|a game by||Heuristic Software|
|User Rating:||4.0/10 - 1 vote|
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At last chess procrams are moving away from gimmicks and towards solid playing. This is as the game itself moves in the opposite direction. The acm computer chess championship this year was won by a program that ran on a 486 pc. Socrates II beat the brutish Cray Blitz, which looks at 100 million moves. Such blitzkrieg tactics are being replaced with a more intuitive understanding of the game. After all. a Grand Master will consider between 50 and 100 positions a move and still beat most computers.
Garry Kasparov was disenchanted with the state of chess programs and decided to help develop one that would help the 99 percent of players that can be beaten by a microcomputer. That's the fairytale anyway. I mean. Electronic Arts don't want you to think that this is just another licensing deal.
The program comes on five hd disks, takes up 11Mb of Hard disk space and uses 32K as a hash table. It needs 2Mb configured as ems. The default display is a workman-like 2D board with analysis and coaching windows but you can configure it to your needs with a pretty 3D board and lots of windows. The analysis board is beautiful. You can see all the moves the computer is contemplating. Controls are easy with a mouse or keyboard. Garry himself keeps his beady eye on you and shouts advice from the touchline, as it were. Some of this advice is wrong. 'Your bishop - or whatever -is in jeopardy!' he will shout, when all he really means is that it is temporarily unprotected. No point hunting around the board for a threat; just tuck a pawn nearby and he'll be happy.
You can play 37 computer opponents with 10 ratings of between 800 (Neanderthal) to 2800 (Kasparov). You can alter the attributes - aggressiveness, creativity, attentiveness, orthodoxy and strength - of any of these or create your own opponent. If you elect to play Kasparov, the program enters 'serious' mode for maximum strength and, of course. Garry doesn't help you out. Does it play like Kasparov? I tried the fourth Short-Kasparov game.
The original goes 1e4 C5 2Nf3 d6 3d4 cxd4.1 started out with ie4 and was surprised when the computer played e6 - the French defence and an anathema to Kasparov's aggressive style.
The program has a hint feature that really is a hint feature; that is. not much help at all. You're facing, say. a Caro-Kann defence and have forgotten what to do next. Press 'H' and Garry will say: 'move your pawn'. Cheers Garry, I mean there's eight of the little buggers. Which one? And where? So, if you're an absolute beginner and want hints of the d2-d4 variety this isn't for you. The program assumes that if told to move your knight you at least know which one to move and where it should go.
There are masses of tutorials ranging from simple moves (castling, en passant) to advance stalemate positions and back rank mating (no, that isn't what you used to do in the cinema). There is a library of 500 famous games, all with a commentary by Kasparov. Here he is on Deep Thought - Kasparov after 1e4 C5, 2C3: 'a pity that the programmers chose this wimpy variation (Alapin) for such an important encounter... a boring and slow approach to the opening'. The match was a classic because a bug in the Deep Thought program stopped it castling until move 17 (although it could have done it after 11 Bd3).
The library of games can be sorted by black, white or theme. It has one peculiarity; out of the 116 games featuring Kasparov, there is only one (Timman-Kasparov Hilversum (m/3) 1985) in which he loses. This is a shame because I wanted to compare Karpov's (Chessmaster 3000) and Kasparov's comments on the same game. The personality of Kasparov comes across strongly. When he says: 'I have not considered that move', you know he's marked it down as ? or ?! and you panic. With luck he'll say: 'I see your point' or 'I take it back' and you feel ridiculously proud. When he says: 'just what I would have played' your head swells. He'll encourage you by saying: 'Keep it up! Gambit may resign soon' and discourage you by saying: 'that doesn't look right'. ('Why not?' you shout at the screen. But he won't tell you.)
Kasparov's Gambit is aimed at unseating Chessmaster. Chessmaster is kinder to beginners and has more layouts (if that's important). I have a strong feeling that it also plays a tougher game. Kasparov's Gambit, on the other hand, is ideal for players who want to improve their game without being spoon-fed. The game it plays is less 'codified' than Chessmaster and more like playing a human. Plus. Kasparov's Gambit does improve your game. Fearful of Kasparov's frown you try your very best.