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M-20 [1]

M-20, (M20)
was a Soviet digital general purpose mainframe computer developed at the Institute of Precise Mechanics and Computer Engineering, and manufactured from 1958 to 1964 at Kazan Plant of Computing Machines. Chief designer was Sergey Alekseevich Lebedev [2], who already created the first Soviet computer, the MESM in 1950, and further the BESM-1 and 2 [3]. Chief developer assistants were M.K. Soulim and Mikhail R. Shura-Bura [4] [5] et al. [6].


The M-20 was a single-processor computer with several original architectural solutions implemented, like overlapping execution aka pipeline processing, accelerated addition and multiplying operations due to improved carry circuits, introducing the "rough" carry chain in addition to fly-through carry, and multiplying a factor by two bits at a time. M-20 used 45-bit binary floating point notation, had a ferromagnetic core memory of up to 4096 words, and magnetic drums and tapes as peripheral memory. Logical circuits used semiconductor diodes, registers and latches electronic tubes. The computer performed 20 thousand instructions per second. The operating system IS-2, Algol 60 and Fortran compiler were developed by Mikhail R. Shura-Bura [7] and Andrey Ershov.


Later, M-220 [8], M-222 [9] and BESM-4 semiconductor models were developed, which had increased storage volume and were software compatible with the M-20. They were mass-manufactured until 1974 and used in computer centers all over the Soviet Union [10]. BESM-4 was used to create the first ever computer animation in 1968 [11] [12].

Chess Programs

Shura-Bura's Program

A chess program was already written in 1961 at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics under direction of Mikhail R. Shura-Bura [13] [14] [15], presumably running on a M-20.

ITEP Chess Program

The ITEP Chess Program, forerunner of Kaissa, developed since 1963 [16] at Alexander Kronrod’s laboratory at the Moscow Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP) by Georgy Adelson-Velsky, Vladimir Arlazarov, Anatoly Uskov, Alexander Zhivotovsky, A. Leman, M. Rozenfeld and Russian chess master Alexander Bitman [17] is mentioned to ran the Stanford-ITEP Match on a M-2 computer [18], while it was also ported to run on the M-20 [19] [20]. Quote from Mikhail Donskoy's life cycle of a programmer [21]:

When I was in high school I learned to program on the M-20 ... In the group of programmers at Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics, where computing work was done on nuclear physics on the M-20, they came up with arrays, lists, the need for subroutines and more. One of my teachers, Georgy Adelson-Velsky came up with a hash memory. Details can be found in another of my teachers - Alexander Kronrod "Conversations about programming". Even before Dijkstra's basic principles of structured programming was known, Alexander Brudno published the book "Programming in meaningful notation." There was also created the first chess program ... The chess program ITEP, the predecessor of Kaissa fit in memory of M-20, namely in 4096 cells, each of which has a 48-bit ...

Butenko's Program

After Mikhail Botvinnik introduced his early computer chess ideas concerning attack maps and trajectories at Moscow Central Chess Club [22] in 1966, with the skeptical Georgy Adelson-Velsky and others attending, he found Vladimir Butenko as supporter and collaborator. Butenko first implemented the 15x15 vector attacks board representation, determining trajectories on a M-20 computer in a program which apparently was a forerunner of Pioneer, which also evolved to Butenko's program after he refused further cooperation with Botvinnik in 1970 [23].

Selected Games

David Bronstein - M-20 [24] [25]

[Event "Computer Match"]
[Site "Moscow Mathematics Institute"]
[Date "1963.04.04"]
[Round "1"]
[White "David Bronstein"]
[Black "M20 (Computer)"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e5 Ng4 5.d4 g5 6.Nc3 Ne3 7.Qe2 Nxf1 8.Ne4 Ne3 
9.Nf6+ Ke7 10.Bd2 Nxc2+ 11.Kf2 Nxa1 12.Nd5+ Ke6 13.Qc4 b5 14.Nxg5+ Qxg5 
15.Nxc7+ Ke7 16.Nd5+ Ke6 17.Nxf4+ Ke7 18.Nd5+ Ke8 19.Qxc8+ Qd8 20.Nc7+ Ke7
21.Bb4+ d6 22.Bxd6+ Qxd6 23.Qe8# 1-0

In his Advances in Computer Chess 8 conference paper, Bronstein mentioned he played Kaissa in 1963 with queen odds [26], so one may assume it was already an early version of the ITEP Chess Program running on a M-20. However, according to Mikhail Donskoy, the development on ITEP started in 1963 [27]. In The Early Development of Programming in the USSR [28], Andrey Ershov and Mikhail R. Shura-Bura note that in the end of the 1950's a group of Moscow mathematicians began a study of computerized chess which eventually led to the victory at the WCCC 1974 [29].

