Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rook Recommends - Chessmaster 10

Chessmaster Grandmaster Edition NEWS FLASH! Two new versions of Chessmaster are on their way in October 2007 (the current version, Chessmaster 10, was released in 2004 - so we're long over due for an update). They are Chessmaster: Grandmaster Edition for Windows PC and Chessmaster: The Art of Learning for the Nintendo DS.

Some highlights of the new edition:

  • PC Version on DVD - presumably to facilitate the large chess instruction video files presented by Josh Waitzkin
  • Annotated Famous Games: Players have access to 900 of the most important chess games, which are analyzed to provide key tactics
  • An Additional Chess Game Database of 600,000 games
  • Chess Variants:
    • Dark Chess, in which the opponent’s pieces are invisible
    • Extinction Chess, where the winner is the first player to capture all of the opponent’s pieces
    • Losing Chess, a game that rewards the first player to lose all of his/her pieces!
  • 6 "Mini Games"
    • Minefield, in which chess pieces are used to locate mines hidden in the board
    • Breaking the Lines, where the knight is moved to capture all of the pawns
    • Fork My Fruit, a game that uses chess pieces to fork fruit of the same kind
  • Wireless Play - The Nintendo DS version features wireless play with other DS owners

...Now back to Rook's Recommendations for Raising Ratings:

Today in our Thursday series, Rook takes a look at Chessmaster 10.

For only $20 (here at it's hard not to recommend this program. There are plenty of other chess playing programs Fritz, Hiarcs, Junior, Shredder, but it would be a mistake to turn down one's nose at this consumer product - especially if you are novice.

Now, I'm not a fan of playing chess against the computer (see Why I Hate Playing Computer Chess!) so my reason for recommending Chessmaster is mostly for it's educational value. In particular you get the following useful tools:

  • Chessmaster Academy: Josh Waitzkin's Academy. This is the featured (and largest) tutorial.
  • Chessmaster Academy: Larry Christiansen Attacking Chess. Annotated games of "classic chess battles."
  • Chessmaster Academy: Chessmaster Series. Some of the many topics:
    • Beginning Strategy by Yasser Seirawan
    • Opening Moves by Bruce Pandolfini
    • Basic Themes by Bruce Pandolfini
    • Larry Evans Endgame Quiz
    • Diagnostic Rating Exam by Bruce Pandolfini
    • Match the Masters by Bruce Pandolfini
    • John Nunn's Favorite Puzzles
  • Opening Practice

Many of the introductory lesson are narrated. This is especially useful to new or younger players as they hear the correct pronunciations of terms like en passant, FIDE, Ruy Lopez, etc. I could have used that kind of help when I was a kid as I had no adult chess players to learn from.

Of course, you can play chess with this program too - both against the computer and online - although I would recommend other online chess playing sites like the ICC or FICS over what Chessmaster offers.

All-in-all, I think this is the best $20 a novice could spend on chess software.

NOTE: If you look at the average review rating at Amazon you might think this was only an average program with a 3-star rating. However, the reason for the low score is primarily due to the obnoxious copy-protection the original release had (weed out the reviews complaining about that and the program is more like a 4 or 5 star rating) Fortunately, Ubisoft has redeemed themselves by removing the copy-protection when you install the latest patch for the game.

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