The Final Chesscard by TASC was released in 1989 for the Commodore 64/128 and PC. The C64/C128 version plugs into the Expansion(cartridge) slot and the PC version comes with an ISA Card.

The Chesscard forms a stand-alone computer with 32K of ROM, 8K of RAM and an extra CPU running at 5 Mhz. Program software was delivered on disk for the PC and the C64 software is loaded from an additional 32K ROM on the C64/128 cartridge.

 

The Final Chesscard C64/C128

Unfortunately my Chesscard only displayed a black screen with white stripes, so I began to investigate it.

The C64/C128 Chesscard has two 32K ROMs which I dumped with an eprom reader. One ROM contains software for the external CPU(“brom”) and the other has software for the C64(“crom”). The ROM namings can be found in the Chesscard menues.

The C64-ROM consists of two banks, both 16K at $8000-$bfff. The bank is selected by setting $DE00 to $40 or $41. The Chess-ROM is 32K at $8000-$ffff and boots independently with reset vectors pointing to $FF22.

I needed a way to test the ROMs. The same company was involved in making the “Final Cartridge III” which has 16K sized banks and uses $DE00 for bank swapping. I created a TFC3-type cartridge ROM for emulators(.crt) and wedged in code to set $DE00 accordingly. The Final Chesscard now started up in the Vice emulator, displaying a black screen with white stripes.

Now it became much easier to debug. After examining the code, I could see the “black screen with stripes” was waiting for the extra CPU to acknowledge it was running (possibly these two communicate with each other using zeropages $04-$0e). I removed the checks and had the Chesscard running graphically, the chess engine itself was of course not working.


The Final Chesscard in Vice
It is not playable since there is no support for the extra hardware. I had to patch it to bypass the hardware checks.

 

I eventually figured out the extra CPU did not start up properly. I took out my desolder gun and removed the CPU. It was tested OK on another equipment. After desoldering the crystal I noticed that one of the legs was broken, and while at it, I decided to clean up the whole PCB for documentation purposes. You will find scans and pictures of the PCB below.

 

Component list:
74LS04
74LS30
74LS32 x 2
74LS74
74LS174
74LS374 x 2
SRAM = 8Kx8 TC5565/MCM6064
CPU = G65SC02P-4
ROM1/ROM2 = 27256 Eprom
D1-D6 = Diode 1N4148
ZD1 = Zener diode 2V7
C1-C2 = Tantalum 1uF 35V
C3-C6 = Ceramic 0.1uF
C7-C9 = Ceramic 1.0nF
C10 = Ceramic 0.56nF
X1 = Crystal 5Mhz
Resistor 2.2 KOhm x2
Resistor 680 Ohm x2
Resistor 330 Ohm
Reset button

 

Everything back in place and all IC:s socketed.
 


Final mount. The Final Chesscard is now fully functional with english language.

 


 

Final Chess Card – Forum64 Edition
With the information above, Freak at forum64.de reproduced and redesigned the chesscard completely, it fits into a standard cartridge case. Really impressive work !
 

 

You can read about the project at Forum64.de and GitHub.

Make sure to run the updated CPLD core, it fixes an issue with the latest chesscard ROMs. Read also Wybren’s comments below.

 


 

Final Chess Card – Bwack

bwack made an interesting video how to reproduce/trace the PCB using Sprint-Layout and the scans above, well worth a look!

He also released the gerber files which are available on GitHub

 


 

Downloads:
The Final Chesscard came in two languages; english and german. The language is hardcoded on the ROM and the english ROM has been quite hard to get hold of (until now). There are demo versions available in both languages on disk but those are incompatible with the ROM version.

By studying the code, I managed to make a C64 tool to extract the ROM and Ratuv at Lemon64 kindly run the tool and extracted the english ROM.

Thanks to DDI for sending the german 1.3 CROM which I disassembled and translated into english.

Note that the RAMDISK feature was removed in the CROM 1.3 (and 1.3e) release.

 


English C64 ROM : crom 1.3e 16-07-90 (Translated by jani@worldofjani.com)
FCC ROM : brom 1.5 22-05-90


English C64 ROM : crom 0.9 12-10-89
German C64 ROM : crom 0.9 29-11-89
FCC ROM : brom 1.0 05-10-89


German C64 ROM : crom 1.3 16-07-90
FCC ROM : brom 1.5 22-05-90


 


 

Running The Final Chesscard in an emulator:
The final chesscard is supported by MAME, read more about it at Forum64.


I made the Final Cartridge III type .crt image to aid in debugging and studying the code during translating CROM 1.3e, perhaps this will also help in developing further support for the Final Chesscard in emulators, it will WILL NOT WORK as intended. Use them only for debugging/developing purposes.
 


 
Credits:
Ratuv at Lemon64 for the english ROM.

DDI (http://www.sys64738.net/) for the updated german ROM (crom 1.3 / brom 1.5).

Forum64.de members for the manual, extras and a disk (autoplay, openings, replays etc. available from the File-menu).

Bart (Amon_RA on Twitter) for sending me a reproduced TFCC PCB by bwack. Also thanks for help in testing and verifying the crom 1.3e!

 
 

Update:
2019-12: bwack’s youtube video how to re-draw the PCB using Sprint-Layout and a link to the gerber files.
2020-02: Added The Final Chesscard as The Final Cartridge 3 .crt image for debugging purposes.
2020-02: Added english crom 1.3e, disassembled and translated into english.
2020-03: Updated information about emulation and the missing ramdisk in CROM 1.3/1.3e.