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Emulation of old (OLD!) chess computers and programs
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BenRedic
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Joined: 09 Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Full Name: Ben Redic Fy Fazan
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:59 pm    Post subject: Emulation of old (OLD!) chess computers and programs Reply with quote

In the last year or so I have had an interest in looking into the history of computer chess. This includes digging through articles and books, as well as studying computer games from the 70s and back, and pitting older programs against myself and occasionally against eachother. The latter obviously involves emulation.

Some of the corners I have covered so far are:

- Emulation of a number of personal computer platforms like MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Mac, Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, Palm, Sol 20, C64, VIC 20, TRS 80, BBC, running various chess games from abandonware sites etc. I have even loaded my mobile with a number of emulators; These days the game I play most on my mobile is Sargon III for Atari Smile

- Various dedicated computers, mostly Fidelity, Mephisto, Novag, using CB-Emu/MESS

- I have also found a command line only port of the Boris chess computer. I have not tested full games against it yet, but I certainly intend to

- I've emulated a KIM-1 and typed in octal codes in order to play against the original MicroChess

- The PDP-10 port of Mac Hack VI, aka the Greenblatt chess program, under SIMH

- Turochamp (the Turing program) as implemented in a Chessbase engine

- Modern ports/compilations of Awit (Marsland), as well as Chess 0.5 (Atkin)

- Oh, and since this is a Hiarcs forum I should probably also mention the resurrected versions of Hiarcs 0.3 and 0.5 by Alain Zanchetta Smile

Does anybody on this forum have suggestions for other resources I should check out? A lot of my interest lies in the 70s and older. A have a somewhat usable version of Boris, and there are some early Chess Challenger computers in the CB-Emu which should probably mean I have the early dedicated computer market somewhat covered. Micro programs I have tested so far includes MicroChess (a number of versions and platforms, including 1.0 for KIM-1), 8080 Chess for Sol 20, Atari Video Chess for the 2600, and various versions of Sargon.

What about the large chess computers of the 60s and 70s? Apart from Mac Hack VI and Awit, are any of those even possible to emulate at all these days? I see the Computer History Museum has what appears to be the source code for Chess 4.6 available, but I'm guessing it will take a lot of effort to get something like that up and running today. I have also found what appears to be a Jim Ablett compile of Cray Blitz for Intel processors, but I have not had any luck running it. The program starts up just fine, but when it is supposed to start evaluating the position it just crashes on every computer I have tested it.

Obviously I am not afraid of learning a few things along the way, including emulation of arcane computer systems, as well as new types of notation such as descriptive notation or weird octal numeric representations of the board and its pieces. I'll happily bring a board to my computer and flip switches Bernstein style, if that's what it takes to see what these old things played like.

Input, comments, suggestions are all welcome Smile
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Fernando
Admiral of the Fleet


Joined: 31 Jul 2007
Posts: 1930
Location: Santiago de Chile

PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:39 pm    Post subject: Re: Emulation of old (OLD!) chess computers and programs Reply with quote

BenRedic wrote:
In the last year or so I have had an interest in looking into the history of computer chess. This includes digging through articles and books, as well as studying computer games from the 70s and back, and pitting older programs against myself and occasionally against eachother. The latter obviously involves emulation.

Some of the corners I have covered so far are:

- Emulation of a number of personal computer platforms like MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Mac, Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, Palm, Sol 20, C64, VIC 20, TRS 80, BBC, running various chess games from abandonware sites etc. I have even loaded my mobile with a number of emulators; These days the game I play most on my mobile is Sargon III for Atari Smile

- Various dedicated computers, mostly Fidelity, Mephisto, Novag, using CB-Emu/MESS

- I have also found a command line only port of the Boris chess computer. I have not tested full games against it yet, but I certainly intend to

- I've emulated a KIM-1 and typed in octal codes in order to play against the original MicroChess

- The PDP-10 port of Mac Hack VI, aka the Greenblatt chess program, under SIMH

- Turochamp (the Turing program) as implemented in a Chessbase engine

- Modern ports/compilations of Awit (Marsland), as well as Chess 0.5 (Atkin)

- Oh, and since this is a Hiarcs forum I should probably also mention the resurrected versions of Hiarcs 0.3 and 0.5 by Alain Zanchetta Smile

Does anybody on this forum have suggestions for other resources I should check out? A lot of my interest lies in the 70s and older. A have a somewhat usable version of Boris, and there are some early Chess Challenger computers in the CB-Emu which should probably mean I have the early dedicated computer market somewhat covered. Micro programs I have tested so far includes MicroChess (a number of versions and platforms, including 1.0 for KIM-1), 8080 Chess for Sol 20, Atari Video Chess for the 2600, and various versions of Sargon.

