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V > VIDEOMASTER > Star Chess


This mini forum is intended to provide a simple means of discussion about the Videomaster Star Chess computer. If you want to share your own experience or memories, or add relevant information about this system: post a message!

  Click Here to add a message in the forum


Saturday 7th May 2011
Peter Gebler (UK)

I invented Star Chess around July/August 1977 when I was working as Technical Editor of a trade magazine in the UK called "New Electronics". This was around the time that the first serious microprocessor battle between Intel (with its 8080) and Motorola (with its 6800) was gathering force and lots of other companies (TI, MOS Technology, National Semiconductor, RCA ...) were also fighting to get into this market and everyone was talking about the amazing new applications that microprocessors would enable. New Electronics was by far the most successful professional electronics engineering publication in the UK at the time and I was unique among the people working for these kinds of publications in that I actually understood the technology. It sounds strange today but in the mid-70''s nobody expected the people writing for trade publications in areas such as electronics or chemicals or agriculture to actually know anything about the industry they were writing about$ you sifted through hundreds of press releases, decided which ones to print, then edited them down to a standard format. My immediate boss at New Electronics had a background in industrial chemistry but had no idea what a transistor was.

Because I had a degree in maths and physics and a background in electronic design, I was able to carve out a bit of a niche in the electronics reporting field. The inspiration for Star Chess came while I was visiting a semiconductor company (can''t remember which one - it may have been TI, which had a manufacturing site in Bedford at the time) and their marketing manager commented that with all the companies I was visiting and the inside information I had access to I was in a good position to come up with some new applications myself.

That was literally what happened. When I got home, I sat up late at the kitchen table thinking of all kinds of possible new applications for microprocessors. Music synthesisers were my main interest at the time but I rejected this route because it was clear that the performance of the available microprocessors wasn''t good enough. Toys were another area I considered (I had two young children at the time) but the problem there was that microprocessors were just too expensive at the time to be used in toys. I outlined a system for automating library borrowing using smart cards (also just recently invented) but rejected this because the smart card technology at the time was also expensive and unproven. So, finally, I decided to focus on video games: they were becoming more important commercially but they were mostly ping-pong type games that involved only hand-eye coordination. I thought there must be an opening for some kind of strategy-based game. This all happened soon after the first "Star Wars" film (July 1977), which I didn''t see but knew that it was very popular. So, that night, I decided to invent a new video game, based on chess but involving "Star Wars" aspects. I kept the basic chess pieces but renamed them and introduced the ability to fire at opponents and warp into hyperspace. This was because I am not a good chess player and don''t have the attention span to look beyond the next move or two. So the idea of being able to defeat an opponent''s carefully executed strategy by invoking luck appealed to me.

By the time I went to bed (very late!), I had two handwritten pages that simply outlined the rules of the game.

By coincidence, a few days later I attended a press conference given by Videomaster and met their marketing director, Derek Martin. I decided to approach them as they seemed to be the only UK-based video games manufacturer. They were immediately interested and we signed a licence agreement (about a week before Christmas 1977) that gave them exclusive worldwide rights to Star Chess. The actual technical development was done by a firm called Dalton, Viewing $ Whitsey based in Coventry. They decided to use the Motorola 6800 microprocessor and the resulting order was at the time the biggest order anywhere in the world for microprocessors$ I remember we had a press conference to announce this. The game was launched with a massive champagne laser press breakfast with a guest TV celebrity, Magnus Pyke.

After that, everything went wrong. The game was not a commercial success, although it certainly gained a cult following. It was priced at £70 in the shops (far too high at the time) and there were rumours of high failure rates. Videomaster encountered financial problems and were acquired by Waddingtons. This was a company mainly known at the time for greetings cards and board games but it wanted to get into electronic games. Their acquisition of Videomaster was conditional upon me signing a new licence agreement transferring Videomaster''s rights to Star Chess to Waddingtons. I agreed to this but the window of opportunity had already closed. Waddingtons lost a lot of money and Star Chess became history.

I didn''t do badly out of it - about £70,000 over a few years for two pages of hand-written concept description that was the result of five or six hours work - but who knows what might have happened if I''d chosen a different company to commercialise it?

Sunday 18th July 2010
Tomr (England)

I used to play this at a friends house back in the 80''s.
Their family went through at least 3 of these consoles over the years. I remember their dad saying he was getting them cheap for about £50 a throw. (and that was cheap back in the day)

And nowadays i am the very proud owner of one of my own. After buying one boxed in mint condition on a carboot for a Fiver a couple of years ago.
I will never be selling it!

Pete G: If that is true. Then thank you for your contribution towards many fun times and fond memories!

Wednesday 9th November 2022
Rich (UK) (United Kingdom)

Peter, if you are still interested in doing an on line version, I''d love to have a go, and even looking at perhaps porting it to the ZX Spectrum Next as that has . I''ve been doing development for far too many years to remember so think its very viable :). Was thinking this would make either a JavaScript browser based or go the full hog and Unity. If you have a website/email I can $ you a message. Got 2 machines working now.(tough display needs a composite mod really) and hopefully a 3rd.

