Chess Computers, Electronic Chess

July 15, 2007

Who’s who in UK Chess Computer Retailing?

Filed under: Chess-Computers — admin @ 9:58 pm

Most chess retailers market chess computers in the UK. Eric at Countrywide Computers leads the pack as a wholesaler (most retailers buy from him), but the company is owned by Chess and Bridge in London which is run and owned by the GM himself - Macolm Pein (once seen on University Challenge for the professionals). Chess and Bridge obviously sell a good deal of chess computers through their distributer rights and their London store, but the nearby BCM Chess also do very well, notably through their web ranking for the search phrase ‘chess computers’ with whom they wrestle with ChessBaron. ChessBaron is run by a professional SEO who’s a chess enthusiast - and so dominate the rankings for all things ‘chess’ - they probably dominate chess sales in the country and growingly - chess computer sales. (Oddly - ChessBaron - as of July 07 - is for sale, we can’t quite work out why, they’ve risen from the grass roots through to number one for most online chess phrases in the UK and have a superb cache in the genre). In chess computers, then, sales are divied up between ChessBaron, BCM and ‘Chess and Bridge’ (either directly or through Eric at Countrywide Computers). Some also-rans are Carl’s Chess Maze, Andrew’s Chess Direct, Ken’s Doska Chess and Diane’s Chess Sets UK. All in all - a good selection of chess retailers to buy your next chess computer from. Our best pick is ChessBaron. Why? Their integrity shines through their site and their customer service is superb.

New Excalibur Handheld Announced

Filed under: Chess-Computers — admin @ 9:27 pm

The world of chess computers has been turned on it’s head. This picture of the forthcoming new handheld chess computer directly from Excalibur Electronics in July 07. When Excalibur brought out the most recent talking touch handheld chess computer prior to Jun 07 (originally released mid 2006) the chess retail community was delighted, then saw the obvious flaw - why had Excalibur not seen this? It had no backlight.. it could be argued that it wasn’t a flaw at all - just slightly sub-optimal and still taking the market for handheld chess computers easily. The competiton? The Novag Star Ruby and the Saitek Maestro. These were good - but the Excalibur Talking Touch chess computer saw them off by better strength and critically, better graphics. Occasional customers returned the units saying that the graphics were good but couldn’t be seen in less than optimal lighting. In an unusual move for prima donna chess computer manufactuers, they actually appear to have listened to chess retailers and have withdrawn the product ready for Mk ll with two huge improvements: a backlight and the utilisation of their cache with the New York Times name - and Lo! Let there be an NY22! But Excalibur - pleeeeeeease make sure there are adequate provisions for Christmas 2007.
Buy the Excalibur NY22 chess computer

Saitek Death Wish

Filed under: Chess-Computers — admin @ 7:20 pm

Just as Saitek are trying to win chess retailer’s confidence after years of poor product quality - they make a move that carries a significant question mark - they decide - for reasons best known to themselves to can their best product! Are Saitek trying to confuse us - or is it some genius move in preparation for some master stroke that will propel them from third place of three chess computer suppliers to, second or first? Saitek - the Expert is your only good product with the possible exception of the Maestro albeit with character recognition issues. The other closest product they do to the Expert is the ‘Master’ -but this product accentuates the cheap plastic pieces that appears to be a feature in all their products. Come on Saitek - we know you have other games and that chess is only a small part of your inventory, but chess is in growth mode in many countries and is perfect for handheld computers. Do you want to be subsumed by Excalibur and Novag - or can you aim high?

We have to add that the Expert has it’s imperfections. It’s too easy for the machine to be turned on whilst in transit which drains the batteries, and the pieces have to peeled off a plastic strip like an old airfix kit. But these things can surely be overcome to make a superb product and we wish Saitek would think the same - it’s their best product - and we have to protest - possibly their only decent one.
Buy the Kasparov Expert chess computer

Citrine and Grandmaster Slug-Out

Filed under: Chess-Computers, Computer-Suppliers — admin @ 11:57 am

Excalibur and Novag have two great high end desktop chess computers with strong engines and loads of functionality. Who wins?

The answer only partially depends on a number of preferences - with everything taken into account the conclusion is clear and consensual. As for individual preferences, if you prefer a wood cabinet it’s Novag’s Citrine, if you need strength of rating you’ll also be looking for the Citrine. If you value size of playing surface you’ll prefer Excalibur’s Grandmaster and if you prefer touranment size pieces then it’s also the Grandmaster.

If these preferences are minor and you want the best product for the price tag, that’s where we see some clarity, the Grandmaster is a better product and a better buy. When Novag brought out a fully wooden cabinet with wooden pieces and stuck a high price tag on their Citrine (50% more than the Excalibur Grandmaster), why did they then go cheap with the materials and piece quality? The weightless pieces would retail as part of an economy chess set, and the cabinet quality has a cheap feel about it that is dissapointing to many buyers. It’s also to small in overall size. In contrast the Excalibur Grandmaster is a good size, full size pieces and unashamably synthetic (OK…. plastic). The pieces are not just full tournament sized - they are triple weighted and just feel great compared to the cheap Citrine pieces that could almost blow over. The Citrine is a product that could be used as a chess computer, or by pulling out the male connectors be used as a board and pieces with another human. A good idea that is achieved in part, but the set becomes a cheap ordinairy set in this guise. The price tag demands a product that is both enjoyable as a computer and enjoyable, even prestigous as a normal set and pieces. The Excalibur makes no apology for being plastic but excels in the quality feel of the set. We expect our electronic oponent to be a little synthetic is make-up and so easily overcome the material used, after which the machine is a pleasure to use.

The winner is the Excalibur Grandmaster.
Buy the Excalibur Grandmaster chess computer
Buy the Novag Citrine chess computer

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