Designed by Oxford Softworks, a company that specialises in bringing card and board games to the Amiga, The Complete Chess System comes on four disks and is hard-drive installable. (Steve has been on a journalism course, everybody. - Ed)
CCS lets you play chess against the computer, against a friend with the computer 'supervising' and making sure that all your moves are legal, or you can force your Amiga to play against itself.
CCS can play two levels of chess against you. The first is as a weak opponent, suitable for beginners, which is further sub-divided into ten categories. These range from CCS making virtually random moves to it playing the first good move it can think of. On the second level CCS plays as a strong opponent. Here the option to change the strength of CCS as an opponent depends on the amount of time you let it think for, including an option to have it think for as long as you do and an option to let it think infinitely (definitely one for the very patient).
CCS plays a good game of chess. The technical among you may like to know that it uses an "intelligent beta-type search strategy". The basic idea behind this is that it searches for possible moves in a more 'human' way than other chess programs which tend to be very calculating.
Other chess programs search through every possibility open to them before reaching a conclusion, CCS supposedly only looks at those which it believes to be viable according to its own human intelligence model. This sounds a bit scary, but is now accepted by most chess fanatics as the best method.
You can also vary the range of operating moves that CCS chooses. In its default mode it nearly always plays openings that are in favour among the chess elite of today. By moving a slider you can increase the chances it will make more unconventional opening moves. This can make for some interesting matches and definitely gives it an edge over the average chess program.
One of the really good features of CCS is that it has an enormous database of past matches. This database can be accessed at will, and any one of the hundreds of matches that come with the game can be played through a step at a time. This is an excellent tool for learning how to play good chess. You can even search the database by player's names, or by particular positions of the pieces. All of which is dead impressive but, of course, useless unless you're a chess fanatic.
Unfortunately CCS suffers from being a little unfriendly. There are pull down menus at the top of the screen that you use to control the game, but quite a few of these are difficult to understand. Who would have thought that the option 'Supervisor' would be the one that would let you play against a friend rather than against the computer? Certainly not me until I read the manual for a second time.
As with most chess programs you have the option to view the action in either 2D or 3D mode. And again, like most chess programs, the 3D mode makes it difficult to see where your pieces are and to get an overall view of the game. You'll find yourself playing this game in 2D.
Once you've understood all its foibles though, CCS turns out to be a very handy chess tool, as well as a good player. It's definitely not the prettiest game in the world, nor the best planned and laid-out, but it does the tasks it sets itself admirably.