Thursday 4th June 2020
Pete Gebler (United Kingdom)

If there is anyone interested in re-created Starchess as an online game, please contact me. You get 75$ because you do all the programming. OK, 80$.

I always regretted that Videomaster really screwed up a game that had so much potential. I would be happy to talk to anyone who wants to bring it back to life.

Friday 20th December 2019
Gerald Lane

Having a clear out. In 1977 I was working for the Design Council and was collecting details of where Microprocessors were being used, This led to me being involved with The Challenge of the Chip exhibition at the Science Museum. I was given lots of products to put on display and the Star Chess was one of them. Box is a bit tatty and the plastic lid cracked and id glued. Not used much. Looking for a new home! I live near Gravesend.

Sunday 10th February 2019
Brian Horne (England)

My Son just got a old Videomaster Star Chess model VMV14 Ser. No. 1091. But output sound problems. I am looking for a wiring circuit diagram so I can fault find on it. Anyone got one or where I could purchase a copy.

Friday 18th January 2019
Nick Sheldon (UK)

I used to play this game on the top floor(?) of Harrods in 1979/80 when aged 16 with a friend who went on to get 7 grade ''A'' A'' levels in one sitting! On our rather infrequent visits we used to be allowed to play it indefinitely, as it served as a free demonstration of the game. I remember it with great fondness, as I could very easily win against this otherwise extraordinary opponent.

Sunday 25th November 2018
Rich (UK)

I remeber visitibg a friend''s house when he got it. Being young I didnt understand the game but the console looked futuristic in the says a plastic Binatone pong.
Now I picked up two from ebay for a readonable price nearly 40 years later. One with a very buzzy psu and one with poor image on ch 36 (the on the aint too good).
I''m planning to at least restore one good one out the two. Interesting that they both have different psu designs. One almost looks like a kit box compared to the more moulded one.
I guess there are no circuit diagrams about so hopefully it will just need recapping and possibly adjustment of trimming caps on the board to tune in better.

Wednesday 3rd June 2015
Ross (Cornwall, England)

Cannot remember where I purchased mine, perhaps at the TV Mex exhibition in Birmingham at a release stand, but I still have it and since the output is UHF Tv standard, I have a UHF Tv as well, must power it all up and test it at some point.

Sunday 17th May 2015
Michael O''Connor (Canada, New Brunswick, Saint John)

Hey there I''ve stumbled across your star chess post! I was wondering I still have the game and it''s in mint condition although I don''t own the system to try it! I was wondering what the price on Star Chess video game cartridge. Model No: MC 1004, Cartridge NO: 18 would be today! If anyone has any idea as to what these are going for or want''s to offer on it Please do so! Thank you sincerely Mike.

Sunday 14th December 2014
António Vasconcelos (Portugal)

Any chance of disclosing the rules for Star Chess ? I can''t believe I couldn''t find them somewhere on the net...
I don''t have the skills for doing an online multi-player version or a USER vs AI 1 player version and I''m sure no one will be interested in a 2 players version done in ZX BASIC, but I''d like to know...

Wednesday 26th November 2014
David Austin

I also have one of these in full working order. Can''t part with it, nostalgia i guess.

Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Patrick Cardon (France/Belgium)

I bought one of these when I lived in the UK 15 years ago, it is boxed (missing a flap) but the unit is in mint condition. Think at the time the picture was garbled so I stored it to have a look at it later. Really should have a look at the inside to see if it can be fixed, still curious to see the game functioning. If there is any technical info out there that might help I would surely appreciate it :D

Sunday 27th October 2013
Colin Jones (UK)

We (my family) had this game and played it to death, literally. The failure point was one of the control pads. I tried to fix the problem but nothing worked. A great shame, it was a great game for the time.

Tuesday 15th January 2013
Pete Gebler (UK)

Thanks to everyone who said nice things about the game. As far as suggestions for reviving it as an iPad or iPhone game go, I have thought of some new rules that would introduce a whole new dimension to the game but I don''t have the programming skills. But if anyone knows anyone who might be interested in a joint project ...

Wednesday 9th January 2013
Ron Jones (Maidstone)

Logged on to the Waddingtons looking for info and found the videoMaster star chess mentioned. I have this console given to me for a birthday prezzie in 1980 I believe. It was used very often over the years but fell by the wayside with the advent of modern technology, although was last used two years ago. The problem I have is that The old tubed tv that was used to play the game has been discarded. Thinking that the grandchildren and great grandchildren might like to play with this I tried to connect to a modern tv. Alas I cannot do it. Does anyone have any idea how this can done done, would be grateful for advice.

Friday 4th January 2013
Cliff McCann (West Sussex)

In the late 70s I was a young Airman in the R.A.F. and I bought a Star Chess game from the NAFFI shop.
it gave us hours of great fun.
Until I got posted overseas and it got lost in transit,I was gutted.. And worst of all by this time the game had gone out of production and I was unable to replace it.
but as things have progressed I wonder if you have ever thougt of making a pc software version of the game I''d buy a copy....

