Atari 2600 Game
Produced by: Atari and Sears
Model Number: CX2645 or 99817
Rarity: 3 Scarce
Year of Release: 1979
Programmer: Bob Whitehead and Larry Wagner

Ah Chess. The timeless game. Played around the world for centuries. Some people limit their chess playing to human opponents. But a true master can find no greater challenge than defeating a supercomputer at the game. IBM is probably not going to let you challenge Deep Blue anytime soon. So may I humbly suggest playing the next most powerful computer in the world, the Atari 2600.

In the late 70's Atari wanted a chess game. The programmers said it couldn't be done, the Atari 2600 just didn't have the power to do it correctly. But management is management, so in 1979 Video Chess was released. Sales were good (but not as good as most of the pre-1980 games). Mostly because of bad word of mouth, and the total lack of a 2 player mode.

The Atari version of chess has a few problems in relation to its difficulty levels. The higher the difficulty level, the longer the machine will take to make it's move. If you are not good at chess, then simply select a low difficulty, the computer will quickly (but poorly), counter your moves. But you are going to find yourself growing old and dying before you finish a game at the highest skill level (which is still easily defeated by any accomplished player).

Lets take a look at exactly how long the machine takes to calculate a move.

  • Level 1 - 15 seconds
  • Level 2 - 30 seconds
  • Level 3 - 45 seconds
  • Level 4 - 2 min, 45 sec.
  • Level 5 - 3 min, 15 sec.
  • Level 6 - 12 minutes
  • Level 7 - 10 hours
  • Level 8 - 10 seconds

The highest difficulty level (7), gives you enough time to go to work, or sleep, between moves. Level 8 is the same as the beginner level. I doubt you will want to take 10 hours between moves. So that leaves level 6. But even I can beat level 6 easily (I am not even good). This leaves me asking myself, "Who did Atari design this game for?". One feature that is worth mentioning is this, flipping the left difficulty switch allows you to set up the pieces however you wish. That is the one redeeming feature of this cartridge.

Collectors Information

This game was sold under both the Atari and Sears brand names. There are two label variations of the Atari version (1 with text, 1 with a picture). The Sears version had a text label. This game is valued at around $5 USD. As always, games with boxes and manuals are worth more.

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