Top positive review
206 people found this helpful
Great tutorials, short on other useful features
on August 25, 2004
I am curious to see what other people think about this piece of software, so please put your opinions forth!
I am a regular chess tournament player, and familiar with CM7000. Before reading my review, understand that it comes from a player who regular uses computers to analyze games for tactical errors, store/analyze games from book collections, and competes regularly in USCF tournaments at a 1600 level.
CM10th seems to have more streamlined graphics from prior versions, and a smoother overall feel. I've run into 1-2 hiccups when running CM with other programs, but it generally feels very stable.
The best part of CM 10th are the tutorials, hands down. Waitzkin's writing is perfect for both beginners and intermediate players, and the CM interface with its arrows and colored squares truly shines with him at the helm. Larry Christiansen's games are also excellent, but the great depth of his analysis is a bit harder to follow as he goes through the various lines in real time. It seems from other readers that CM9000 replicates most of these tutorials - if so, unfortunately the main reason for buying CM10th may not be sufficiently compelling. However, for those who haven't worked with these tutorials, they singlehandedly justify purchasing CM 10th - even with no other features, I could wholeheartedly recommend purchasing the software just for these lectures.
Another huge plus where CM10th excels is in the "play" department, which makes it most suitable for those who just want to play lots of games. CM's interface makes it a breeze to pick up and play rated opponents, which do get progressively more difficult as their rating climbs. I have not played enough games to truly assess the player strength relative to tournament ELO, but suffice to say that the computer still completely fails in replication of human play - CM 1500 rated opponents will hang pieces by putting them right in front of your pawn with no compensation whatsoever - not even an 800 USCF player would play such ridiculous moves! The engine will promptly rev up and play 5-7 dazzling positional moves in a row to generate a crushing attack while down an entire piece (verified by Fritz to be GM-strength moves!) only to repeat the hanging of pawns and pieces just when you think you should resign. Fritz's friend/sparring mode, although really dry (it's not that exciting to beat Fritz 7 in -1 pawn mode versus CM's colored personalities), plays incredibly humanistic chess in comparison.
As a serious chess player familiar with Fritz and computer analysis, I have some major concerns that inhibit me from recommending CM10th as my main tool/engine.
- The disc is required EVERY time you boot the game. Not even a 14-day recharge period like CM7000 - you need it each and every time. Laptop users take the biggest hit here, as the wear and tear on the drive and battery drain is pretty significant.
- The menu interface is still just ugly and really inefficient. Instead of using "normal" WinXP menus, CM goes with its custom colors/fonts/pulldown screens. Even more importantly, shrinking game status windows doesn't scale the font, so opening more than 2 game status windows gets REALLY cluttered. In contrast, Fritz's windows are super-streamlined, and you can make the font as tiny as you want - I routinely have 5 panels open in Fritz with a huge 2D board, whereas doing the same on CM is absolutely impossible. (To compensate, CM does have a Ctrl-tab to toggle hide all windows)
- No keyboard customization. This is HUGE for serious players who want full control of game analysis. The lack of arrow key navigation in game playback (you have to use control keys) is painful, and the most basic functions require multiple mouse clicks. Contrast to Fritz, where you can customize nearly every function to a key, so you can spend all your time on the chess and none of the time on the interface.
-Replaying analysis in CM10th is still as painful as it was in prior versions. While CM provides excellent auto-annotation, it's still too difficult to play back the variations (hit play, and the computer starts autoplaying the moves while you struggle to keep up...) Fritz's method of embedding variations right into the game score so you can play right through them at your own pace and then get back to the main game instantly is vastly easier. As an example, I will analyze an online game in Fritz for blunders by running analysis on it, and then all of the "recommended lines" it comes up with for my mistakes are embedded as variations in the game. I can then play through them rapidly, and see the actual engine's score evaluation to see how badly I blundered. This is all possible in CM, but is still really clunky.
-As stated in prior reviews, online play is still virtually nonexistent, although the online teaching tools are quite promising (although nobody's using them yet.)
-CM is worth every penny if you haven't seen the Waitzkin tutorials yet. Reconsider if you've done them already in prior versions.
-This game will appeal to new/beginning players who don't spend much time analyzing games and like to just play lots of different personalities.
-The Fritz interface is much more streamlined and efficient in nearly all aspects of the game, making it easily the better tool for tournament players or anyone who spends significant time on analysis of games.
-The personalities still play really strange chess (what's up with the ludicrous sacrifices?!), and I seriously question their ELO calibers relative to human USCF ratings - yesterday I easily defeated 1700,1800,1900, and drew a 2000 rated CM opponent while I run into serious problems against A class players in UCSF tournaments. At least from where I'm from, I would estimate the CM ratings as inflated by at least 200 points relative to the tournament players here.
-Online play is still nonexistent.
Would love to hear from all users - I especially anticipate that some CM "experts" will have creative solutions to some of the major problems I ran into, and I'd love to see how they've solved them.
Good luck to all you budding chessmasters!