Offering serious instruction for serious players, Fritz 9 Play Chess gives strategy enthusiasts unlimited hours of training and game play. A searchable database covering four centuries of chess is included, as well as a position explainer, training videos, game analysis, and six strength levels that will give an edge to seasoned players, yet allow novices to learn quickly. Also included is a Coach function that finds mistakes and missed moves, while offering advice when applicable. Chessboards can be customized by adding color, modifying materials, and by applying multiple effects to chess pieces to create a completely original board. Aside from classic matches, Fritz 9 Play Chess offers several variations including Capture Chess, Chess 960, Twin Chess, and Ouk Chatrang. Internet play is available, and paying members are able to view and join tournaments, challenge other players, and gain access to an online database.
The Fritz and Chessmaster series have provided increasingly broad, deep, educational, challenging and improved iterations year after year. Fritz gives a player like me a range of offerings that I couldn't possibly have envisioned 15 years ago.
I have Fritz 8, and this ninth version does show some interesting improvements. You now have available two 3D computer opponents, accompanied by an optimized graphics and physics engine. Positional play instruction is now available, as well as customizable boards and different, even novel, playing levels (sparring, fun, shuffle, giveaway, handicap).
Those who play computer chess look more to clarity and efficiency of graphics and interface than they do a showpiece for their latest nVidia card. Fritz 9's interface is functional, improved a bit from last year, with only occasional times of cumbersomeness. It gets you where you want to go without too much hassle. The new twists on 3D graphics are nice, a bit of fun, especially playing against the 3D rendered characters (Turk and Mia), but not essential for this kind of game. I found I mostly reverted to 2D renderings of my favorite sets from Fritz 8.
There's some accompanying classical music, if you choose, as well as often sarcastic and biting commentary from your opponent. Other than that, the clink of the moving pieces is all you'll hear from the game (my school cheerleaders aren't around any more - "Go Knights, go!").
In summary, Fritz 9 expands upon the excellent versions of the past two years with updated graphics, broader tutorials and helping tools, and an expanded database. It moves well beyond the depth and scope of its main competitor, the Chessmaster series. Not only is its Fritz engine one that puts even Grandmasters to shame, but also the intricate analyses available to the player from that engine allow for continuing growth in personal skill. Finally, this year, in an attempt to be all things to all players at all levels (raw beginner to Grandmaster), Fritz 9 has made great strides with its new tutorials.
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