Chessmaster 10th Edition
Every AI opponent has a rating, a biography, and a style.
Chess fans look for three key feature areas in their chess programs: graphics, learning and tutorial capabilities, and modes of play. The Chessmaster series has always excelled visually, and the 10th Edition follows this tradition--but not without some caveats. The 3D pieces and boards look great, and you have the ability to adjust the board size and viewing angle to whatever position you prefer. You also get to choose from a selection of animated 3D sets. But while the game boasts 25 3D chess sets, a number of them must be unlocked before being used--a contrivance that may be acceptable in driving games or other genres, but seems somewhat out of place here. Unlocking a set requires winning a certain number of ranked games (games in which you play a ranked player where the results affect your ranking), and several require a substantial number of wins--we're talking dozens. Some may welcome the incentive to play and win, but many players will be frustrated by the inability to use all of the advertised boards and pieces before winning scores of games.
Once you get into the learning and gameplay modes, the dual nature of Chessmaster 10th Edition becomes apparent. There's an entire segment of the program that is directly targeted at kids. Click on the "fun" icon and you're presented with several options: play, puzzles, and learn basics. The puzzles and learn basics features are just what they sound like: puzzles and lessons targeted at kids, with simple interfaces, emphases on fun, and rewards (such as printable chess certificates). The play option in the "fun" section of Chessmaster 10th Edition provides games against lower-level players that use a whimsical, animated chess set. This aspect of the game is very well done, and it may serve as an excellent means to draw young, new players into the world of chess.
The rest of the academy includes a variety of drills and puzzles, which are, again, mostly directed at lower-level players. Other learning materials in Chessmaster 10th Edition include a large database of famous games (that feature mostly sparse annotation) and a section on openings. In spite of the plethora of material, there is actually room for improvement in some sections. For example, in the openings section, there is a practice drill on the difficult king-knight-bishop mate, but there's no explanation on how to accomplish it. As a result, lower-level players will simply become frustrated attempting it. And many of the openings described in the "practice openings" section go no deeper than four moves. Many, in fact, consist of just one move.
The latest Chessmaster isn't the perfect program for hardcore chess aficionados. However, if you're looking for a good chess program that's packed with a plethora of features and all the bells and whistles, you'll be very happy with Chessmaster 10th Edition.
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