Chessmaster 4000 Turbo
The Chessmaster series has a long history and a reputation for friendliness to beginners. The latest is Chessmaster 4000 Turbo which differs from Chessmaster 3000 in that there are more opponents, easier controls and a better chess engine.
The Chessmaster series has set great store by its graphic front end. This version is no exception: you can configure the screen any way you want and save configurations to disk. The Windows are easy to paste and resize. There are also eight supplied configurations:
Plain and Simple: a large 2D board with status and captured pieces windows. Table Top Chess: large 3D board with clocks and captured pieces windows. Personal Guide: 2D board with natural language advice. Micro Chess: a tiny 2D board. New Perspective: a weird surreal landscape board. Far East: large marble 3D board with Chinese set. Think Tank: 2D board, think lines, thinking and captured pieces. War Room: 2D board with status, captured pieces, think lines, move list, legal moves and clocks.
The board can be any one of 11 styles and you can rotate and tilt it to your taste. There are 11 sets to choose from (four in 16-colour), ranging from the frankly useless insect set to a classic Staunton set in red and white. Although you can alter the colour of the board, you can't change the colour of the pieces.
The other weak point is the 2D display, which most serious players will want to use. It's dreadful - worse than those of 'brute force' programs like Sargon. These are strange oversights given the work that has gone into the rest of the graphics - graphics, I might add, that will slow the program down on any pc without 8Mb and a Windows accelerator.
As in Chessmaster 3000, you can play against a large range of opponents. Some of these are generic (pawngrabber, woodpusher), others play in the style of a particular master like Alekhine, Fischer, Kasparov, Karpov, Nimzovich and Tal. This means, I assume, that the program gives preference to book openings from those particular masters. Certainly, there is not really a great deal of difference in the middle game.
Nor are they as strong as their human counterparts; I managed to beat Kasparov, which I think is improbable in real life. You can tailor your own opponents with aggressiveness, book depth, contempt for draw, control of centre, king safety, material vs position and so forth. You can create an opponent (as I know Mr Cursor has done) who values pawns higher than the queen.
The computer opponents can be set up to play each other - I arranged a Karpov/Kasparov game which lasted seven minutes at ten seconds per move (Kasparov won).
Always a strength of the Chessmaster series, Chessmaster 4000 Turbo takes its teaching role seriously. The 'mentor' options will take you from complete hand-holding to expert adviser. 'Teaching' will highlight threatened, pinned and skewered pieces, isolated pawns, promotion threats and control of the board. 'Tutorial' covers chess basics, strategy and moves.
From the 'Mentor' menu Chessmaster 4000 Turbo lets you practise a wide variety of openings -nine variations of the Caro-Kann defence alone. You will be prompted for each move and faced with the sort of reply to expect. Ideal if you're not quite sure how the two knights variation goes (1E4 c6 2NC3 D5 3NF3).
During any game, you can call up the normal hint feature and a special help function called 'natural language advice'. This made its first appearance in Chessmaster 3000. Set the computer's thinking time and it will produce a clear and concise evaluation of the game and your situation. The number of moves to which it looks ahead is truly intimidating, and it is just as well that you can print out the advice for later reference. The advice is not so useful when playing weak opponents (because you will be reacting to threats that they are too incompetent to see). Another remarkable feature is auto-annotation. To use this you have to take back the move or moves you want annotated, then open the move list and annotation windows. The annotated move list can be exported as an ascii file. It's a shame this process couldn't be made a bit more user-friendly. An analyse move list works in the same way.
Notation can be co-ordinate, descriptive, international and long or short algebraic. Games can be exported as ascii move list, ascii board or Forsythe notation (see the box for an example). The import game feature in Chessmaster 3000 was an absolute pain and used an idiosyncratic format. Chessmaster 4000 has remedied the situation somewhat, but reading in games from ChessBase (probably the most widely used package) is still difficult and the library building option needs some more attention.
So it looks good and is an excellent teacher. But has it got what it takes to satisfy the serious player? The short answer is, yes - it's a strong player. Chessmaster 4000 Turbo uses a 32-bit tasc engine which beats Chessmaster 3000's Kittinger engine nearly every time.
What about Kasparov's Gambit and its much-vaunted Socrates engine? Well Kasparov's Gambit implements Socrates - which is a 32-bit program-as 16-bit; so it doesn't run well and loses many of its advantages. Chessmaster 4000 Turbo will beat Kasparov's Gambit in nine games out of ten. It also wins most of its games against fierce programs like Sargon V and Zarkov 2.6. The engine is, in fact, based on that used by Zarkov 2.5.
A bonus is the Opening Book Editor. This only runs in 256 colour and is undocumented, so not a feature for the unwary. You can alter which openings Chessmaster favours and if you're taken with someone's new variation, add it to the library.
To sum up, this is a worthy successor in the Chessmaster series. The only doubt I have is, oddly enough, the much-vaunted graphics. They are good (with the exception of the 2D board) but they make great demands on your machine. Only the Windows version is available at the moment, with the dos version coming in June 1994.
Download Chessmaster 4000 Turbo
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP