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Model: Mirage
Manufacturer: Excalibur
Year: 1997
Est. ELO rating: 1800
Levels of play: 100
Type: Pressure sensory - robotic arm under the board

(click on pictures to enlarge them)
  





Excalibur Mirage Computerized Chess.
This chess computer also moves its own pieces. It was manufactured by Excalibur Electronics and it's a sort of grandson of the Milton Bradley Phantom Chess, but it had some problems that may explain why it's no longer being manufactured. The way I see it, it seems that they killed the technology by trying to produce a cheaper model (it was made in China) which didn't live up to the standards set by the first Phantom. Keep in mind that  the Milton Bradley Phantom that I have is from 1983 and still works perfectly! Whereas the Mirage, from 1997 works about 98% of the time and this seems to be the norm as I have heard from other Mirage owners that some of them went through 4 units before they got one that worked relatively well.

However, it does have some nice features I like:
- It can run on batteries (5 "D" sized)
- The chess program is really powerful (no surprises here since we had decades of enhancement in processing power!)
- It's lighter than the Phantom models
- It remembers a saved game (when using batteries)

Now for the most common problems I've found. The movement of the pieces is not as smooth as it is with the Phantom models. A couple of times I played it even knocked another piece out of the way when passing through. Also, it doesn't happen very often but I've seen it "forget" where a piece was. It seems to happen mostly when resetting the pieces after a game. Also it doesn't automatically adjust the pieces at the beginning of the game or when you move yours. If you don't place the piece nicely in the center of a square, the computer may knock it out of the place when moving near it.

Mirage Chess videos (with sound)
Mirage against human (1:11min - 9.1Mb)
Mirage against itself (3:02min - 23.1Mb)
Mirage resetting pieces after game (3:16Min - 25Mb)

FAQ: How does the knight move since it has to jump over pieces?

In all these robotic models, the computer moves the knight by first moving pieces out of its way, then it moves the knight and after that the pieces are put back in their original positions. Here's an example, from the Mirage, of a G1H3 move:

1 - start
2 - the pawn on g2 is moved slightly to the upper left of its square
3 - the knight advances to the center of the square g2
4 - the knight advances to the final square h3
5 - the pawn moves back to the center of g2

There is also a marble version of the Mirage. It's the same computer but with a wooden-like finishing. It's considered rare because fewer units of this kind were produced. This is what it looks like (picture from an eBay auction from Aug 2005):



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