Video Chess

aka: Chess, Computer Chess
Atari 8-bit Specs [ all ]
See Also
Buy on Atari 2600
Buy on Windows
Buy on Xbox 360

Description official description

This is an early home chess game. The standard U. S. chess rules are used in this game. To move a piece, place the X on the board onto the piece to be moved then press the red button. Next, move the X to where you want the piece to go and press the button again. If the move is illegal, the 2600 will give a warning sound and not make the move.

To castle your king, the king and rook must not have been moved. You move your king two squares in the direction of the rook to castle with. The 2600 will then automatically move your rook around your king, completing the move. You cannot castle out of check and you cannot castle to the king's side if any squares between the king and rook are threatened.

Another maneuver is called en passant. This move is used to counteract the enemy pawn's initial double move on a adjacent square. To carry out the en passant, you must advance your pawn to the fifth rank. Your opponent then has the option of moving his or her pawn one square (where it would be under attack) or two squares. If you opponent elects to move two squares, the en passant move allows you to take that pawn by diagonally moving your pawn to the square that was skipped over.

Skill levels

These determine how long the computer will think on its move. These times are approximate and may vary slightly, depending on what move you did.

Level 1=15 seconds

Level 2=30 seconds

Level 3=45 seconds

Level 4=2 minutes, 45 seconds

Level 5=3 minutes, 15 seconds

Level 6=12 minutes

Level 7=10 hours

Level 8=10 seconds

Level 8 is a beginner level.

Groups +


Credits (Atari 2600 version)

4 People

Game Algorithm
Chess Consultant
Display Program
Cover Artwork



Average score: 52% (based on 5 ratings)


Average score: 2.0 out of 5 (based on 15 ratings with 0 reviews)

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Subject By Date
1979 Computer Chess Tournament neoshock (10) Oct 24th, 2016
1979 Computer Chess Tournament neoshock (10) Nov 24th, 2015
10 Hours?!?! beetle120 (2414) Oct 1st, 2007



Video Chess is the game that inspired Atari to create bank-switching ROMs for the Atari 2600, which allowed games to use more that 4k of memory. Ironically, Video Chess did not use bank-switching ROMs, itself.



Bug: Game doesn't recognize checkmate

Levels 8 & 1

Black Bishop has King in check.

(1) White Bishop blocks

(2) Black Bishop takes white Bishop

Computer doesn't register check mate.

Bx - Black Wx - White

xR - Rook xN - Knight xB - Bishop xQ - Queen xK - King xP - Pawn

WK is in check by BB +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | |BQ|BK| | |BR| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | | | |BP|BP|BP| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ |WQ| |BP|BP| | | | | +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ |BN| | | | |WP| |BB| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | |WB|BN| | | | +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | | | | |BB|WP| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ |WP| |WP| | | | | | +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | |WN| | |WK|WB|WN|WQ| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+

White moves WB to block BB check +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | |BQ|BK| | |BR| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | | | |BP|BP|BP| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ |WQ| |BP|BP| | | | | +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ |BN| | | | |WP| |BB| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | | |BN| | | | +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | | | | |BB|WP| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ |WP| |WP| | |WB| | | +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | |WN| | |WK|WB|WN|WQ| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+

Black moves BB and takes WB, Checkmate but game doesn't indicate this +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | |BQ|BK| | |BR| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | | | |BP|BP|BP| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ |WQ| |BP|BP| | | | | +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ |BN| | | | |WP| |BB| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | | |BN| | | | +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | | | | | | | |WP| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ |WP| |WP| | |BB| | | +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+ | |WN| | |WK|WB|WN|WQ| +--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+



Atari's Chess game was a remarkable technical achievement, since Atari's own programmers had deemed chess as an impossibility on the 2600 from the start. The 2600 could only display three sprites in a row, or six using smart programming tricks (as displayed in the equally groundbreaking Space Invaders). A chess set has up to eight pieces in a row, and to overcome the six-sprite limitation, Bob Whitehead came up a technique known as "Venetian blinds". By changing the sprite positions on each scan line, the illusion of eight, or even more sprites could be attained. Since each sprite was only drawn on every second scan line, all chess pieces were striped, but at least the VCS could display eight pieces which it otherwise was not able to.

Source: Design case history: the Atari Video Computer System


Originally, Atari was not going to make a chess game for the 2600 but the original Video Computer System box showed a chess piece and Atari ended up being sued by someone in Florida for false advertising because of the lack of a chess game.

AI skill level

Developer Larry Wagner claimed that during development the game was tested and managed to beat dedicated chess computers Boris and Chess Challenger 10.

Information also contributed by Игги Друге and John Hamill

Related Games

Released 1984 on MSX
Championship Chess
Released 2004 on Windows
EG Chess
Released 1999 on Windows
Released 1992 on DOS
Released 2010 on Android
Computer Chess Program
Released 1978 on Intel 8080, Zilog Z80, TRS-80
Virtual Chess
Released 1995 on DOS, Windows
Ultra Chess
Released 1985 on MSX
Sega Chess
Released 1991 on SEGA Master System

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 23401


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by LepricahnsGold.

Xbox 360, Windows added by Alaka.

Additional contributors: Alaka, vedder.

Game added August 3rd, 2006. Last modified February 22nd, 2023.