Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 78 / NOVEMBER 1986 / PAGE 68

Chessmaster 2000

James V. Trunzo

Requirements: Apple ll-series computers with a minimum of 64K, Amiga, Atari XL-series computers. Atari ST, Commodore 64, IBM PC and compatibles, and Macintosh computers.

In late July, the United States Chess Federation held its annual competition to determine the top chess players and computer chess programs in the country. At the close of the grueling competition, Chessmaster 2000 claimed sovereignty over such established computer chess programs as Sargon III and MyChess 2.0. In the process of earning an unofficial rating of 2000 (Grandmaster ranking), Chessmaster 2000 also overcame the Cray Blitz mainframe chess program, long the standard in chess simulations. Perhaps Chessmaster 2000 accomplished this feat by virtue of its 71,000-move opening library; or perhaps its midgame play, allowing the program to think a dozen moves ahead, was the reason for its success. Whatever the reason, it should suffice to say that Chessmaster 2000 is a formidable opponent, no matter who sets up the pieces and issues a challenge. Still, I—your humble reviewer—with an unofficial rating of 0020 (Grandturkey ranking), beat it.

If the above seems to be a bit of a paradox, it should be noted that I had preset the difficulty of play to Level 0, EASY MODE, only slightly higher than the "Coffeehouse" level, which plays a very "relaxed and casual game" to be kind. The preceding examples of playing range represent, obviously, one of the best features of Chessmaster 2000: It truly can be played by the total novice or the consummate chess player with no loss of features or enjoyment. And while Chessmaster 2000 can make a move in as little as five seconds or in as long as two hours, its average move at midlevel takes only two minutes, and it plays, at that level, a game of chess that only superior players will be able to beat.

Many Options

Containing all the features that are now accepted as standard in a chess simulation (take-back moves, computer as referee, computer-vs.-computer play, displayed list of moves, and so on), Chessmaster 2000 goes beyond the standards to give the user even more in the way of options. These include outstanding graphics in either the 2-D or 3-D mode, although it must be noted that on standard eight-bit machines, the pieces in the 3-D modes, while attractive, are difficult to distinguish when clustered together. No such problem exists on the Macintosh, Atari ST, or Amiga. Chessmaster 2000 also provides mouse, keyboard, or joystick input; an outstanding library of 100 classic games that can be viewed or replayed; ability to print the game while playing or after completion; 90-degree rotation of the 3-D board, enabling you to see the board from every angle; an extensive list of chess problems to solve; and even a coupon for a discount membership in the U.S. Chess Federation.

When you're using Chessmaster 2000 on an Amiga, Atari ST, or Macintosh, you'll find that no sacrifices have been made, the program giving the user every conceivable option and graphics feature possible. On eight-bit machines (64, Atari XE, Apple He and Ik, for example), one or two compromises were necessary. In the 3-D mode, for example, the helpful chess notation borders are not available. Software Toolworks decided to sacrifice this feature in favor of retaining total sophistication of play. Onscreen chess clocks were also omitted, for the same reason, on some eight-bit machines. This reviewer agrees with the company's decision to maintain the advanced play algorithms in favor of a few frills.

It goes without saying that Chess-master 2000 is now the yardstick by which other similar programs will be measured. It certainly deserves any accolades that it receives.

Chessmaster 2000
Software Toolworks
Santa Monica Blvd., Ste. 214
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
distributed by Electronic Arts
1820 Gateway Dr.
San Mateo, CA 94404
$39.95 (Apple II, 64, Atari XL, and IBM versions)
$44.95 (Amiga, Atari ST, and Macintosh versions)