What about the large chess computers of the 60s and 70s? Apart from Mac Hack VI and Awit, are any of those even possible to emulate at all these days? I see the Computer History Museum has what appears to be the source code for Chess 4.6 available, but I'm guessing it will take a lot of effort to get something like that up and running today. I have also found what appears to be a Jim Ablett compile of Cray Blitz for Intel processors, but I have not had any luck running it. The program starts up just fine, but when it is supposed to start evaluating the position it just crashes on every computer I have tested it.

Obviously I am not afraid of learning a few things along the way, including emulation of arcane computer systems, as well as new types of notation such as descriptive notation or weird octal numeric representations of the board and its pieces. I'll happily bring a board to my computer and flip switches Bernstein style, if that's what it takes to see what these old things played like.

Input, comments, suggestions are all welcome Smile



My comment is just to say you already has accomplished an impressive task. I would not be surprised if you tell us one of these days that you have put to work The Turk of baron Von Kempelen...

robotic regards
Fern
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BenRedic
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Joined: 09 Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Full Name: Ben Redic Fy Fazan
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:10 am    Post subject: Re: Emulation of old (OLD!) chess computers and programs Reply with quote

Fernando wrote:
My comment is just to say you already has accomplished an impressive task. I would not be surprised if you tell us one of these days that you have put to work The Turk of baron Von Kempelen...

robotic regards
Fern


Haha, thanks, but I'd guess I have to settle for something like the Kotok style implementation of the Turk (http://archive.computerhistory.org/projects/chess/Final_Exhibit_Media/FINALS/PIECE%201/FUN%20AND%20GAMES.mpg) Smile
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Tibono2
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Joined: 16 Jan 2017
Posts: 37

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 5:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Emulation of old (OLD!) chess computers and programs Reply with quote

BenRedic wrote:
A lot of my interest lies in the 70s and older.
Hi BenRedic,
sorry I do not have that old programs (I have many starting from circa 1980 but you do not seem to miss much of these).
Do you please know if SIMH includes a setting to throttle itself at realistic speed? I think about giving a try to set it up in order to run the Greenblatt chess program, but I am not interested in running it faster than history.
I do know about external process able to throttle any other Windows process (BES), but I would have no reference to tune a PDP simulator Sad
kind regards, Tibono
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BenRedic
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Joined: 09 Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Full Name: Ben Redic Fy Fazan
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 5:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Emulation of old (OLD!) chess computers and programs Reply with quote

Tibono2 wrote:

Do you please know if SIMH includes a setting to throttle itself at realistic speed? I think about giving a try to set it up in order to run the Greenblatt chess program, but I am not interested in running it faster than history.
I do know about external process able to throttle any other Windows process (BES), but I would have no reference to tune a PDP simulator Sad
kind regards, Tibono


I am sorry, but Greenblatt running under SIMH seems to take full advantage of your current CPU, it does not attempt to emulate the speed of an old computer.

Personally I didn't really consider this a problem. The way you adjust the strength of the Greenblatt program is by adjusting depth of search, as well as the width of selective search. Back in the day these were tuned to make the computer play as strong as possible without forfeiting on time under tournament time controls.

I believe that by default when you run the program it searches about 4 plies deep (aka "hack mode"), while under tournaments the usual setting was 6 plies. So by setting the depth and width you can emulate the strength this program used to play under.

In hack mode on a modern computer responses are instant. I have not seen anywhere how much time this would take back in the days, but my uneducated guess is somewhere along the lines of 10-30 seconds.

In tournament mode it will take a few seconds per move, but far less than the minutes it would take back in the days. But a six moves PV should be as strong in 2017 as it was back in 1966 or whatever. Just walk away from the board for a couple of minutes, or look away from the computers response while you ponder on what it might do.

That being said, I understand perfectly well where you are coming from. When I tested Sargon (the first one) I had several versions to try, and I even tested some of them side by side to check that they really played the same. One of the versions is a Windows port running under some CP/M emulator or something, that runs full speed and never stops to think. But I usually found myself playing the TRS 80 or Apple II versions, just to get a feel for the speed the program used to run under.

I also did a little bit of experimenting with setting the Greenblatt depth further than the original tournament settings, hoping to be able to see how strong it would play on modern hardware. But it did not succeed. The game starts well, but sooner or later, probably during some extended search, the game crashes. I am not sure if this is due to limitations in the program, the emulator or both. There's probably some limit somewhere to how many plies or how many nodes the program can evaluate, but I have not checked further what causes this limit or exactly where this limit goes.
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Tibono2
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your feedback!
KR, Tibono
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BenRedic
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Joined: 09 Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Full Name: Ben Redic Fy Fazan
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:36 am    Post subject: Re: Emulation of old (OLD!) chess computers and programs Reply with quote

BenRedic wrote:
70s and older.


