ACM 1978

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Sheraton Park Hotel [1]

The ACM's Ninth North American Computer Chess Championship (NACCC) was held from December 4 to 6, 1978 at the Sheraton Park Hotel, Washington, D.C., USA.

Several celebrities from the world of chess and from the computing field were attending the ACM 1978 computer chess tournament, notably Edward Lasker, Robert Byrne, and ACM president Daniel D. McCracken, who presented trophies to the three prizewinners. Two remarkable incidents appeared in two games of the new American Champion Belle - in round 2 versus Chess 4.7, when Chess missed the win with 21... Nxd3, and in round 4 versus Blitz 6.5, which according to David Levy produced the most beautiful combination ever played by a computer program so far [2] .

Final Standing


# Program CC 1 2 3 4 P SOS SoDOS
1 Belle US 8b1 2w1 3b1 4b1 4
2 Chess 4.7 US 9w1 1b0 6w1 7b1 3
3 CHAOS US 5w1 7b1 1w0 6b½ 10½
4 Blitz 6.5 US 10w1 6b½ 11b1 1w0
5 Sargon 2 US 3b0 12w1 8b½ 11w1 5
6 Duchess US 11b1 4w½ 2b0 3w½ 2 9
7 Ostrich 4 CA 12b1 3w0 9b1 2w0 2 7
8 Mike GB 1w0 9b½ 5w½ 10b½
9 Black Knight US 2b0 8w½ 7w0 12b1 ¾
10 Bs'66'76 NL 4b0 11w0 12b1 8w½ 5 ¾
11 Awit CA 6w0 10b1 4w0 5b0 1
12 Brute Force CA 7w0 5b0 10w0 9w0 0 0



Program CC Team Hardware Language
Awit CA Tony Marsland AMDAHL 470V/6 ALGOL-W
Belle US Ken Thompson, Joe Condon PDP-11/23 C, Assembly
Black Knight US Fred Prouse, Kenn Sogge, Gary Maltzen,
Lonny Lebahn
UNIVAC 1100 Fortran
Blitz 6.5 US Robert Hyatt, Albert Gower UNIVAC 1100 Fortran
Brute Force CA Louis Kessler IBM 370/168 Fortran
Bs'66'76 NL Barend Swets IBM 370/168 Fortran
CHAOS US Fred Swartz, Mike Alexander, Tom McBride,
Victor Berman, William Toikka, Joe Winograd
AMDAHL 470V/6 Fortran
Chess 4.7 US Larry Atkin, David Slate, Keith Gorlen,
David Cahlander
Duchess US Tom Truscott, Eric Jensen, Bruce Wright IBM 370/165 Assembly
Mike GB Mike Johnson 6800 System Assembly
Ostrich 4 CA Monroe Newborn, Ilan Vardi Nova 3 Assembly
Sargon 2 US Dan Spracklen, Kathe Spracklen Z80, Wavemate Jupiter III Assembly



Kathe and Dan Spracklen [5]

Mike Johnson 1 40 x 40.JPG

Kathe Spracklen and Mike Johnson, Mike vs. Sargon 2 ½ - ½ [6]

Cahlender.CDC Chess 46.ACM 1978.jpg

David Cahlander, Chess 4.7 [7] and dedicated Chesstor user interface

Selected Games

In round 2, Belle - Chess 4.7, Chess 4.7 played the inferior 21... Nxd3+, according to David Levy because it considered the position after 21... Nxd3+ 22.Qxd3 dxc3 23.Qg6 cxd2+ 24.Nxd2 to be quiescent [8] .

