Grandmaster Chess. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Jim Smith
Capstone makes big claims for Grandmaster Chess, calling it the most powerful chess program in the world. It backs up that claim by inviting comparison to other programs, including a unique guarantee on the front of the box: If another chess program defeats Grandmaster Chess using identical computers under tournament conditions, you get your money back.
It takes approximately ten minutes to install the program, and installation includes options to support advanced video and sound features. You can choose from three chess sets: standard, human, or monster. The board can be viewed in either a two- or a three-dimensional position. The entire display fits on one screen and includes the board, move lists, options buttons, and menu buttons while in two-dimensional mode. You can choose to play with black or white pieces, and the board can be rotated accordingly.
New chess players will find the program less than adequate for teaching the game. Included with the documentation is a brief flier, published by the United States Chess Federation (USCF), that explains the rules of chess. But nothing within the program teaches the beginner about piece movement.
The chess player with some experience will find the program both entertaining and helpful. When you push the hint button, the computer displays its analysis, which includes point values for each possible move and its continued line of play, and then animates the best possible move. You may also turn on or off the computer's opening library of moves, which includes approximately 12,000 positions in 4500 standard openings. When you press the book button, all legal moves are listed, and those in the opening book are rated and ranked.
The intermediate club player will also find the program a solid chess partner. You can choose from a variety of playing strengths and styles for the computer, and you can select time controls, from 5-minute speed chess matches (best played with the computer's opening library turned off) to 120-minute tournament matches. The program includes a rating estimate that approximates your USCF ranking, and games can be saved, imported, or printed. It's easy to edit the board and to set the computer to quickly solve puzzle positions. When set at Grandmaster tournament level, the program is quite formidable. If you defeat the Grandmaster, the program prints a certificate.
While Grandmaster Chess is powerful and entertaining, it does have flaws. It wouldn't run as a DOS application under Windows, crashing every time I attempted it. In fact, the program crashed on one occasion while running under DOS. The hand cursor also tended to stamp itself on various parts of the screen regularly. Although the program includes synthesized speech, it's limited to a few trite expressions such as "Gotcha" and "Bad move." I found the speech feature little more than annoying.
The program does have several strong, unique features. Its options buttons make play fast and easy. It's very nice to be able to turn the computer's opening book on or off, as well as to change its strength and play variability. The program plays chess well at a variety of levels, and it's particularly nice for the player with limited experience.
Grandmaster Chess would make a good addition to any software library, but I'd advise waiting until a Windows version becomes available.