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Comp Chess Insider and Review

Chessmaster 10 Review!

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Overall, its a good program but

Chessmaster 10th Edition has already sold millions of copies and but it turns out that buying this program requires a lot of tough decisions...

Let's begin by talking about one of the most important features of any chess program, the chess engine. Chessmaster is powered by an engine known as TheKing 3.33, created by Johan De Koenig. Everyone knows that the engine of CM9 (which was TheKing 3.23)
handily defeated GM Larry Christiansen in a match. While the strength of the Chessmaster 9 engine was powerful in its own right, but it can by no means compare itself with the engine of Chessmaster 10! While I dont want to go to deep into numbers, it's clear that TheKing 3.33 is a bit different from most chess engines; it does not search through nearly as many positions as Fritz or Junior but instead relies on searching more effectively. It does so with tremendous results! It defeated Deep Fritz 8 in a match of blitz games by a score of 3.5-2.5. Additionally, it smashed 2600s on ICC with hardly any effort.

Sadly, the rest of the program can't quite live up to the engines great performance. To begin with, I fail to see how this interface is much newer then the last CM program I owned, which was Chessmaster 6. It was pretty disappointing. I was at times fairly bored when playing rated games against the program. The idea of having many different personalities is not at all new or interesting. Furthermore, the piece sets were lackluster; in fact I preferred the 2D sets over what the people at Chessmaster call Ultra realistic 3D sets. One of the more frustrating things (which were supposed to be stimulating I would suppose) is that you must win a large number of rated games to get access to some of the piece sets, even common ones! I spent hours playing rated games and switched from 5 minute games to 3 minute games (as well as changing opponent personalities) hoping I would be much more entertained and while that helped a little, I was hoping for more. The problem was that the program (I was playing an opponent personality rated about 1700) would in a majority of the games appear to spontaneously hang pieces for absolutely nothing then begin to play very well then obtain a nice attack and initiative. Funnily enough, I noticed about half the time that the opponent wasn't really giving away a piece for nothing, instead it was sacrificing a bishop for a central pawn (or two) and to ruin your pawn structure, I was only really able to fully appreciate this later after analyzing a few of the positions. In simple terms, it seemed that it was playing like a 1550 and then turning into an IM with a grudge but in reality it was more like a strong player who only sacrifices a bit of material to constantly unbalance the position. Ironically the program would play on a level very equal to what your opponent personality is rated. The problem was simply that this didn't occur more then ten or fifteen percent of the time.

After reading the last paragraph I'm sure you're saying " Well why would I buy this program?" but there is one more side to the story. Chess is all about learning and learning is exactly where Chessmaster 10 (like almost all the CM series has) shines.
Acclaimed teacher and IM Josh Waitzkin is back again giving what can be called nothing short of great lectures and lessons. GM Larry Christiansen also returns giving lessons on some well known games throughout history (Alekhine v. Lasker, Bird v. Morphy) and even dissects his 4 game match with Chessmaster 9. You can also practice endgames and take quizzes. I most enjoyed the Match the Masters feature, which was in fact very interesting. You are lead through top GM games and get to predict each move! It has a lot of nice features for beginners as well. You can brush up on the rules of the game, practice openings and learn from the beginners lectures. It also has a 530,000 game database and also plenty of famous games from historic masters.

The newest feature on the program is that Ubi soft now has a server where you can play chess online free of charge. The level of competition was a bit lacking and I wasn't overly amazed but there were a couple of interesting features, for instance you can hold your own lecture via a teaching game. There is also a neat voice chat option.

The hardest thing about CM 10 will be deciding whether to buy it. I've thought a lot about it and decided to list all the pros and cons to help all you fantastic readers. It does have a lot of helpful learning features and lectures, but only a few of them will be helpful to players over 2000. It does have a very powerful engine but most players under expert won't be able to appreciate that.
The GUI (Graphical User Interface) is a bit lacking and playing rated games may require a real effort to make it more fun. The truth of the matter is that if you own CM 9, it only makes sense to buy this version if you want a more powerful chess engine or want to see more lectures and games from IM Waitzkin or GM Christiansen. However, if you only own CM 8 or before, I would recommend picking this version up because the program has better analysis features, more complete learning features and besides, you can find it on sale for $29.99.

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