The Chessmaster 3000. (computer game) (Software Review) (Compute's Getting Started with Multimedia Applications) (Evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann
For a superb chess program, you can't go wrong with The Chessmaster 3000 (The Software Toolworks, 60 Leveroni Court, Novato, California 94949; 415-883-3000; $99.95). It's ideal for anyone, from a novice who knows nothing about the game to a U.S. Chess Federation-rated master. For the novice, there's a set of lessons on the rules of chess. The computer reads them to you while illustrating its points onscreen. Another tutorial teaches the finer points to novices who already know the rules. To help beginners during the play, it can shadow all legal moves when you pick up a piece or shade all pieces in jeopardy.
For the serious student of the game. there are 150 classic games from history. As the computer plays the games onscreen, you can replay moves, stop the action, or skip ahead. The Chessmaster can evaluate your chess rating based on your play, solve for mate at any point in the game, or administer a tournament for you. It prints games. boards. and certificates of achievement. It recognizes standard openings and tells you when they're being used. A chess aficionado can have a field day here.
The core of the game is playing chess against the computer. Choose from 16 opponents, all with varying styles and skill levels. If that's not enough, create a new player by adjusting seven characteristics to create a unique opponent.
While playing, you can ask the Chessmaster for advice at any time. He'll tell you vocally to wait a minute while he studies the situation. He then delivers his spoken (and written) advice, projecting four to six moves ahead on what will happen, explaining in plain English why he thinks it's a sound course of action. Of course, if you take his advice--as often as not--the computer opponent doesn't make the move the Chessmaster predicted.
Four custom chess sets are available--the avantgarde Modern set is quite attractive. You can pull up a variety of informative windows; my favorite is the Thinking window, which shows how many positions and moves the computer has analyzed while considering its move. If you allow 20 seconds per move, it can analyze nearly 10,000 positions (on my 16-MHz computer) before selecting a move.
The MPC features are decidedly non-essential. Hearing each move announced as it's made is fun, but eventually distracting. The vocal explanations and tutorials make it easier to understand, but it's almost as easy to read them from the screen. The thing I most like about the CD-ROM version is that it puts only 2K of files on my hard disk.
If you love chess or would just like to learn it, you can't go wrong with Chessmaster 3000.