See also

External Links

Architecture - m20 - Emulator of M-20, soviet vacuum tube computer - Google Project Hosting
GreKo - Download (c) 2002-2011 Vladimir Medvedev


  1. m20 - Emulator of M-20, soviet vacuum tube computer - Google Project Hosting
  2. Sergey Alekseevich Lebedev from the Russian Virtual Computer Museum
  3. Gregory D. Crowe, Seymour E. Goodman (1994). S.A. Lebedev and the Birth of Soviet Computing.IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 16, No. 1, pdf
  4. Mikhail Romanovich Shura-Bura from the Russian Virtual Computer Museum
  5. The Editorial Board (2009). To the Memory of Mikhail Romanovich Shura-Bura. Programming and Computer Software, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 181–182. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., Original Russian Text © Editorial Board, published in Programmirovanie, Vol. 35, No. 4, pdf
  6. M-20 Computer from the Russian Virtual Computer Museum
  7. M series (computer) from Wikipedia
  8. M-220 Computer from the Russian Virtual Computer Museum
  9. M series (computer) from Wikipedia
  10. m20 - Emulator of M-20, soviet vacuum tube computer - Google Project Hosting
  11. Кошечка : Математические этюды, translated by Google Translate
  12. “Kitty”: One of the First-Ever Computer Animations | Geekosystem
  13. Jaap van den Herik (1983). Computerschaak, Schaakwereld en Kunstmatige Intelligentie. Ph.D. thesis, Delft University of Technology. Academic Service, The Hague. ISBN 90 62 33 093 2 (Dutch), 2.2.9. Sjoera-Boera
  14. Schachcomputer - Geschichte - 6 by Karsten Bauermeister (German)
  15. Computerschach - ein Überblick von Mathias Grontzki (German)
  16. "Каисса" - Историю программы рассказывает один из ее создателей Михаил Донской (Russian Kaissa - by Mikhail Donskoy)
  17. Georgy Adelson-Velsky, Vladimir Arlazarov, Alexander Bitman, Alexander Zhivotovsky, Anatoly Uskov (1970). Programming a Computer to Play Chess. Russian Mathematical Surveys, Vol. 25, pp. 221-262.
  18. The Fast Universal Digital Computer M-2 by the Russian Virtual Computer Museum
  19. GreKo - Download has a listing of the ITEP Chess Program for the M-20 computer, hosted by Vladimir Medvedev
  20. Michael Brudno (2000). Competitions, Controversies, and Computer Chess, pdf
  21. Михаил Донской: Жизненный цикл программиста - ПОЛИТ.РУ (Russian) Mikhail Donskoy - The life cycle of a programmer translated by Google Translate, polit.ru August 20, 2008
  22. The last day of the “Botvinnik Memorial” by Anna Burtasova, ChessBase News, September 07, 2011
  23. Лингвистическая Геометрия Бориса Штильмана, Linguistic Geometry Boris Stilman by Alexander Timofeev (Google Translate) По стопам ПИОНЕРа, In the footsteps of Pioneer
  24. David Bronstein and Tom Fürstenberg (1995). The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Cadogan Books, London. ISBN 1-85744-151-6, pp. 278 (26) Bronstein,D - M20 Computer
  25. David Bronstein vs M20 (Computer) 1963 from chessgames.com
  26. David Bronstein (1997). My Experiences with Computers. Advances in Computer Chess 8
  27. "Каисса" - Историю программы рассказывает один из ее создателей Михаил Донской (Russian Kaissa - by Mikhail Donskoy)
  28. Andrey Ershov, Mikhail R. Shura-Bura (1980). The Early Development of Programming in the USSR. in Nicholas C. Metropolis (ed.) A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century. Academic Press, pp. 137-196
  29. preprint pp. 44

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