Intellect -02
Intellect - 02  2  25 x 25

This chess computer arrived in 2007 from deepest Siberia, from close to the Kazakhstan and Mongolian borders. At first it was a bit of a mystery. The person who sold it thought that it had been manufactured in 1988 and that 5000 had been made. He knew very little else. The manual is in Russian Cyrillic script and therefore of limited assistance to me, though the functions required to play a game of chess are not too difficult to work out.

Although of a bigger and heavier design, its closest Western counterpart would be the Great Game Machine. It is designed to accept cartridges that play different games. It came with the Chess and Kalak (a version of Mancala) cartridges. Checkers and backgammon are other possibilities.

Since the Intellect-02 arrived I have learned a bit more about it and other Russian chess computers so this update of the webpage is long overdue.

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Two chess computers were exhibited at the All-Russian Exhibition Centre in Moscow in 1983 and 1984. These were Intellect-01 and Intellect-02. Intellect-01 played only chess and probably got no further than the prototype stage. Intellect-02 was built to play a number of board games, including chess, using program cartridges similar to an early video games console.

The First Soviet Computer-Chess Championship took place in Ulan-Ude in June 1988. A program called Intellect was entered by a Y.Kubinov. The program was said to be written in assembly, performed an alpha-beta search of 20 positions per second, running on a ‘special’ processor at 2 MHz. Intellect got two draws from five games and finished last of six. Following these Championships the Soviet Computer-Chess Federation was set up to support computer chess and chess programming, to organize computer chess tournaments and to establish a cooperative for producing chess computers.

Intellect-02 was perhaps the first result of setting up this ‘cooperative’. It was made and released that year (1988). A dedicated chess computer/games machine intended for mass production, based on the KR580VM80A processor, a Soviet Intel 8080 clone.  I am now told that 8000 were made between 1988 and 1991. I have no idea how many cartridges were produced. The Intellect-02 has serial number 4288 and the chess cartridge serial number 4315 both being dated November 1988. The chess cartridges were sold in a box with an instruction manual but no chess pieces.

The Intellect-02 now appears to be rather rare within Russia and exceptionally rare elsewhere. Some of the Russian developed Elektronikas and a number of Eastern Block clones of Western chess computers appear more often in collections and on Ebay.

With this background I had hoped for the Intellect-02 to be a weak but interesting chess opponent. However this is where the big letdown arrived. The 1988 Intellect-02 chess cartridge is an exact clone of the Fidelity Chess Challenger 3 (CC3). In every test game I have played against the CC3 and Intellect-02 they have played exactly the same moves when set on the same level. The four chess control buttons BB (EN - Enter), CT (CL - Clear/Change Level), BN (DM - Double Move) and Cb (RE - Reset) perform exactly the same functions as they do on the CC3. The Intellect-02 is usually 10-20% slower to respond. Thanks to a quirk of the Intellect-02 manual I now know that both machines will accept castling whether you input the king move or the rook move first.

Final point, judged by the game from the First Soviet Computer-Chess Championship, between Algir and Intellect  it is unlikely that that Intellect program is the same one used in the Intellect-02 chess cartridge.


Update October 2015

Having just acquired a second Intellect-02 here is some additional information.
This second machine was originally sold in May 1993. It is serial number 7542, apparently manufactured in November 1991. It came with Chess cartridge 7554 also dated November 1991 and Kalak cartridge 4576 dated December 1990. Most of the differences between the two Intellect-02s are minor and cosmetic. However the later chess cartridge is a different program. Firstly it has four levels not three, now set using key YN. The program accepts normal castling input rather than going through the Chess Challenger 3 double move process (the double move key BN is now used for white/black in set up mode) and the NN key is used for position verification and set-up. The program also has a small opening book, so responds immediately to e2-e4 etc. or plays from the opening book as white. Whilst still not a strong program it is an upgrade of the CC3 program, and as such a bit of a surprise. It plays different moves even on Level One.


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Some links to information about the Intellect-02 and other Russian Chess Computers

Sergei Frolov’s museum -

Real USSR - another Intellect-02 -

Soviet Chess Computers thread on HIARCS forum -

First Soviet Computer Chess Championships 1988 -

First International Chess Computer Tournament USSR 1989 -


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