Oh well.... I was just forgotten I wasn't playing a computer opponent which operator clearly would played all the way to the bitter end but I was playing a human, who was as tired as I was and also that players on that level just resign in a lost position, it's the etiquette among them.
In a way I can sympathize with Kasparov when he resigned in a drawn position against Deep Blue that same year
Nevertheless the (human!) blunder it was a good tournament for Rebel, with 4½ of 6 together with Kallisto ending as best computer, only one loss against the tournament winner GM Yona Kosashvili (6 or 6) and a win against GM Gennadi Timoshchenco.
Collected AEGON games from the 1991-1997 period for download here.
The REBEL way
What happens when there are 2 groups of people, the first well dressed with tie and 3 part suit and the second group of 2 country boys wearing jeans and T-shirts who want something from the other. Quite some funny things can happen when 2 different worlds meet and the well dressed group doesn't understand the needs of the T-shirt group and that money isn't always the dominant factor for the T-shirt group.
And one of those issues was the limited hardware I had to work with and that progress was no longer possible with only an 8 bit processor at 5Mhz, 32/48Kb ROM and only 8192 bytes of RAM and that I wanted to expand my horizon because I am what I am, a chess programmer, I wanted hash tables, had other ideas which I couldn't do because of the limited hardware and speed and that I was already behind in the competition because of the limitations and that the tie-group didn't understand that more money (that's probably what they thought the T-shirt group wanted) was not going to help even when I said, no, no, the money is good. And the well dressed tie group remained deaf to the wishes of the T-shirt group and underestimated that the leader of the T-shirt group (although normally a nice rebel) in essence remained what he was, a REBEL. And so he bought himself a nice 32 bit RISC machine and had the time of his life. So much new to explore.
Of course I am speaking of my relationship with Hegener & Glaser, the producer of the Mephisto brand during the 1984-1993/4 period. It was a fine company led by Manfred Hegener a true gentleman in businessland. He always treated me well and I have good memories working with him.
Such a pity his company went into bankruptcy because the PC was on the march and eventually the 80486 outperformed his special hardware which preluded the end of an era, the death of the table top computer replaced by software on floppy disk which was a lot cheaper also.
And of course the threatening bankruptcy gave the inevitable tensions. Sales went down and down, the contract had to be terminated, yet mister Hegener wanted new (kind of last resort) projects from me, the RISC program, our first PC program. Understandable from his point of view and I wasn't unwilling.
And so it was a turbulent time, lots of negotiations, lots of times driving to Munich or meet each other somewhere elsewhere. In this light read a couple of typical business tricks that work well on other well dressed with tie and 3 part suits groups but do not work well on a couple of country boys from Holland.
Case-1: We (Rob Kemper and I, Rob being my right hand and developer of the REBEL interface) drove to Munich, about 900 km which for a Dutch living in pinhead Holland is quite some drive, from east to west here is just 200 km and arrived late in Munich we picked an hotel. A meeting with Mr. Hegener and his staff was planned the next morning at 9:00 AM. We arrived in time and were greeted warmly by the receptioniste. It became 9:00 and no Mr. Hegener. 9:05, no Mr. Hegener, 9:10 no Mr. Hegener. I went to the receptioniste and asked if Mr. Hegener had not arrived yet or if he had some sort of delay. But she assured me he was in the building and soon would pick us up. 9:15 no Mr. Hegener. I had enough. Classic businessman trick of mental manipulation to show you who is boss and have an advantage in the negotiations right from the start.
And I said to Rob, let's go home, I have enough of this puppet show. But we are just arrived Rob smiled, in reality Rob is even worse than I on issues like this and we waved to the receptioniste and left the building on our way back to the hotel. A few blocks further we were halted by a few coworkers who offered apologies and begged us to return which we did. The meeting began and we surely had an psychological advantage during the negotiations. A hollywood ending after all.
Case-2: we were in Munich again, can't rememeber what it was about but the negotiations didn't go well (you can't always get what you want - Mick Jagger) and I was pretty much irritated. Manfred must have noticed my facial expressions and as the genleman he was he suggested a break and have luch in one of his favorite restaurants and talk further afterwards. And before I knew it I popped it out, "sorry, I am not in the mood" and kept my (undoubtly) stubborn face. Oops....what did I just say? They, on the other side of the table looked shocked, that was new to them, for me as well BTW, unintended but I surely meant it. After some "hin und her" we went for lunch anyway and funny enough after lunch the atmosphere had changed and we went home satisfied.
