What do you get if you combine over twenty attractive chess sets, a simple easy-to-use interface, and one hell of a chess engine? Chessmaster 5000. Mindscape's fantastic new adaptation of the classic can teach you how to play, how to improve your game, and how to gracefully get your butt kicked over and over by a computer.
There are numerous chess sets, ranging from standard staunton to dinosaur pieces for children. Some of the sets are 2-d, while others are 3-d or perspective. All of the sets are very strong visually, and show a great attention to detail often lacking in computer chess sims. Chessmaster's audio is also impressive. Setup options include thematic, digital, and simple sound effects, all of which have their own strengths. I found that the simple sounds worked best for me. They were unobtrusive, but helpful in letting me know when the computer had made its move. The theme sounds, like when the dinosaur pieces thump across the board, are sure to appeal to children.
Chessmaster 5000 offers up an impressive assortment of features designed to enhance your chess playing experience. You have complete control over the level and style of play, which eliminates the frustration of constantly playing against a computer opponent that always wins or loses. There are over sixty preconfigured chess personalities, ranging from Alekhine to Kasparov, that you can face off against, or you can take on a human opponent in a hotseat (taking turns on a single computer), modem, or LAN competition. Two extra goodies included on the Chessmaster 5000 CD are over twenty well written tutorials and a 27,000-game chess database. The game is an excellent trainer, with natural language advice- that lets you know in plain English where you should move and why, positional setup so that you can concentrate on your weak spots, and a practice opening move mode.
Sharp graphics, nifty sound effects, and a fierce 32 bit chess engine make Chessmaster 5000 the finest chess software I have ever used. Infinitely variable skill levels ensure that Chessmaster 5000 is an excellent personal chess trainer and opponent for almost any level of player. Any fan of chess is sure to find this a download well worth their time.
You're going to either love this game or you're going to hate this game; it is a Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of a program. Very much like the blind men and the elephant, your opinion of this game will depend upon which parts of the program you spend your time in, and what you expect a chess program to do.
If you are a beginning to average player who downloaded Chessmaster with the expectations of a program which plays a mean game of chess, dressed up with a plethora of bells and whistles, you will likely be very pleased. The chess engine is strong enough to give anyone a whipping, but can also be fine-tuned to levels providing just the right challenge for your abilities. A nice touch is the inclusion of "personalities," pre-built and modifiable computer opponents which are designed to mimic the style of famous Grandmasters. A useful set of tutorials are included; they range from advice for beginners to endgame studies suitable for experienced players. Players may select from a large set of 3D pieces (and a few 2D sets), which include everything from wooden Staunton sets to insects, dinosaurs, and salt and pepper shakers (although most are very difficult to actually play with). There are several help features, such as a quick-hint key, a coach mode which reveals every legal move (without ranking) and a description of what the move accomplishes (e.g., "pins knight" or "blocks pawn"), and a Natural Language Advisor which suggests a move and then, in plain English, explains the merit of the line following from that move. During play, Chessmaster will recognize and display the name of the opening being played-including transpositions-and has a very impressive opening database. You'll be surprised to know that the crazy opening you're playing actually has a name!
If you are a serious player who downloaded Chessmaster to help you study and prepare for tournaments, you are going to be a very unhappy camper. I can't believe anyone at Mindscape ever tried the database out before shipping; if they did, they knew it was horribly broken and shipped it anyway (it's an Access database; should've been shipped unlocked, for personal editing!). For many people (including myself) the database is inaccessible, and requires a few calls to customer support and some experimentation to re-enable. It isn't worth the effort. A search for white wins displays black wins (and vice versa). This isn't immediately apparent, as the move list from the database games contains no clue as to the game outcome: win, loss, draw, resign, mate, loss on time? You are left to look at the ending position and make your best guess. The "search by opening" or "search by location" functions don't work at all. The database is written in stone, so no games can be added or deleted. If you wish to import games from other electronic sources using the industry standard PGN format, you're out of luck. In spite of claims of PGN support, Chessmaster cannot read nor write PGN files. In fact, I tried to save a few games in PGN format with the game and it couldn't even read it's own PGN file! The names were wiped out, the games were truncated to four moves, and in one case the software even changed one of the moves! Other problems which make Chessmaster pretty useless for chess study include: 1) an inability to turn on the thinking mode with human-human games; 2) the thinking mode does not show its opinion of the opponent's best move (thus rendering the displayed line worthless); 3) the analyze mode drops the negative sign on scores between -1.0 and 0.0, destroying its worth; and 4) the game cannot be set to analysis times greater than 99 seconds. Remove all of these (advertised) functions and Chessmaster fails miserably as a serious training partner.
So, Jekyll or Hyde? If you just want a good chess playing program with lots of eye candy, Chessmaster 5000 will suit you fine.
People who downloaded Chessmaster 5000 have also downloaded:
Chessmaster 5500, Chessmaster 4000, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, Caesar IV, Caesar 3, Civilization 2, Close Combat 5: Invasion Normandy, Chess Maniac 5 Billion and One
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