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3.8 out of 5 stars
Chessmaster: Grandmaster Edition
Platform for Display: PCChange
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750 of 759 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2007
Platform for Display: PC
At the time I am typing this there are two other poor reviews. This is nothing unusual for this product. People are regularly pointing out how it doesn't compare to professional grade products from Chessbase (like Fritz). Unfortunately for the multitudes of amateur chess players that are looking to improve, those reviews don't help you make an informed decision.

I coach a scholastic chess team, and the Chessmaster line is extremely good and highly recommended to any beginner to intermediate chess player, particularly parents of aspiring chess children. The tutorials are among the best you are going to find anywhere for learning the basics of the game. There are actual lessons, and lots of sample chess positions (puzzles) to hone your skills, as well as new content included in each new iteration (and yes, it does re-bundle the material from the previous versions).

Even if this product could not play chess at all, the lessons and tutorials are easily worth twice what this package costs. If you already have Chessmaster X then you have to decide for yourself the marginal value of the new content. I have gone through the first few new Waitzkin lessons, and they are well done and entertaining. The new chess sets modeled after House of Staunton are pretty good. The Parthenon set I have in real life is not captured in complete detail, but it is still pretty well done. Chessmaster's 3D engine is, hands down, the most functional of any chess product on the market by anyone.

This package runs well under Vista. There is already a patch out for it, so you will probably want to download and install that before you really play it much.

Chessmaster consistently gets low marks from hardened chess players because it lacks the high end analysis tools of the Chessbase products and has pretty pathetic online play. I don't find either of those to be an issue since most people don't need or want those analysis tools (the Chessbase ones have a pretty high learning curve) and if you want to play online, seriously anyway, there are Internet sites dedicated to that purpose that will always be better (like Internet Chess Club, or Playchess.com).

So, if you are interested in improving your chess skills this is a package that you cannot go wrong purchasing. If you are a chess professional with a desire to deeply evaluate scores of variations within a game to search for subtle nuances, then you already know this product isn't the right one for you and you don't need to write reviews that try to scare novices away from a product that is truly a great match for them.
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123 of 125 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon February 14, 2009
Platform for Display: PCVerified Purchase
I'm a 57 year old who learned the rules of chess as a child, but who never played a serious game of chess until a few months ago. I own Fritz 10 software as well as Chessmaster for the Nintendo DS Lite, and I own a few Fritz Trainer DVDs.

I love the Chessmaster Grandmaster Edition for the PC (which is the only version of Chessmaster for the PC I have ever owned and used, so I cannot compare it to previous versions). I had no problem at all installing it on my Sony Vaio laptop (model VGN-395E in case anyone wants to look up the specs here on Amazon or elsewhere on the web), and I have had no problem playing it without the DVD in the player once it was fully installed.

Chessmaster for the DS Lite does not compare to Chessmaster XI (Grandmaster Edition) for the PC, but it's good enough for a portable chess playing program. (I also have Chessmaster for Game Boy Color, which is okay but is really too small for my aging eyes.) Compared to Fritz, Chessmaster XI is slow, i.e., opponents take much longer to make moves, but I find this to be both a plus and a minus such that they balance each other out. With Fritz I feel rushed by the fact that the opponent plays so fast, and although I sometimes feel impatient waiting for Chessmaster AI opponents to move (though I've not encountered any waiting I'd characterize as extremely long), I appreciate that I don't feel rushed and have more time to think about my forthcoming moves.

I prefer the graphics of Chessmaster to the graphics of Fritz; graphically, and overall, I find Chessmaster far more user-friendly.

The lessons and tutorials by Josh Waitzkin and Larry Christiansen are quite good for someone at my level (which according to Chessmaster is around 1000, though I'm inclined to mistrust Elo ratings that have not been established via over-the-board games with human opponents), and I agree with those reviewers, such as D. Lester, who say that Chessmaster's lessons and tutorials alone are worth the price (or twice the price) of the software. (I just ordered 2 Fritz Trainer DVDs - Attacking Chess Volumes 1 & 2 by Jacob Aagaard - which combined cost pennies under $40 and have a little over 6 hours of instruction, and that is a low price for Fritz Trainer DVDs, most of which retail for around $30 each.)

Chessmaster is obviously not right for all chess players, but it is just right for me given where I'm at with chess at the moment, and I doubt I'll outgrow it anytime soon, if ever.

I think reviewer D. Lester says it well when at the end of his (I'm guessing that D. Lester is a he, my apologies if I guessed wrong) review he writes: "if you are interested in improving your chess skills this is a package that you cannot go wrong purchasing. If you are a chess professional with a desire to deeply evaluate scores of variations within a game to search for subtle nuances, then you already know this product isn't the right one for you..."

And I thank those reviewers, such as Lester and Prometheus, whose thoughtful reviews of this product helped me decide to buy it (despite some discouraging reviews). I am very glad I did.

Update 2/20/10: This edition of Chessmaster works perfectly for me on a desktop running Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
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100 of 104 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2009
Platform for Display: PCVerified Purchase
UPDATE: It's been several years since I wrote this review, and I'm delighted that people still find it helpful. Technology has changed somewhat in the interim, and from what I understand, some people have had difficulties installing Chessmaster 9000 by CD on some newer computers. On this basis, I'm tempted to say that the Grandmaster Edition might now be the better purchase. As noted below, I do feel it is an excellent product, largely because it includes nearly all of the same features of previous editions.

ORIGINAL REVIEW
Let me clarify: all of the Chessmaster products are well worth their price tags. This is largely because all of the Chessmaster products are nearly identical. The reason I would suggest that newcomers to the series purchase Chessmaster 9000 instead is that the changes made to the product in the recent versions have been aesthetic improvements at the cost of functionality and accessibility. Accordingly, this will be more of a comparison than a review.

