Monday, June 18, 2012

Novag Super Constellation

The Super Constellation, also known as the Super Connie, was a dedicated chess computer manufactured by Novag and first sold in 1984. The chess playing code was written by the acclaimed computer chess programmer Dave Kittinger, who was also known for writing the engine for ChessMaster 2000 and his DOS program WChess. Scott McDonald, an American chess master, assisted Kittinger.

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Dave Kittinger (picture found at Les Diodes du Roi)

The Super Connie became the first dedicated unit to be rated "Expert" (2018 rating). It achieved a 1981 performance rating at the 1983 US Open, and was the first dedicated chess computer to defeat a USCF master at tournament time controls and conditions (Jerry Simon, 2207 USCF). It was famous for its speculative, human-like play. The Super Connie relied on a special preprocessor, containing specific chess knowledge. which allowed the evaluation function to be simplified somewhat. No doubt this helped the Super Connie to achieve its high rating even though its processor was relatively slow (8-bit processor running at 3.6 MHz).

Its opening book contained 20,000 half-moves, and the user could program into it 2,000 additional half-moves of new openings and variations. It also could win KBNK endgames. Both the programmable book and the ability to win KBNK endgames were innovations that originated with the Super Connie.

Novag also sold a printer and a clock that could work with the dedicated unit.

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Here is the pgn of Super Connie's historic victory against Jerry Simon:

[Event "1983 US Open"]
[Site "Pasadena California"]
[White "Novag Super Constellation"]
[Black "Jerry Simon 2207"]
[Time Control "40/2.5 Hrs"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 d6 5.Bg2 Be6 6.d3 Be7 7.O-O Qc8 8.Qb3 O-O 9.Nd5 Bd8 10.Bg5 Rb8 11.Nxf6+ gxf6 12.Bh6 Re8 13.Qc3 Bh3 14.Rac1 Bxg2 15.Kxg2 Qg4 16.Bd2 f5 17.h3 Qh5 18.e3 Re6 19.d4 e4 20.Ng1 Rg6 21.f3 Bh4 22.Ne2 Bg5 23.Nf4 Bxf4 24.exf4 Re8 25.fxe4 Rxe4 26.Rce1 Re2+ 27.Rf2 Rxf2+ 28.Kxf2 Qxh3 29.Re8+ Kg7 30.d5+ Kh6 31.dxc6 Qh2+ 32.Kf1 Rxg3 33.Be3 Qh1+ 34.Ke2 Qh5+ 35.Kd3 bxc6 36.Qf6+ Qg6 37.Qh4+ Kg7 38.Qd8 Kh6 39.Qxc7 d5 40.Qxa7 dxc4+ 41.Kxc4 Rg2 42.Qd4 Rc2+ 43.Kb3 c5 44.Qd5 Rh2 45.Qxc5 Rh3 46.Kc2 Rh2+ 47.Bd2 Qg2 48.Qf8+ Kh5 49.Qxf7+ Kh4 50.Qe7+ Kh5 51.Qxh7+ Kg4 52.Qg7+ Kf3 53.Qc3+ Kf2 54.Qe3+ Kf1 55.Qe1# 1-0