knowledge from Quick Start. Finally on the third level, you find a Dictionary of Features, detailing the nuances of each option.
The program itself ran flawlessly for me. My second criticism is the lack of color on the chess board--presumably a result of memory limitations. Customer Support
Within a week of the arrival of the program, another Chess 7.0 disk arrived unsolicited from Odesta, announcing a glitch in the key-playing option (I never did discover what it was).
The author of the program is Larry Atkin, one of the two authors of the famous Northwestern University Chess 4.7 program that in the late 70's was the World Computer Chess Champion three years in a row. Atkin and his colleagues advertise Odesta as the software company that intends to explore the frontiers of intelligence. Chess 7.0 does nothing to disparage that claim and a great deal to generate interest in what Odesta will do next.
Products: Chess 7.0 (video game)