IN October last year I called Chessmaster 2000 "the best Amiga chess program", despite a few niggles - yet CP Software proved they listen to criticism by making the best even better, cand calling it Chess Champion 2175.
After 10 years of micro chess programs, somebody has at last found the simplest and best way to move the pieces. "Fast Moves" and "Intuitive" are the phrases to note. The first means that if you click a square attacked by one piece, the piece will immediately move to that square. The second results in the most likely piece being chose to move to a square attacked by two ore more pieces - this can easily be overridden.
The upshot is that you almost always need just one or two clicks on the same square to move a piece - no more clicking, dragging, wondering where the piece has gone and so on.
The pieces can also be forced to jump directly to the square chose, eliminating that graceful but oh-so-slow sliding motion. If you are determined or stubborn, moves can now be entered straight from the keyboard.
OPENINGS were Chess Player 2150's weakest point, and Chess Champion 2175 remedies this in the most decisive manner. The opening library has been extended threefold to over 300,000 bytes.
Individual openings can be selected according to strength, popularity and name, and you can interrupt the computer's thoughts, forcing it to play the line you want. In addition, the computer "learns" any lines it has not previously encountered, storing them in a file, and you can type ay openings you want it to know into another file.
This is done sensibly. There are no mysterious codes or dodgy text editors, the "user book" being a plain Ascii file in the format "e2e4 b7b6...", which can be edited with any PD text editor. This is the only opening library you can alter. In all cases the lines, as you would expect, are much deeper - I have seen several up to 25(!) moves long.
These are the main changes. There are a host of minor ones, the most noticeable being that the main screen is green instead of blue - the graphics are exactly the same as those in Chess Player 2150 - and that the last few moves are displayed on the 2D board.
The menus are improved, with a less crowded layout and a few hot keys - for example, Amiga-I instead of the space
The Load Game option uses the latest ARP file requester and seems bomb
The most significant minor change is that a Preferences file can now be saved which contains the settings, position and size of the board, players' names, colours and so on - no more fiddling around with the menus before you start playing.
You don't get something for nothing, and something has been removed, namely the dreaded digitised speech - hardly a crippling loss! In fact, the only improvement I can think of that was not implemented was proper algebraic notation - the program still uses a four-character format as mentioned above. It's a pity the password protection scheme is still there because it's the only reason for hanging on to the manual, the program is easy enough to use without it.
YOU may think that these are cosmetic changes, and, with the exception of the opening library, you could well be right. However, CP has improved the playing strength, not by leaps and bounds, but by enough to make its presence felt.
The program is slower in the opening, probably due to all the searching for opening library files, but is considerably faster in the middle and endgames. The instructions say that the depth of search and playing strength are improved even more if you have a megabyte of memory fitted, and I found that, on average, the program searched about one ply (half a move), deeper with the expansion memory available than with it switched of. As looking half a move further ahead could make or break a combination, this is not the trifling improvement it may seem
If you already have Chess Player 2150, examine your wallet and your conscience carefully before upgrading to Chess Champion 2175 - unless you are a very good player. Chess Player 2150 will keep you entertained for years to come. Otherwise, look no further for the best Amiga chess program.