15 September 2019

Fidelity Chess Challenger

Several years ago, my wife's uncle gave me an old stand alone chess computer, Fidelity Chess Challenger. Last night, I searched and found an instruction manual online for Chess Challenger 7, which appears to have the correct instructions. I played a game on its top level--level 7. Based on research presented in the HIARCS chess forum, I believe the device was manufactured in 1980.

In the image above, the machine has played its move as O-O-O by indicating that it moves its king from e8 to c8. That move puts my king in check.

In my game, I played quickly while also reading a book. On its top level, Chess Challenger requires several minutes per move for most moves. I was reading in another room, would read a page or two, and then check on the machine. I recorded the moves on another device that allowed me to quickly email the completed score to myself.

Chess Challenger played a decent opening, reached a winning position in the middle game, and then revealed substantial weaknesses in endgame understanding. It demonstrated understanding of exploiting a pin, and using forks. It also set a simple stalemate trap near the end of the game.

Stripes,James -- Fidelity Chess Challenger [C68]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.d4

Probably a weak move on my part. I rarely play the Spanish Opening, and the exchange variation is not my usual choice when I do.


5...exd4 6.Qxd4 Qxd4 7.Nxd4 seemed okay to me.

6.dxe5 Qxd1+ 7.Kxd1

This is the position in the photograph.

7....0-0-0+ 8.Ke2

Black to move


This move struck me as odd.

8...Re8 9.Bf4 f6 10.Nbd2 fxe5 11.Bg3 Nf6 12.Rhe1 Bd6 (a later game continued 12...Nh5 13.Kf1 Nxg3+ 14.hxg3 Bc5 15.Nc4 Rhf8 16.Ncxe5?? Rxe5 17.Re2 Rh5 18.Rd2 0-1 Luptak,P (2086) --nZvarik,M (2245), Slovakia 2010.) 13.Kf1 Nh5 14.Kg1 Nxg3 15.hxg3 h5 Black won in 61 moves Aleksandrova,D (2015) -- Yilmaz,G, Albena 1977.

8...f6 9.h3 (9.Nbd2 Re8 10.h3 Bh5 11.Nf1 fxe5 12.Ng3 Bg6 13.Be3 Nf6 14.Nd2 Nd7 15.Rhd1 Be7 16.f3 Rhf8 White won in 54 moves Kieninger,G (2509) -- Rellstab,L (2478), Bad Oeynhausen 1941) 9...Bxf3+ 10.gxf3 fxe5 11.Bd2 Ne7 12.f4 exf4 13.Bxf4 Ng6 14.Bg3 Re8 15.Nd2 Bd6 Black won in 46 moves Babula,M -- Dobrovolsky,L, Brno 1969.

9.Be3 Bxf3+

This move does not exist in my database.

9...Bxe3 10.Kxe3 f6 11.Nbd2 Re8 12.exf6 Nxf6 13.Rae1 Nd5+ 14.Kd4 Nf4 15.h3 Bh5 16.g3 Ne6+ 17.Kc3 Bxf3 18.Nxf3 Rhf8 19.Re3 Nc5 and Black went on to win a pawn ending after a lot of middle game manuevering in Toumaniantz,R (2162) -- Duflot,S, Le Touquet.

If there was any sort of opening tree built into the software, it could have included moves from Lasker -- Pollock 1892.

9...Be7 My database shows four games with this move 10.h3 No other game in the database has this position. 10...Bh5 11.Nbd2 f6 12.Rhd1 fxe5 13.g4 Be8 and Black won in 42 moves Lasker,E -- Pollock,W, Baltimore 1892.


10.gxf3 might not be bad.

10...Bxe3 11.Kxe3 Nh6 12.h3 Rhe8 13.f4 f6

White to move


14.Nc3 fxe5 15.g3 exf4+ 16.gxf4 Nf5+ 17.Kf3 Nd4+ 18.Kg3 Nxc2 19.Rad1 Black should win the ending;

14.g4! fxe5 15.f5 White's kingside majority is more dangerous than Black's queenside. Such endings, as I understand, are a principle reason for playing the exchange variation of the Spanish.;

14.Nd2 fxe5 15.f5.


I had underestimated this move, having mainly assured myself that I would not lose the rook on a1.


15.Kf3 Nd4+ 16.Kg4 Nxc2 and Black wins material.


15...Nd4? 16.Nc3 Nxc2 17.f7 (17.Rad1 Rxd1 18.Rxd1 gxf6).


I realized by this point that I was clearly worse.

16...gxf6 17.Nc3

Black to move


I expected 17...Rd2+ 18.Kf3 Re8 19.Kg4 Ne3+ 20.Kh4 Rxc2-+

18.Rad1 Rxd1 19.Rxd1 Rxg3 20.Ne4

Black to move

20...Rxh3 21.Nxf6 Rh2+ 22.Kf3 Rxc2 23.Rg1 Nh4+

23...Kd8 24.Rg8+ Ke7 25.Ne4


24.Kg4 Ng6 25.f5 Ne7 26.Nxh7

Black to move

This is the type of position I like putting in front of my students. Black is clearly better, but must find a plan to neutralize White's threats. For brute force calculation with limited depth, positional understanding is vital. Chess Challenger showed the weakness in its primitive programming at this point.


This move surprised me, as my f-pawn seems dangerous in the knight ending.

24...Ng6 Before playing Rg1, I had looked at 25.f5 Ne7 26.Rg7;

24...b5! avoids the checkmate threat and gives White queenside problems that cannot be met.

25.Rxg2 Nxg2 26.Nxh7

This move was not so much to grab the pawn, although useful, as to clear the f-file and control the promotion square.


Chess Challenger's moves stopped making sense to me here. Prior to this point in the game, I had foreseen most moves.

26...Kd7 27.f5 (27.Ke5 Ne3 (27...Ke7 28.f5 Nh4) 28.b3 Ke7 29.Nf6) 27...Nh4 28.Kf4


Black to move


This move is a game losing blunder that highlights that Chess Challenger is oblivious to the dangers presented by my passed pawn.

27...Kd7 or Kd8 are the only moves that do not lose. 28.Ke5 Nh4 29.f6 Ng6+ 30.Kf5=.

28.f6+- Nd3

28...Kd7 29.f7 Ke7 30.f8Q+


However, it is possible that the software saw 29.f7 Nc5+ 30.Kf5 Nd7 in which case the knight is still lost, but White does not yet have a queen and there is a lot of work to do to use the knight to convert a pawn minority into a passed pawn.

29...c5 30.f7 a5 31.f8Q+ Kd7 32.Nf6+ Kc6 33.a4 c4+ 34.Kxc4 Kb7 35.Qf7 Ka8!

I was impressed with the stalemate trap set here.

White to move


36.Qxc7 b5+ 37.axb5 (37.Kxb5 stalemate) 37...a4 38.Nd5+-

36...Ka7 37.Qxc7+ Ka8 38.Ka6 b5 1-0

Chess Challenger made this move and then lit the "I lose" light.

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