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Microchess, a chess-playing program for microcomputers, has been described as the first commercially successful game for home computers, initially programmed in 1976 on MOS Technology's KIM-1.

Designed for homebrew kit hobbyists to plug into less than 1k of memory, what the play algorithms lack in grandmaster talent they make up for in speed. Marginally upgraded (the TRS-80 version expanded to 4k: 2k for game logic and 2k for a picture of a chess board) for the burgeoning microcomputer market (why restrict input and output to a hex keyboard and 6 LED digit displays if you don't have to?) it went on to sell over a million copies for the Apple 2 and TRS-80 (and, among the usual suspects, also eventually ported to other hobby platforms such as those made by "Processor Technology, Imsai, Cromemco, Polymorphic Systems, MITS, Ohio Scientific, and many more") before quickly being overtaken by the likes of Sargon.


Microchess Commodore PET/CBM Board starting position
Microchess TRS-80 Title screen; game instructions
Microchess Windows Interface instructions
Microchess Windows A bold opening gambit (plugged into Winboard)

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Alternate Titles

  • "Chess" -- TRS-80 CoCo title

User Reviews

Early Chess Game Apple II zorkman (197)

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Peter Jennings postponed collecting royalties from Personal Software's booming sales of Microchess, in effect loaning the company the money it needed to cross-compile its next product on a time-share system. This application was VisiCalc, the first home computer spreadsheet (and "killer app"); selling over a million copies at hundreds of (1980s) dollars a pop, Jennings got a good return on his investment.

Related Web Sites

  • Microchess manual (Not only the instructions but the product: following the usual manual instructions are 15 pages of user-input source code.)
  • The Microchess story (An account-in-progress of the rise and fall of the first blockbuster home computer game)
Contributed to by Kabushi (217927), Pseudo_Intellectual (61060) and vedder (43226)