Windows - 1998
Also available on: Mac
Description of Chessmaster 6000
Chessmaster's latest incarnation
The Chessmaster series is one of the oldest chessplaying programs around, and by far the best-selling chess program; the latest incarnation is Chessmaster 6000, which adds a number of enhancements to the previous one (Chessmaster 5500). Although the previous Chessmaster programs were good, each of the Chessmaster series had some features that did not work properly and a number of bugs. Chessmaster is no different in this respect: although it is certainly of the best chess programs that you can buy, Chessmaster 6000 has a number of bugs, and some poor features. But don't let that deter you - this may be the chess program for you, especially if you are on a tight budget.
What do you want from a chess program?
If all you want from a chess program is an engine that can beat the stuffings out of you, you should know that unless you are a Master, there are a number of free programs that can beat 99.9% of chess players; ok, but maybe you absolutely need to have the strongest chess program. There is an ongoing endless debate about which chess program is the strongest, and Chessmaster 6000 is up there among the contenders of Grandmaster strength, so if you buy this program, you can rest assured that if some of the other contenders (Fritz, Junior, Hiarcs and so on) are stronger, they are not much stronger. But just a minute, if you are rated at say, 1800 (which puts you much above the average level), what difference does it make if you play against a program rated 2400 or one rated 2500? In both cases, you are going to have your head handed to you on a platter...
If all you are going to do is play chess, why buy a program when plenty of free chessplaying games much stronger than you are available? The answer is "for the bells and whistles". And this is where Chessmaster 6000 shines. Maybe you want to play against different styles or against different strengths, maybe you want to study openings, maybe you want to evaluate your playing strength, maybe you want to have chess lessons, maybe you want to analyze games; Chessmaster can do all that and more.
Chessmaster 6000 features and bugs
This program has most of the features that a modern chess program should have: one of the strongest chessplaying engines available, customizable computer opponents, a 300,000 game expandable database with multiple search criteria, over 2000 named opening variations, one of the best chess tutorial series by chess coach and author Bruce Pandolfini, voice-annotated games by Josh Waitzkin (subject of the Searching for Bobby Fischer movie) and the ability to play chess on the Internet. Waitzkin's voice-annotated games in particular are an original and useful feature (the pieces move about the board while Waitzkin explains the ideas) that can help even strong players to improve their chess. The interface is generally user-friendly.
Most chess players have their own favorite features in a chess program; one of mine is the ability to interactively analyze chess lines, which Fritz 5 does extremely well (see my Fritz review). Although Chessmaster 6000 can analyze games, it cannot do so interactively in real time during a game in player vs player mode, which in my book is a serious defect.
Another key feature for me is the opening repetoire of the game; to be blunt, I consider Chessmaster 6000 's opening repetoire to be a joke. For example, two of my favorite lines are the Goring Gambit and the Morra Gambit against the Sicilian Defence. If you try to practice those openings against Chessmaster, you will be sorely disappointed, because the computer's knowledge extends only to five or six moves for those openings.
The program has a number of bugs (v1.01 is the latest version I played), many of them in the tutorials; things like positions on the board that do not correspond to the text or crashes caused by trying to move pieces. And you can't play the game without the CD, which can be a major headache for those who want to play on a portable when they travel. Mindscape has put out a couple of patches that fix some of the bugs, but some still remain. The CD "feature" still remains for some players, although the latest patch was supposed to fix it. Let me add that the bugs are not serious enough to warrant not buying the game if it has the features that you want.
The bottom line
So should you buy this program or not? It depends, opinion is divided and polarized on the chess forums on the Internet. My view is that despite its flaws, this program is one of the best available, and the price is very low. For weaker players or for those for whom the more complex features of a program like Fritz 5 might be overwhelming, this is the chess program of choice. On the other hand, if one wants to use the program primarily to analyze lines in real time or to practice openings, or as a database program, one should consider another program like Fritz 5 or Chessbase. Chessmaster 's variety of opening styles, which allow the player to modify not only the playing strength of the opponent but its style, is the best available, and the tutorials are excellent.
One pundit recommends Chessmaster 6000 for players with ratings below 2000 and other programs for players rated more highly, but at least one player above 2000 uses Chessmaster 6000 all the time. If the features that count for you in a chess program are price, learning, playing strength, and variety of playing styles, you can't go wrong with this program; on the other hand, if real time analysis, opening knowledge and strong database capabilities are your features of choice, you should have a close look at some of the other programs on the market.
In my opinion, Fritz 5 is a better program for advanced players, and there may be better programs for very specific applications (database, tutoring, etc), but if I had to rate the programs that I have played, I would rate Chessmaster 6000 second only to Fritz. For beginners or for a first chess program, Chessmaster 6000 leads the pack and is highly recommended.
Review By GamesDomain
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