07 December 2009

Chessmaster Software

Chessmaster frustrates me. It has some exceptional teaching and learning features, is readily available for several platforms, and is inexpensive. Yet, I cannot recommend it without qualification. It could be much better, and would be if it were designed by chess professionals rather than a gaming company.

It was my first software, and I use it still. My use of it it recent years stems mostly from the need to be able to discuss it with children that I coach.

Chessmaster has features still lacking in its competitors. These are terrific for beginning and intermediate players, and may offer some benefits chess competitors with strong skills. Chessmaster offers a battery of learning devices: Josh Waitzkin's Academy, Larry Christiansen Attacking Chess (six annotated games with the GM's voice), Larry Evans' Endgame Quiz, Nunn's Puzzles, and many dozens of "personalities" against which to play.

Tenth edition (released 2004) was so thoroughly redesigned that long time users of 9000, 8000, ... going back to the first Windows version (3000) found themselves confronted with something wholly new. I dislike the menus of the new versions as it makes accessing the database more cumbersome. Thankfully, Chessmaster ceased as my database software in 2001. Once I started using Chessbase Light and Chess Informant Reader, Chessmaster no longer had anything to offer in the study of grandmaster games. My work with databases expanded further when I bought the full version of Chessbase in 2003. Then I bought Fritz 8 and found that it integrates fully with the database software.

With Chessbase products, I move the pieces around on a single board. From there I can access other games that reached the same position and a host of engines that calculate variations. The engines can give me the best line, or the twenty best lines. Right click menus provide access to my resident database and the Chessbase online database.

If I am viewing a historic game in Chessmaster and want to expand my understanding of opening theory by looking at similar games, the process is cumbersome. First, I must go to the menu and find Edit > Copy > Forsythe Board Position. Then, go back to the main menu, which seems akin to exiting and reopening the program. Once in the database ... ? I cannot seem to use this copied information in the database. Rats. I'll just find the game in Chessbase and examine it there.

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