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The Company NOVAG

together with their american programmer David Kittinger was proclaimed as a favorite for many dedicated chess computer fans after their release of the Super Constellation in the year 1984. At the time of it’s release the Super Constellation was extremely strong and received a huge following because of it’s unconventional, intuitive, tactical and very human playing style.

Like almost all other chess computers of that time period, the program ran on an 8-Bit 6502 CPU at 3.6 Mhz. The software program itself was 56 K and the computer could rely on an opening book of 20.000 half moves, which may have been of record size for its day. It was now also possible for the first time for a user to create his own personal openings library of approximately 2000 half moves. This became an equipment standard for all NOVAG chess computers to this day. Further Highlights were the availability of connecting a printer as well as a chess clock to the computer. The price of the computer was approximately 800 DM and was also available in an elegant wooden board named the Constellation Expert.

Although the „Super Conny“, as it was lovingly named by its supporters, could not compete in Computer Competitions against its 16-Bit competitors from Mephisto, it did however often receive great acclaim for its spectacular wins (even against humans). In the professional world the experts talked about Kittinger’s famous PSH-Algorithm which allowed the program to play „intuitive“ moves and piece sacrifices. It is exactly this which even today continues to make the old Super Constellation such an interesting and sought after machine. This is especially atractive and interessting for the amateur chess player because the Super Constellation can occasionally make him look good due to it’s infrequent yet also spectacular miscalculations. The author estimates a playing strength of approx. 1700 Elo (SSDF old: 1750, SSDF new: 1650).

NOVAG introduced the Forte in 1985 as a replacement for the Super Constellation. This was followed a year later with the improved Version B. The machines were the first to have a display available for move information. The playing strength of these machines was only slightly better than the Super Constellation and this was probably mainly due to the tact frequency of 5 Mhz. At that time Kittinger worked more and more on building positional criterias into his program, which did not neccessarily favor the people who were accustomed to the previous spectacular playing style of the Super Constellation.

This tendency continued with the introduction of the Super Forte A in 1987. The B-Version of 1989 was tactically a Monster compared to the Novag Constellation Forte A, but positionally showed several weaknesses. In 1990 a new master creation of Kittinger’s was launched, especially the 6 Mhz version which also played in the 1990 Tournaments. Kittinger almost managed to crack the magic SSDF 2000 Elo barrier with his machine. It was listed as 1960 Elo (new SSDF @ 1860). From the author’s point of view this was and still is today the strongest 8-Bit machine ever created and the available tournament results reconfirm this opinion.

What made Kittinger’s C-program so special? Well, the american Programmer introduced some ground breaking program technical improvements with his so-called Selective Search functions. This allowed depending on the setup, for the machine to search deeper into the more likely and effective move positions. The program could be setup for 8 different Selective Search levels. From experience Sel 5 has established itself as the the strongest Selective Search setting, although this also has resulted in different debates and opinions from Experts.

The Super Expert C was both tactically and positionally equally strong and the spectacular PSH-moves appeared again in its play. That lovable Super Conny feeling of previous times was re-created (but at a higher playing standard) On the content side, the Display was positively improved when compared to the Forte-Generation and other previous NOVAG models. The new Display showed the used time for both sides and was much clearer to read. In addition to this, for the first time a PC-Serial connection was made available with the NOVAG Distributor-Box. The Opening Library also increased to 32.000 half moves.

Even Dave Kittinger at some point accepted that the days of the 8-Bit machines were over. In 1990 with the introduction of the Novag Scorpio (renamed because of Tradename issues to Diablo) he converted to the Motorola 68000 Processor. All the high expectations for his new creation were unfortunately not fullfilled. He did however finally leap past the SSDF 2000 Elo (new SSDF 1900) barrier. Optically this machine was a complete eye opener!

Novag Chess Computers


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