Pitting 8-Bit Chess Games Against Modern Foes

UltraChess is a vintage chess game for the 8-bit MSX platform, running on the Z80. [flok] wondered just how capable the game really was, and set forth to test it against a variety of other chess engines.

Having been designed in the 1980s, UltraChess is far from up-to-date as far as the chess software world is concerned. By using the OpenMSX emulator to run the game, [flok] was able to implement scripts to read and write the gamestate in UltraChess, and make it compatible with the Universal Chess Interface. This would allow UltraChess to be played off against a variety of other chess engines to determine its approximate ELO rating.

The scripts worked well, and are available on Github for those who wish to tinker further. Unfortunately, [flok] has thus far been unable to determine a rating for UltraChess, as it has lost every single game it has played against other chess engines. This is unsurprising given the limited processing power available, but we’d love to see a tweaked and hotrodded Z80 chess program take on the same challenge. If you’ve done such a thing, let us know, or alternatively  you might like to try playing like Harry Potter.

17 thoughts on “Pitting 8-Bit Chess Games Against Modern Foes

  1. How about the Phillips G7000 (Magnavox Odyssey^2) with the C7010 Chess Module VS other chess software? Dunno if there’s an emulator for it that emulates the C7010 too.

  2. In the old ANTIC magazine they covered a program that could, given the location of pieces on the board (which you, the user, preset) find the quickest path to check mate. Wonder if that would be any good at it.

  3. The Intellivision bested the Atari 2600 in a head-to-head chess match in 2014 (on Youtube)… Maybe it’s time to get another match going against UltraChess?

  4. I have long since given up on being any kind of chess player, but back in the 70s when I was trying to learn, I had a chess program the ran on a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1 and then a Model 3. In the course of many tries to beat the computer, I discovered a set of moves that ALWAYS beat the computer in 8 moves. The chess program was obviously not very imaginative. I had a ham radio friend who had the same program and he had challenged me to a friendly bet, playing chess over the radio, supposedly computer to computer, to see if the program played well against itself. The program kept battling to a draw, until, without letting my friend know, I used the moves that I had used (which really didn’t make good strategic sense) to beat his computer. Great fun for a little while, and then I revealed my perfidy, and even then it was a laugh.

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