Sunday 7th October 2012
Sarah Hemmings (Hereford, England)

I actually had this for a christmas present back in the 80s and still have it. It still works too, i used to love it. When you got won an opponents peice it would make an awful racket but it was what made it great.

Wednesday 23rd May 2012
Malcolm Barker (UK)

I worked at DVW on the hardware design for Star Chess, and a friend of mine wrote the firmware. The processor was the Motorola 6500 that had on-board RAM as well as CPU and I/O. The design required external RAM to be shared by the CPU and video controller so the 6500 chips used in the product were obtained more cheaply as the on-board RAM was faulty - but that did not matter as is was not used. The video controller was the Ferranti ULA that was programmed with logic based on a Thomson CSF video controller design. I remember having to translate a thick technical manual from French in order to understand how the video controller worked and how to modify the design for the game.

Monday 30th April 2012
Tim Gingell (uK)

I always remember this - warping a piece to get it out of trouble and then it coming back anywhere a random number of turns later was genius!

Thursday 1st September 2011
Stephen Baxter (East Kilbride)

In the 1980''s I worked for the company John Menzies
who sold Star Chess. I recall playing the game in the shop. I believe we sold the one held in stock but never received any new stock.

Sunday 7th August 2011
retro80 (USA)

This is the first I heard of this game. Maybe it can be written to run on a modern windows or mac pc.

Thursday 5th May 2011
Paul L (UK)

Yep i used to have one too back in the early 80''s
Had it from a pal in helsby in cheshire and spent endless hours on this.

Sunday 27th March 2011
Rod G

I loved this game. Played it for hours. My first wife took the console when she divorced me. Any chance you might bring it out as an iPad app?

Sunday 27th March 2011
Rod G

I loved this game. Played it for hours. My first wife took the console when she divorced me. Any chance you might bring it out as an iPad app?

Thursday 13rd January 2011
Will (England)

I bought this game consol on 25th August 1979 at Woolworths in Bristol for £61.45 I still have box and near mint. I used to play this with my brother a few times. My brother then bought his own, I think he still has it.

Friday 22nd October 2010
Graham Denison (United Kingdom)

Have one, all boxed up and working. I remember buying one from Comet in the 80s cheap, the PSU was missing, so I built one... in a shoe box! I lent it to a friend from work.. and as usual forgot all about it, until I bought the current one in a charity shop.

Saturday 31st July 2010
Bob (England)

They used to have this game in the Science Museum in London and I was fascinated by it....I was in my early teens in the late 70''s the and used to go there on a Saturday.

Happy memories...

Monday 12th July 2010
ChrisEck (Lowestoft, UK)

Woah, someone else who remembers this game on sale in Lowestoft! I remember playing the game at Boots back in the early 80''s. I couldn''t afford it at the time (can''t remember how much it was though). Eventually got a good condition but unboxed one off ebay.

Wednesday 12th May 2010
ianhaywood (uk)

Hi there, i have 1 of the videomaster star chess, i was thinking of selling it as im hard up, any idea how much its worth please.
Also there is a square box on the left of the box, a cardboard small square box, with nothing in it, what should be in here please?ian

Tuesday 4th May 2010
Peter (Suffolk/UK)

I first saw this game at Woolworths in Lowestoft piled high and being heavy pushed demonstrated on a ''large'' TV.

Always wanted one, but could never afford one at the time. I now have two boxed ones carefully packed away.

Monday 26th April 2010
toby smith (london)

i still have mine boxed and still working iam going to phone the toy museum to see if thay want to put it on display

Thursday 31st July 2008
DaveA (UK)

I have this game from 1979. Its in fully working order last time I checked. Couldn't part with it.

Monday 26th May 2008
Impy (England)

I have a Star chess console..console with all controllers, no box. The power supply is boxed (although a bit tatty). make me an offer !!

Wednesday 13rd December 2006
EJ Connolly (UK)

I have a star chess which was bought for my son as a Christmas present in the 1980s . I used to enjoy playing with him as he was learning to play chess at the time and it was good fun to play with.

Thursday 9th November 2006
Dan Vanderveer (Netherlands)

I have played this rare console in my younger years and remember the very distinct and annoying sound effects it created. The volumeknob had only 2 positions : very-loud or off... So after three efforts, I gave the thing away to a friend of mine who was shortly thereafter not my friend anymore. Oh well, not a clue back then of the value the console would have now in this day & age.

Monday 5th September 2005
Colin jones (Earth)

I remember having a Star Chess console. It was played to death - literally. It got very frequent use until the controllers failed to function any longer. After that I'm afraid it was binned :(

Thursday 19th May 2005
Chris (UK)
my homepage

My friend had this console, the game was really great fun. He didn't like it though but his Mum wouldn't let him swap the game with me for something!

Wednesday 18th May 2005
DrJones (The Netherlands)

Cool! I still have one controller left from this thing. Sadly, I don't have anything else anymore of this console.

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