Chess Computers – The Novag Carnelian II

If you’re thinking of buying chess computers – the Novag Carnelian II is a good candidate for under £100. The Carnelian is an improved version of the Carnelian I version which originally had the same software as the Novag Opal Plus. Novag have seen fit to improve the software to enable the Carnelian II to stand out as a program in it’s own right and superior to the Opal Plus. They’ve succeeded royally. The C II is superb as a software diven chess engine with a well endowed database of openings.

The cabinet falls short of the genuine wood cabinet of it’s big brother Citrine, but does at least have real wood (sheesham) pieces. The pieces have some magnetisation and interreact with reed switches below the surface to register the move from the ‘from’ square and the ‘to’ square. The board is strictly press sensory, but you’d hardly notice the pressure needed to make the computer recognise a ‘move. The faux wood is a little irritating, but since we’ve been conditioned to think of the computer as unnatural, it’s kinda reassuring. Real wood-everything might confuse our concepts. The chess machine has LED’s on the x-axis and y-axis to indicate the ‘from’ square and ‘to’ square. It knows you can read algebraic notation, it’s just making sure – a kind of belt and braces approach.The machine has over 100 levels of teaching modes, hints, take-back etc. and has a 8,500 move openings database. Here is a summary of it’s features:

  • 16K RISC Style processor with 28Kbyt ROM, 1K Ram, 8 MHz
  • Wide-ranging opening book with more than 24,000 half-moves
  • 128 level settings, including training, tournament and problem solving levels
  • Move TAKE BACK, HINT, TRAINING, and REFEREE features
  • Can play against itself and also makes Check, Stalemate and Mate announcements
  • Overall Dimensions 300mm x 273mm
  • Requires 6 x AA batteries or an optional mains adapter
  • Hand carved wooden Staunton chess pieces
  • 81 LED lights to indicate each move, i.e. each square has 4 LED lights
  • Will connect to the PC to print/store/follow games
  • 1900 elo – able to beat very strong players on it’s higher settings

When you’re ready to play the machine, it feels like a huge computer ready to receive it’s first instructional challenge. What? Just this feeble human? Don’t insult me. It’s understated nature feels like it’s waiting for your initial attempt before it helps you – trains you – to make the right evaluation, the right build up of strategy which it’s silicon zero’s and one’s have mastered. Don’t feel intimidated, don’t feel stupid – you’re only human. After all – humans are it’s programmers – so the Carnelian’s intelligence is about to take over your miserable chaotic world with an abscence of strategy or logic. Just press the button, it won’t change anything, press it – it’s safe, you’ll still be in control.