I have found a couple of more oldies:

Apparently there is a DOS remake of KAISSA, which won the world championship in 1974. I came over it on the site of the GreKo chess engine at http://greko.su/index_en.html. It is a DOS program made in the 90s with a graphical chessboard, menus and everything, and it works perfectly in DOSbox. It is supposed to play the same as the old program from the 70s. I have not yet verified this by checking its moves against actual KAISSA games. Also, I am not sure which playing level is equivalent to whatever was used in the 70s. The highest level in the DOS program is 7.3, which I guees means 7 plies and then up to 3 additional plies until quiescence. I have seen claims that the original KAISSA searched 7 plies, but nothing about extended searches.

Also, I have found come over a _real_ oldie that I didn't even know about until today. This thing even predates Turochamp. Apparently, around 1948 a guy named Konrad Zuse developed the first high level programming language, Plankalkül. He also developed a working chess program in this language, as a programming exercise/example. And there is an emulator for this program! It is at http://zuse-z1.zib.de/simulations/plankalkuel/chess/applet/chess.html and requires java to run.

The state of play is horrible, as can be expected. It does not support castling, pawn promotion or en passant. It takes no positional factors into account, only piece values. And it only searches one single ply. So it makes a capture if it can, and if not it does whatever move it thinks of first, which usually means that it pushes a pawn.

Code:
[White "BenRedic"]
[Black "Plankalkül chess (1948)"]

1.e4 a5 2.d4 a4 3.Nf3 a3 4.Nxa3 Rxa3 5.bxa3 b5 6.Bxb5 c5 7.dxc5 e5 8.Nxe5 Bxc5 9.Qf3 Bxa3 10.Qxf7# 1-0


I have also come over the man-page for a chess program for the first version of UNIX, ca 1971, written by Ken Thompson who later created BELLE. The page is at http://man.cat-v.org/unix-1st/6/chess. According to this, this program neither supports castling, promotion, en passant.
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Volodymyr
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Joined: 08 Apr 2017
Posts: 49
Location: Ukraine,Radyvyliv

PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,
I liked DOSBox.Very good emulator.I'm interested in performance tests.
https://www.dosbox.com/wiki/Performance
I also added my results,used SpeedTest 1.14 and medium mode.
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BenRedic
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Joined: 09 Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Full Name: Ben Redic Fy Fazan
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Volodymyr wrote:
Hi,
I also added my results,used SpeedTest 1.14 and medium mode.


Thank you for these Smile

By the way, have you by chance ever played blitz in Norway?
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Volodymyr
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Location: Ukraine,Radyvyliv

PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi BenRedic,
I have never been to Norway.
I play chess only against the chess programs or online.
I know you have snow and it's cold.Very Happy
Norway is very far.I think about 2500 km.
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BenRedic
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Joined: 09 Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Full Name: Ben Redic Fy Fazan
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Volodymyr wrote:
I have never been to Norway.


OK, just curious. We've had this ukrainian guy called Volodomyr dropping by our club a couple of times to play some blitz, but I guess it's another Volodomyr then Smile
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Volodymyr
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Location: Ukraine,Radyvyliv

PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 8:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BenRedic wrote:

OK, just curious. We've had this ukrainian guy called Volodomyr dropping by our club a couple of times to play some blitz, but I guess it's another Volodomyr then Smile

Of course another.Volodymyr is a ordinary name,popular in the Slavic countries. Rolling Eyes
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althus
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Joined: 14 May 2017
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2017 4:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You might be aware of this already, but there are many downloadable emulators of PDP systems, which were the machines that a lot of 60s-70s programs ran on. Just google PDP emulators and discover. A while ago I tried one myself, because I happened to be interested in the very same thing as you: the really archeological oldie chess programs. I hadn't the faintest idea how to make it go, however!

On a whim, I just found this:

...or not. I can't post a URL in my first post! But google "Playing Chess on a PDP8" and see the first youtube result. Guy is next door to you, too!
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althus
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PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2017 4:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh my goodness!

http://www.vcfed.org/forum/showthread.php?42673-Pdp8-vs-pdp11-chess-match-is-GO!
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BenRedic
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Posts: 27
Full Name: Ben Redic Fy Fazan
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2017 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

althus wrote:
You might be aware of this already, but there are many downloadable emulators of PDP systems, which were the machines that a lot of 60s-70s programs ran on. Just google PDP emulators and discover. A while ago I tried one myself, because I happened to be interested in the very same thing as you: the really archeological oldie chess programs. I hadn't the faintest idea how to make it go, however!


I am aware of this. This was how I was able to emulate the Greenblatt program (aka Mac Hack VI). In its time this was originally developed for PDP6, and later ported to PDP10. The PDP10 version is still floating around, and was the one I was able to get running under SIMH.
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