Chess Computer Progress In 21 Years

I have always had a keen interest in computer chess from the very beginning and, although I would not consider myself as a collector, I was surprised to find that I own over twenty different dedicated chess computers from the past thirty years or so! I started with the Chess Challenger 10 in the late nineteen seventies and found that my model would rarely castle and would rather just move its king. It also did not fully understand about attacked squares when castling, so I returned in person to the shop where I had purchased it complaining that it did not keep to the rules of chess and persuaded them to swap it for an upgraded model. I moved on to the Sargon 2.5 by Dan and Kathe Spracklen which was so much stronger and could be upgraded more easily.

In the early nineteen nineties the Mephisto Milano and Berlin machines came out which were even stronger and played a reasonable game. In 1994 Mephisto brought out the Berlin Professional costing £595. This filled a gap in the market between machines costing between £400 and over £1,300, like the Tasc R30 and Genius 68030. The Berlin Pro, as it is normally known, had a 68020 processor, rather than the 68000 of the Berlin, which worked at 24.5Mhz over twice as fast. ROM and hash table size were doubled from 128k to 256k and from 512k to 1024k respectively. Richard Lang was the programmer. I believe the price rose to around £649 when I was lucky enough to be able to part exchange my already second hand Berlin for a brand new Berlin Pro from Countrywide Computers in Wilburton. This is still the strongest dedicated chess computer that I have owned and is rated at 2232 elo by Selective Search Magazine.

The question is how will a Berlin Pro stand up to one of today’s programmes running on an Apple iPod Touch with 8gb? I chose one of my Apps which happened to be HIARCS, programmed by Mark Uniacke, but could have been several others. Obviously, hardware has improved rather a lot since 1994, so I gave the Berlin Pro 30 minutes for the whole game and HIARCS just 2 minutes. I thought that was a bit unfair on HIARCS, so I was prepared to give it more time in future games if needed. I was little prepared for the results and ended up having to increase Berlin Pro’s time instead! So in the game below Berlin Pro has 60 minutes for the whole game and HIARCS 2 minutes. HIARCS won the 6 game match with 6 wins and in the game below had only used up 54 seconds!! Perhaps I should reduce HIARCS time….

John Rhodes