Computer Chess ?-??-78

 

Computer Chess is a early prototype for what eventually became Video Chess.  While it may appear similar to the released Video Chess, there are several differences under the hood.

The first (and most obvious) difference is that the coordinates for the chess board is displayed at the bottom of screen.  When a piece is selected, a picture of the piece and the coordinates of the move (in Chess notation of course) are displayed on screen.  This was probably removed from the final version (Video Chess) because most players aren't familiar with Chess notation and would be confused by all the numbers and letters all over the screen. 

Another major difference in Computer Chess is that there are no pawn promotions!  The feature simply isnít in the game yet.   If a pawn reaches the other side of the board it will simply be stuck there, unable to move.  Since Computer Chess also lacks the Ďsetup modeí found in Video Chess  the player canít manually promote their pawns either.  The lack of pawn promotions really breaks some major strategies, making the game a bit tougher (although the computer canít do it either so it evens out a bit).

Some other minor differences in Computer Chess are that it's played using the right joystick.  I can't offer any explanation for this except that it might be a programming bug.  Computer Chess also displays the difficulty level in the bottom left corner as C# (# being the difficulty level), Video Chess simply displays a large number at the top of the screen.  Computer Chess also makes some psychedelic sounds to go along with the flashing colors is shows when its thinking.  These were wisely taken out of Video Chess.

Interestingly, Computer Chess has a minor (but amusing) bug in it that was fixed in the final version.  If the player and computer follow a certain series of moves it is possible for the player to take control of the computerís pawn.  One way to see this bug is to follow the following steps (special thanks to Nukey Shay for discovering this):
 

    Most of the time, the AI (playing white) will begin by moving it's kings pawn forward 2 spaces.
    Threaten this position by moving your queens pawn two squares
    The AI will defend its pawn position by moving its queens knight
    If you then move your kings bishop pawn to threaten the pawn from the opposite side, it responds by taking this one
    The victorious pawn is now yours!

Notice how this prototype has a production end label?  No other prototype has surfaced with such a label.  What this means is unclear, but it may indicate that this prototype was considered production ready before being reworked.  This particular prototype came from the home of Nolan Bushnell himself!


Prototype Differences
The game is played using the right joystick instead of the usual left
The screen displays the selected piece's location and the move made in Chess notation at the bottom of the screen
Pawn promotions aren't implemented
Setup mode is missing
The pieces don't instantly switch sides when the right difficulty switch is changed.  Instead you have to hit the reset button first
The X cursor is the same color as the player instead of the opposite color
The X cursor starts on the left Rook instead of in the middle of the board
The computer makes noises when thinking
The pawn bug (noted above) is present
The variation number is displayed at the bottom left corner of the screen and has a C in front of it (possibly for Computer Level?)



Select your 'c' level

 

The 2600 plays a pretty mean game of Chess!

 

 

Setting up the Pawn bug

Hey look!  The B&W switch works!

 

Return to Video Chess