Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine
Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine  5 15 x 15

This Mephisto tournament machine was one of six machines built to contest the 8th World Microcomputer Chess Championship held at Almeria, Spain in September 1988.

The Munchen board chasis contains a printed circuit board spanning the full width of the drawer, no modules. Forming the base of the machine is a metal plate which accommodates a cooling-fan port, a second port and the on/off switch. Two unpainted wooden ‘stilts’ lift the machine base off the table helping airflow under the board. Crude but effective.

An LCD display capable of showing the two lines of information generated by the program had yet to be finished by Mephisto. So part of the information straddles two old type displays. The chess computer is controlled from the six keys on the right - they perform as Clear, Enter, Up, Down, Left, and Right using the soon to become familiar Mephisto menu system.

The pcb is naked to the world and contains serried ranks of RAM chips and a 68020 32bit processor running at 30MHz. There is 128Kb of program ROM and a 60,000 ply opening book spanning 7,000 variations. At Almeria the opening book was reprogrammed each day to keep one step ahead of Fidelity’s preparation.

The program was updated to a 68020 Lyon v2.07 prior to the machine being sold by Mephisto, through Ossi Weiner, in 1991 (see invoice below).

Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine  1 20 x 20
Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine  3 15 x 15

From their beginning in 1980, the World Microcomputer Chess Championships were highly significant in influencing the public choice of which chess computer to buy. After Fidelity dominated the early scene the emergence of Richard Lang as the World’s number one programmer working for Mephisto put the two companies in direct competition for the top end of the market. An overwhelming victory for Mephisto at Amsterdam (1985) was followed by a hard fought win at Dallas(1986). Fidelity ducked the challenge in Rome (1987) but they threw everything they had at the next year’s competition in Almeria. It turned out to be a fight to the death.

There was a Manufacturers team competition, which was a straight contest between four Fidelitys and four Mephistos. Other manufacturers recognised the futility of entering. Also a “Commercial” competition which was supposed to be between machines actually available to the public. It turned out to a virtual match between a Fidelity 68020 only available to special order and a prototype 68020 Mephisto Turniermaschine, both running at 20MHz. The only other entry the Plymate program for Conchess machines scored half a point from ten games. Lastly, there was a Software group which included seven entries, but with Mephisto and Fidelity again slogging it out for supremacy, with the same programs and hardware.

For Fidelity, Dan & Kathe Spracklen had made considerable improvements to the strength of their program. The hardware was state of the art using 68030 processors (see photo below). Richard Lang for Mephisto completely rewrote his successful Roma program and the 68020 Turniermaschines were built to run the new Almeria program at the highest feasible clock speed 30 MHz. There turned out to be little between the contestants. Mephisto seemed to only gain an edge from their daily retuning of the programmable opening books. However by the end of the event Mephisto had a solid looking 34 - 24 advantage across the competition, and had won all three groups (see results below).

The far-reaching consequences of the Almeria result were not immediately obvious, and directly afterwards Sid Samole of Fidelity gave an upbeat interview to the Swedish Ply magazine. However it seems that moves were soon made behind the scenes to sell Fidelity’s business to Hegener + Glaser (Mephisto). The sale was
completed in September 1989 but, even in victory, acquiring Fidelity turned out to be a disastrous mistake for Mephisto. By early 1994, weakened by losses from the Fidelity merger, Mephisto itself had been taken over by Saitek.

 

Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine  6 10 x 10
Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine  9 10 x 10
Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine  7 10 x 10
Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine  11 10 x 10
Fidelity at Almeria 2
Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine  8 10 x 10

The opposition -
A Fidelity tournament
machine at Almeria.

The victors at Almeria -
Ossi Weiner, Richard Lang and a Turniermaschine.

Results at Almeria
Mephisto Almeria Turniermaschine Invoice
Victory at Almeria - Ossi Weiner and Richard Lang

The Turniermaschine you see on this webpage, with the 68020 Lyon program, has been extensively tested with the results published on www.schachcomputer.info. In 138 games against varied opposition it has earned a 2277 Elo rating at Active Chess (Game in 30 minutes). The comparable Fidelity, the V9 released in 1989 (68030 processor, 32 MHz, 1 MB RAM), is currently rated 2155 Elo. In the UK a V9 in the Elite Avant Garde board cost 3499.

Following Almeria, Mephisto set about producing a new batch of Turniermaschines to accommodate the 68030 processor and 8 MB of RAM. They were individually tuned for maximum speed and had three cooling-fan ports cut in the rear. These were the machines used to win the 1989 WMCC at Portorose and in 1990 at Lyon, and an example is shown below competing at the North American Computer Chess Championship at Reno, Nevada during November 1989.

Some of these original machines were sold to the public but the Vancouver Turniermaschines (68030, 32 MHz, 2 MB RAM) released for general sale in 1991 were sold in somewhat larger numbers despite the massive price tag of 15,000 DM (around 6,500).

4-2_Mephisto_machine_ACM_20_NACCC_Reno_1989-2_102645422_NEWBORN_lg

(Above) A later Turniermaschine, Mephisto X competing at Reno in November 1989.
(Below) Vancouver Turniermaschines were released for general sale to the public in 1991 for the extraordinary price of 15,000 DM (6,500). The price of a small family car. Nevertheless they are more numerous than the earlier versions.
 

Mephisto Vancouver Turniermaschine  1
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