Overtom's weblog

GOOD VALUE FOR MONEY  (30 december 2006)

If you were to visit an average European toy shop and ask for a chess computer, they'd probably try to sell you something that costs about 30 to 40 Euro -- provided they sell any chess computers at all. There is not much chance that such a computer would ever offer you any serious resistance

I agree it's quite gratifying to own a computer that you can beat all the time. But don't expect it will ever teach you to play any serious chess .

If you want your children (or yourself!) to learn serious chess and you don't want to spend hundreds of Euros, then the Mephisto Miami (or any of its successors like the Advanced Travel Chess or Diplomat) would be a better choice than the toys mentioned above.

Don't be fooled by its humble appearance or low price (± 50 Euro): nine out ten chess players will have very little chance against this machine.

Mephisto Miami

For connoisseurs: the computer has about 1800 real Elo points, but you should not worry about this too much: for those who don't want to feel its full force, there are eight levels for beginners and sixteen so-called training levels.

In order to see how this computer performs, it may be interesting to have a look at some of the games it played.

Let's start with a somewhat older machine, the Radio Shack 1650. Quite a few occasional players used to favour this one because it was neither very weak nor very strong and was reasonably affordable at the time that Radio Shack sold it (around1990).

Radio Shack 1650

This Radio Shack computer may have been a nice opponent for the occasional player, but it's no match for Miami and is completely outplayed:

Mephisto Miami - Radio Shack 1650

5 seconds per move

A little bit more resistance is offered by a stronger and more modern computer, Excalibur's Talking E-Chess.

Talking E-Chess

The Excalibur computer is tactically quite strong, but positionally inferior to Miami, as may become clear from the following game, in which black is mated in less than thirty moves:

Mephisto Miami - Excalibur Talking E-Chess

(20 minutes for each player)

In a second game, Talking E-Chess doesn't perform any better. Once again, Miami demonstrates that its opponent understands very little about king position safety:

Excalibur Talking E-Chess - Mephisto Miami

(20 minutes for each player)

In order to prevent you from thinking I only show games that Miami won, here is one game it lost. It was played against a rather small machine, the Novag Sapphire II.

Sapphire II has a program memory ten times the size of what Miami has under the bonnet. Besides, it is powered by a super-fast H8 risc processor, and cost about four times as much as our humble Miami.

Sapphire II

Mephisto Miami - Novag Sapphire II

(30 minutes for each player)

The Miami is small enough to take along on a holiday. I would say if you are looking for a strong but low-priced portable chess computer, the Mephisto Miami (or any of its successors like the Advanced Travel Chess or the Diplomat) will be a good choice.

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