Saitek Renaissance Sparc
Saitek Renaissance Sparc  10  25 x 25

The Renaissance board has beautiful clean lines. There is a generous uncluttered margin around the board. The 81 small LEDs recessed in the corner of each square are an aesthetic improvement on the 64, one per square, LEDs which intrude into the appearance of most auto sensory boards. If the chess piece set was larger, heavier and more finely carved it would be perfect. The advantages of the Renaissance board do not stop with looks. The board gives a wealth of options accessed through the keypad and the LCD chessboard is also a major benefit.

The Renaissance was released in 1989 at a relatively modest price. All it lacked was a strong chess program. The standard program installed in the machine was much weaker than seemed appropriate for the class of board at 1514 Elo (Wiki). Whilst various modules were produced with much stronger programs none of them challenged the strongest chess computers of the day.

So in early 1990, after Mephisto had acquired Fidelity, the Fidelity programmers Dan & Kathe Spracklen moved to Saitek . Their mission was to produce a top class program for the Renaissance board.           cont >
 

Saitek Renaissance Sparc  9  15 x 15
Saitek Renaissance Sparc  12  15 x 15
Saitek Renaissance Sparc  13  15 x 15
Saitek Renaissance Sparc  17  15 x 15
Saitek Renaissance Sparc  3  25 x 25

Not all Renaissance boards are suitable for use with Sparc modules. Some boards manufactured or modified after 1993 will have the Sparc Module Compatible sticker you see. However I have seen a board properly modified by the Niggemann company in Germany that had no sticker.

My advice to anyone who has a Renaissance board but isn’t sure of its compatibility with the Sparc module is don’t try it.

Saitek Renaissance Sparc  19  20 x 20

The Spracklens produced a program for the RISC chip and entered it at the World Microcomputer Chess Championships at Vancouver where as Fidelity X it was lucky to finish 5th. The strength of the program was not thought adequate to justify the projected cost so further development was called for. Towards the end of 1991 the project was reported to be postponed indefinitely, and rumours circulated that the Spracklens had been made redundant, but midway through 1992 they were said to be still working on it. Then as Kasparov Sparc their program competed in the World Computer Chess Championship held in Madrid in November 1992. Sparc finished 4th behind The Chessmachine which beat it in an exciting endgame in the last round with the Championship on the line. Meanwhile Saitek released the very strong Risc 2500 tabletop model (Johan de Koning), and also the strong Brute Force module for the Renaissance and Galileo boards programmed by Frans Morsch.

At the 1993 World Microcomputer Chess Championships in Munich the Kasparov Sparc entry could finish only 15th of 28. Nevertheless a decision to go ahead was taken and eventually more than three years after the start of the project the Sparc module was released for sale. Whilst the Sparc was very strong (currently Elo 2218 on Wiki list) it was not in the same league as the Mephisto modules which had appeared in the meanwhile or the newly arrived Tasc R30. PC programs were also proving to be a major competitor to dedicated chess computers and were soon to dominate.

The lost years were crucial and the Sparc did not sell well despite a reasonable price for the time of £799 (in the UK) including Renaissance board.

Saitek Renaissance Sparc  16  15 x 15
Saitek Renaissance Sparc  5  20 x 20
Saitek Renaissance Sparc  8  15 x 15
Saitek Renaissance Sparc  1  20 x 20 Saitek Renaissance Sparc  14  20 x 20
Saitek Renaissance Sparc  2  20 x 20

The Renaissance is a collectors dream. A beautiful board, extremely well presented. There is the wooden chess pieces box, the elaborate packaging and colourful outer box all showing the attention to detail Saitek lavished on their flagship chess computer.

Unfortunately the Golden Years for dedicated chess computers were long gone. Sales of top end models slowed to a crawl.

Whilst Renaissance boards are comparitively easy to find, the stronger modules are much sought after by owners who wish to add a program worthy of the board.

The Sparc sold poorly in the 1990s which is why it is now rare and valuable. The Sparc’s popularity today is done no harm by its very individual look with the black grill. An air inlet is needed as the module is fan cooled, the fan noise another part of the Sparc’s special character.

The Renaissance Sparc is high up on my list of favourite chess computers.

Type

Auto Sensory Tabletop

Programmer

Dan & Kathe Spracklen (and others)

Elo Rating

2208

Processor

SPARC RISC chip   32 bit   20 MHz    (Sparc module)

Memory

256 KB ROM    1024 Kb RAM

Opening Book

<300,000 ply  (taking into account transpositions)

Book Choice

 -

Mode Choice

 -

Problem Solving

Mate in 20

Power

10V  1.5A  positive centre       or  4 x C batteries (for non-module use only)

Dimensions

52.0 x 52.0 x 6.0 cm

Chessboard

38.0 x 38.0 cm

King Height

9.7 cm

 

 

free counters