let this be our final battle

Last week, I did a review of Windows Vista’s Chess Titans program. In the review, I regretted that we couldn’t match Microsoft’s Chess Titans against Mac OS X’s Chess App in the ultimate battle of OS chess domination. Surely, I reasoned, such an epic duel would settle the OS wars once and for all.

But, as someone in the comment thread pointed out, such a battle is possible.

Simply start Chess Titans on a Vista PC and Chess App on a Mac simultaneously. Set the Mac to play white, and the PC to play black. When the Mac moves, follow its moves in Chess Titans, and when the PC moves, copy its moves into Chess App.

Ladies and gentlemen, I did just that. Behold, the OS wars waged upon the battlefield of chess!

To begin, I set both chess programs to maximum difficulty. Since Microsoft is usually portrayed as the bad guy, it seemed only appropriate to give Vista and Chess Titans the black pieces and pawns. (Of course, given Apple’s preference for shiny white plastic, the white pieces fit right in with the company’s design philosophy.)

Here is Vista’s opening move:

From there, the opening game and the midgame proceeded in perfect balance.

Shortly after that, OS X blundered and lost both a bishop and a knight. Vista had the upper hand, but then managed to lose both knights and a bishop. From there, the momentum swung to OS X. Soon, it had herded Vista’s king to the edge of the board.

From there, checkmate was perhaps inevitable:

Here’s what it looked like on the Mac side:

So Mac OS X prevails! Vista is vanquished. I expect this settles the OS wars, and Microsoft will now go out of business.

Seriously, this was less a test of the OS and more of the individual chess programs. My Mac actually has the weaker hardware; a Core Solo with 1.25 gigs of RAM vs. a Vista machine with a Core 2 Duo and 1.5 GB of memory. In retrospect, it’s not surprising that OS X’s Chess App won. Chess Titans is definitely prettier (something that might be rectified with Leopard), but Chess App has the superior chess engine. It’s been around in some form since the the mid-90s or so, while Chess Titans is only a few years old at best. Given that I haven’t a prayer of beating either program at maximum difficulty, I doubt it makes much difference to the average player.

Still, Microsoft and Apple have been mortal enemies for years, and it was quite fun to watch their chess programs battle it out. If Jobs and Ballmer (or Gates) played chess, I wonder, who would win?


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