Dedicated Chess Computers

ChessEval Journal
About Dedicated Chess Computers

About the Mysterious Megathon 2400: Between Myth and Reality
Written by Hans van Mierlo and Maurice M Ohayon
First edited | 03/20/2014 | by MMO
Last edited | 02/04/2016 |
Additional Information:
Photos: Mierlo H,;
Reference to cite: Mierlo H, Ohayon MM, About the Mysterious Megathon 2400: Between Myth and Reality, ChessEval Journal, 6, March 2014,


Dedicated Chess Computers have a fascinating short story.
In fact, the number of different types of of computers was limited at a short period of time ending with the arrival and reign of the Personal Computers: probably less than nine hundred Dedicated Chess Computer models.
Some of these models were never reaching the phase of distribution to the Public and were staying at the level of project or prototype. Decades after, it is difficult to see clearly how the Chess Computer Companies were progressing and finally disappearing: projects and prototypes show the ways the companies tried to maintain their advantage on the PC world with more or less success.

For a collector, this is an important matter for the reason it gives an idea of the decisions taken by the executives of the companies to ensure their development and their success.
In the case of a project or a prototype, one or several companies are involved with the adequate financial  support. The process could only be stopped at the level of a project, or at the level of a prototype:
- when a computer is stopped at the level of project, the financing involvement is low and the consequences are minimal.
- conversely, a prototype includes several development steps that could hurt the company.
In the 2 cases, the result is the same: a never commercialized computer...

The Megathon 2400 is interesting because it is a project that was defined on paper, maybe as a prototype... but  certainly never commercialized under this name...
The question is to know the reasons of its abandon and if another project or computer took the place of the defunct project.

The research on the Megathon 2400 was not easy.
The reasons of its disappearance are mysterious, difficult to find decades after the facts.
It is sure that many people not only have known about the Megathon 2400, but also some have seen it.
The Megathon 2400 project was involving 2 different companies: Saitek and TASC B.V. that were famous in the Chess milieu.
It is very well known that the Risc 2500 was the result of that cooperation. A successful collaboration...

Hans reached out a lot of famous collectors and programmers: Jereon Noomen, C de Gorter, Johan de Koning.
Some executives also: Wil Sparreboom from Tasc B.V, the former President of Saitek, Dr Eric Winkler, managers from Madcatz.
A lot of original answers were obtained from these people.
We want to thank them for their kindness and their support in our quest about the Megathon 2400.

The Investigation of Hans van Mierlo on the Megathon 2400
It was in 1992 that, at the Nurenberger Spielwarremesse in Germany, the prototype of the Megathon 2400 was released or more accurately, was shown to the World.
A German
well known collector, Karsten Bauermeister, was assisting at this event and saw the Megathon 2400.
Jeroen Noomen who was working for Mephisto (H&G) saw it too.

At this period, Companies of Dedicated Chess Computers were not doing well.
It was a a fight to survive in a milieu more and more competitive, more and more difficult...
One company was taking over the other:
Mephisto took over Fidelity in 1990, Saitek over Mephisto in 1994...
This situation was adding a lot of confusion in the production process, but also in the programmer identification.
Programmers and users became confused about the way the programs were implemented and who was the author of the program inside of a computer.
In this line, when Mephisto took control of Fidelity, they advertised the Fidelity 2400 Master as a next released computer. In fact, they never released it.
The same is true about the Master 2300.
It seems that in the 2 cases a program by Ed Schroder was included in the project.

All this confusion in the announcements, advertisements from different companies could be at the origin of the decision of Saitek to do not release the Megathon 2400.

Originally, the Megathon 2400 was announced as working with the program of Johan the Koning.  
We found trace of that in the 1992 brochure.

According to Dr. Eric Winkler, former CEO of Saitek, when the announcement of the new product was done, nobody was sure of the name to use: Megathon 2400 ore Risc 2400....
We must remember that Tasc B.V. was involved with Saitek.
Johan the Koning was under contract
with TASC and was supposed to give his program for the new product.
TASC sold this program to Saitek.
According to Wil Spareboom, the cooperation between the 2 companies was difficult: Saitek was using low quality hardware. The performance of the ARM RISC architecture was not at its best.
Moreover, problems of royalties and payments were clouding their relationship and put at an end their collaboration.
At this period, we can see the confusion in the magazines dedicated to chess computers, like Computer Chess Report. They mention  in many postings that “the name of the computer can be changed “.

The result of all of this investigation could be summarized as follows:
the Megathon was released but under another name.
It was the Saitek Risc 2500: version 1.02 128 KB, 14MHz, a little later the version 1.03, much later version 1.04 256 KB going to a maximum of 2 MB.

The Risc 2500 was playing at  Madrid in 1992. The computer was only tuned at 29Mhz!
had another computer in the race to the Championship title: the SPARC...
The SPARC was running at 50Mhz !
Unfortunately for Saitek, the SPARC in the last round against the Chessmachine lost the title...
As a consequence, Saitek was abandoning its objectives for the computer competition and disaffected the World Chess Championship.
As a note, at Madrid 1992, the legendary Spracklens couple was finishing at the fourth place...
Last try, also for them...
01 Chessmachine NED =06 +07 +10 +08 +04   4.5 13.50
02 Zugzwang GER +16 +03 +14 =04 =05   4.0 11.50
03 Cumulus 2 FRA +19 -02 +15 +14 +11   4.0 8.00
04 Kasparov Sparc USA +13 +06 +09 =02 -01   3.5 10.50
05 Fritz 2 NED/GER =11 =08 +16 +09 =02   3.5 9.75
06 RISC 2500 NED =01 -04 +20 +10 =07   3.0 7.25
07 Hitech B* USA =10 -01 +18 +13 =06   3.0 6.75
08 Chess Genius GBR =18 =05 +21 -01 +14   3.0 5.50
09 Woodpusher GBR +20 +21 -04 -05 +17   3.0 4.00
10 MChess Pro USA =07 +11 -01 -06 +16   2.5 6.00
11 Hiarcs GBR =05 -10 +19 +12 -03   2.5 5.75
12 Pandix HUN +17 -14 =13 -11 +18   2.5 4.75
13 Lachex USA -04 +18 =12 -07 +20   2.5 3.75
14 Kallisto NED +15 +12 -02 -03 -08   2.0 4.50
15 Prochess NED -14 +17 -03 -18 +21   2.0 3.00
16 Ulysses GER -02 +22 -05 +19 -10   2.0 2.00
17 Centaur RUS -12 -15 +22 +21 -09   2.0 1.50
18 Nimzo Guernica AUT =08 -13 -07 +15 -12   1.5 3.50
19 Echec FRA -03 =20 -11 -16 +22   1.5 1.00
20 Mirage RUS -09 =19 -06 =22 -13   1.0 1.00
21 Nightmare GER +22 -09 -08 -17 -15   1.0 0.50
22 Delicate Brute GBR -21 -16 -17 =20 -19   0.5 0.50