Overtom's weblog

SURPRISE  (5 december 2005)

When a chess computer costs you twenty dollars, you wouldn't expect it to be a strong player, would you?

So when the Excalibur LCD Chess Express arrived here in the mail, I routinely tried how it would play against one-ply Fritz, more or less expecting it would lose in twenty or thirty moves.

LCD Chess Express

You will understand I was astonished to see Fritz resign after forty moves in the following way:

White: Fritz (1 ply)

Black: LCD Chess Express (10 seconds/move)

Needless to say I wanted to know if this was just an accident. So I allowed them to play again and in this game Fritz resigned after white's 42nd move.

White: LCD Chess Express (10 seconds/move)

Black: Fritz 8 (1 ply)

Curious as I am, I also allowed Chess Express to play a few more games against Fritz-2ply. It won all of them.

Let us see if our Chess Express can hold its own against another LCD computer.

A good candidate may be Mephisto/Saitek's Maestro, which is more expensive machine: somewhat sturdier and provided with a backlit screen.

The Maestro will cost you three or four times the price of the LCD Chess Express. But for this money you do not only have a backlit screen. Maestro's screen is also pressure-sensitive: the moves are entered with a stylus, which is much more comfortable than Excalibur's direction keys.

But in a match of four games, Maestro lost two games, and the other two were drawn.

In the last game, Maestro played a defense that Excalibur computer had no information about. After seven moves, white's king side pawn position was in ruins.

White: LCD Chess Express (10 seconds/move)

Black: Mephisto Saitek Maestro (10 seconds/move)

A good player should be able to win black's game. Mephisto Maestro proved to be less of a maestro and managed to get the last pawn off the board on the 82nd move and to turn the game into a draw.


Excalibur's LCD Chess Express may not be very pleasant to operate, and the screen may be hard to read, but it plays quite good chess for a twenty-dollar computer.

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