[Event "ACM 1978"]
[Site "Washington USA"]
[Date "1978.12.03"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Belle"]
[Black "Chess 4.7"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nf3 Bb4 5.e5 Nge7 6.Bd2 Nf5 7.Ne2 Be7 8.c3 O-O
9.Nf4 f6 10.Bd3 fxe5 11.dxe5 g5 12.g4 Ng7 13.Ng2 b6 14.Qe2 Bb7 15.Rg1 a5
16.a4 Kh8 17.h3 Kg8 18.Rh1 h6 19.h4 d4 20.hxg5 Nb4 21.gxh6 Nxd3+ 22.Qxd3 dxc3
23.Qg6 cxd2+ 24.Nxd2 Rf7 25.hxg7 Rxg7 26.Qxe6+ Rf7 27.Qh6 Rg7 28.Qh8+ Kf7
29.e6+ Kxe6 30.Qxg7 Bxg2 31.Rh6+ Kd7 32.O-O-O Bd5 33.Ne4 Kc8 34.Rh8 Bxe4
35.Rdxd8+ Bxd8 36.Qe7 Kb7 37.Qxe4+ Ka7 38.Rg8 Rb8 39.g5 Be7 40.Rxb8 Bxg5+
41.f4 Bxf4+ 42.Qxf4 Kxb8 43.Kd2 Kb7 44.Kd3 Kc8 45.b4 axb4 46.Qxb4 Kd7
47.Qb5+ Kd8 48.Ke4 1-0

Game and short analyze on : [1]

Further Games


Louis Kessler

Louis Kessler with Brute Force suffered from a "bug" twice, assumed already been fixed - he could not enter the en passant moves by Ostrich 4 and Bs6676 in rounds 1 and 3 [9] :

 As far as the en passant bug goes, it turns out this was my own misinterpretation of the rules. I read that "The en passant capture must be done on the very next turn, or the right to do so is lost”. I had interpreted that as losing the right to do any en passant for the remainder of the game, not just for that one specific en passant. My personal lack of experience in tournament chess led to that, and it cost me. 


Quote by Dan and Kathe Spracklen on ACM 1978 from their oral history [10] :

Through Chicago, to Washington, D.C. And so, when I got to Chicago, who got on the plane but Larry Atkin and David Slate. They were sitting across, a few seats down. Yes. So, anyway, when we got there, we- and Kathy got at the airport, and then we all introduced ourselves and we told them who we were. They were really cordial to us. We thought, geez, these guys have been in computer chess for a long time, and we’re just newbies. But they were really nice to us. It was great. It made us feel like part of the crowd. So, we went to that tournament, and we were playing against big machines- Amdahl’s and Cray's, kind of like. Plus Ken Thompson had his Belle, at the time. And so he had this T-shirt, with a cat on it, with a mouse, kind of hanging out of its mouth, and it said, How I’d love to eat the mice, eat them every one, nibble on their tiny feet- bite their little heads off. It was really gross but he thought- he had figured that we were going to be paired in the first round. He did the Swiss on it and figured that’s where we would probably end it.
I think the most exciting part for us was the last round of the tournament, when we played Tony Marsland’s program Awit. It was a 6 million dollar Amdahl computer. And we won the game. And we were just amazed. I remember, at the time, we won it. And there was a huge audience there. There was like a hundred people sitting out there, watching it, and they just all started cheering and clapping. And then we woke up the following morning to a big article in the Washington Post that says, Microcomputer Beats 6 Million Dollar Machine, or something like that. 


External Links


  1. Main building of the Marriott Wardman Park, built in 1977 as replacement for the 1918 built horseshoe-shaped hotel building, then the Sheraton-Park Hotel. In 1980 the new hotel was renamed the Sheraton Washington Hotel, in 1998 the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Photo (cropped) by MBisanz, January 04, 2012, Wikimedia Commons, Marriott Wardman Park from Wikipedia, see also Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel - Washington D.C. from WikiMapia
  2. David Levy (1978). ACM '78. ICCA Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1
  3. ACM 1978 CSVN site
  4. David Levy (1978). ACM '78. ICCA Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1
  5. Kathe and Dan Spracklen at the 9th ACM North American Computer Chess Championship, Washington, DC by Monroe Newborn from The Computer History Museum
  6. Chess Computers - The UK Story from Chess Computer UK by Mike Watters
  7. Cahlandar at 9th ACM North American Computer Chess Championship in Washington, D.C. 1978 Gift of Monroe Newborn from The Computer History Museum
  8. David Levy (1978). ACM '78. ICCA Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1
  9. A Memorial to BRUTE FORCE
  10. Gardner Hendrie (2005). Oral History of Kathe and Dan Spracklen. pdf from The Computer History Museum

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