With the downfall of Hegener & Glaser juridical issues became a topic. Natuarally I didn't wanted to go down with them and I asked from a change in our contract as the earnings no longer justified his exclusive right on my work. And Manfred didn't want it. Understandable from his point of view, his 3 programmers (Lang, Morsch and me) were the base of his company. A conflict was unavoidable. And so we went to look for advice and picked the nearest lawyer just a couple of km after the German border. German law is differnt than Dutch law and my contract was under German law. And now it was our turn to be flabbergasted as at a certain moment this lawyer suggested the following:
It would be nice to remember them on a letter you have sent them in the past, create
such a letter, date it 2 years back and the problem is solved.
We were speechless, finished our talks with this corrupt lawyer, went home to never return. We then (sic) drove again to Munich, consulted a top lawyer office (600 DM per hour back then), they sent one letter and a couple of days later things were solved. My first experience with lawyers, there are good and bad ones.
Nevertheless I did 2 more (hardly profitbale) projects for them out of loyalty, the Milano and the Mephisto Risc which were sold in poor quantities. The landscape had changed in a rapid tempo, the golden 80's had gone. The PC became the future.
The payment in advance cheque
The early 90's were turbulent and chaotic, with the downfall of Hegener & Glaser I had a 2 year financial loss and I was seriously considering to give up commerce and get a regular job. Unfortunate for my 2 coworkers too and I hated that thought. But in the meantime I had ported REBEL to the PC, Rob made his first interface and suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of attention. Saitek wanted to distribute it, Hegener and Glaser too and there was a third candidate Ossie Weiner. It was crazy, they were outbidding each other, suddenly the PC was everything. And at a certain moment during again another negotiation round one of the parties did something remarkable, he laid down a signed cheque on the table of $40,000 which I could cash immediately, I only had to promise that I would negotiate with them first, no further conditions, carte blanche. No doubt I must have looked surprised, it's a powerful visual attempt and tempting approach. Nevertheless I was keen enough to decline the offer within seconds. I just did not feel they were the right partner for us for reasons I can't disclose because that's not chic.
In the end I decided it was best to start standing on my own feet and no longer depend on others. A new world opened, instead of just sending one or two eproms a year by regular mail I now had to do everything myself, advertizing, making manuals nobody reads (yikes), establishing a dealer network, the many phonecalls, dealing with customers -:) surely I had to learn a lot of new things.
The crazy price setting of the first PC programs
Roughly € 200 nowadays
It was in the beginning of the 90's the 4 then strongest (and commercial) chess programs M-chess | Hiarcs | Rebel and Chess Genius released their chess program on a floppy disk (huh? what's that?), it was the beginning of a new era and nobody at that time had a clue what price to ask.
Chess Genius distributed by Ossi Weiner (as first one) set the price to $ 149 | DM 199 | HFL 199 (no € back then) and the rest (M-Chess, Hiarcs, Rebel, Fritz) silently followed, apparently people were willing to pay that kind momey. Later Ossi revealed he had no idea himself and the DM 199 for Chess Genius 1.0 was a gamble and try-out. Updates in that time were invented too, loyal customers were rewarded with a 50% discount (stlll roughly € 100) and again the rest of the pack followed. Well done Ossi :-)
This paradise lasted about 4-5 years till ChessBase decided to slaughter the chicken with the golden eggs and suddenly out of the blue announced a drop in price with 50% with their new Fritz. The timing could not be more worse, I just had released a new REBEL and I feared a collapse in sales.
As for some background information, a (any) popular game sells for 3 months, thereafter sales are in dribs and drabs meaning that as a game developer you have to make your earnings for a whole year in those 3 months. So I had no choice and responded immediately with the same price drop. Of course I had to compensate customers who just bought the new REBEL against the old price.
I will never forgive ChessBase for that :-)
Kidding aside it made me wonder why on Earth ChessBase would shoot in their own feet as well. Certainly not to pester me or the rest of its competitors. I know that at that time they had connections with some distributors of the mass market game industry and they could sell Fritz in stores, shops and warehouses and of course ChessBase had to meet the standard pricing for a game in that market area, a € 200 price would not be acceptable. One day I will ask Frederic or Matthias if my wild guess is correct.