But first. Why do I recommend the Chessmaster series?

The AI is strong enough, scalable enough, and variable enough to provide a reasonable challenge to any player. The databases of openings and annotated games are exhaustive, and the database of games without annotations is so large as to be absurd. The "Beginning" level tutorials from the "Chessmaster Series" academy are fantastic. They cover the rules as well as the basics of tactics and strategies. The organization is superb, and tests follow every lesson. The remaining tutorials are not as well organized. But even so, the product contains more knowledge than you'll ever be able to acquire.

(And I do mean "a reasonable challenge to ANY player," by the way. An older version of the Chessmaster engine defeated Grandmaster Larry Christiansen in a four game series. To point out that the engine is inferior to other engines is absurd. There isn't a consumer in the world who will find the AI insufficient.)

So why would I recommend "Chessmaster 9000" instead? You can make your own decision, really. Let me compare the products.

Pros of Chessmaster 11, as compared to Chessmaster 9000:
-Aesthetically pleasing. This is the biggest improvement. Great intro video, cool wallpapers assigned to each chess set, shiny GUI, generally pleasant to look at. Some animated chess sets, mostly from Chessmaster 10.
-New tutorials from Josh. These felt superfluous to me, but worth noting nonetheless.
-New tutorials from Larry Christiansen, added in version 10. Kind of cool, because he details his match against Chessmaster, but rather disorganized, and I doubt most customers will feel any need to peruse them.

Cons, versus 9000:
-Loss of accessibility. Whereas Chessmaster 9000 loads almost instantly, version 11 takes awhile, and plays an intro video every time. (You can modify the .ini file to disable the video, though). Then, the main menu screen does an animation before the icons pop up. Also, for some reason, you can't use the "set up position" option from within a practice game; you have to go back to the main menu first, unlike in 9000. Also, you have to go back to the main menu if you want to go to a different section of the program, whereas Chessmaster 9000 had an unobtrusive link bar along the side.
-The navigation icons don't have any words on them. When you mouse-over them and wait for second, an explanation pops up. You get the hang of the most important ones fairly quickly, but it would be a lot easier to just have them labeled.
-Loss of aesthetic customization. You can't mix and match chess sets/boards. A very minor issue.
-You have to "unlock" boards by winning games (or modifying the .ini file). Kind of silly.

Again, I think Chessmaster 11 is a solid product. I own it and, when just playing a game against the computer, prefer it because it looks so much cooler. My father, on the other hand, finds it confusing, and sticks with 9000.

On a parting note, I love using Chessmaster in conjunction with Chess books, instead of using a board. The algebraic notation window ensures you got the moves right.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon November 25, 2007
Platform for Display: PC
Sure there are much more powerful chess-analysis software available (ChessBase's DEEP FRITZ VIII comes to mind), yet they are either much more expensive or sport features only professionals (or at least truly advanced players) would know how to use.

Not to be outdone at the gate, CHESSMASTER-GM EDITION features an exceptionally good teaching tool as well a human-simulation engine which is adaptable to various personalities. For any amateur-to-middle range chess-player, this is the most recommended series.

True, compared to CM-10, this edition is not that different - with the exception of some visuals and animated board options. I could not see a reason to upgrade if one already owns CM-10.

My advice: wait for after-Christmas sales - you will be able to pick this up for a song.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2008
Platform for Display: PC
A lot of people criticize Chessmaster for what it isn't. It isn't the strongest chess engine. Correct. That honor currently belongs to Rybka. It's database functions aren't industrial strength. Correct again. ChessBase and Chess Assistant beat it easily in this category. Chessmaster, however claims to have a very strong engine (absolutely true), perhaps the most convenient and capable way out there of playing against the engine at less than full strength (rated personalities), and excellent instructional material. It delivers on all of these and more at a very reasonable price.

Also, some say that there isn't much change from upgrade to upgrade. I don't have version 10, but I had used 9000 for quite awhile. It didn't work well on a newer computer, so I purchased the Grandmaster edition. Not only have I had no problems with the program, but I was also pleasantly surprised by the (IMHO) much cleaner interface and excellent chess sets. From 9000, at least, I found it a real step up.

I have the big database programs, and they are great for what they are. But for what Chessmaster is (at a fraction of the cost) it's pretty hard to beat.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2008
Platform for Display: PC
I'll tell you - there are few things that have given me such enjoyment in my life as the Josh Waitzkin tutorials in the Chessmaster series. The game is worth the investment (probably twice the investment) for these alone. He talks through hours and hours of his games, revealing his thinking and psychology. Very entertaining; very informative; very educational.

I think this is also a value relative to the former release (Chessmaster 10k). It includes some more of his games, including his game vs. Jeff Sarwer, on which the conclusion of both the book and movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer" was based (although the actual gameplay in the movie is fiction, as is its result). This is quite fascinating to watch. He also annotates other famous games in a lucid and understandable fashion - he is a great teacher of chess.

I am a good chess player, as in, I beat my friends, but really nothing more. I also would consider myself a fan of chess. I've looked for similar type tutorials and found nothing that suits the average chess fan in such an entertaining and accessible way. I very highly recommend this product for people like me.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2008
Platform for Display: PC
I have Chessmaster 10th edition. I bought this one because some reviewers were saying it was more stable AND reports that you could run the game without the CD (10th edition requires CD in the tray to run). You CAN run this version without the CD.

The interface is definitely improved and the game does not have as many visual flaws in it that the 10th edition had. I like how the new sets are structured. Also it is cool how you have to play a certain number of games to "unlock certain sets." That is kind of a reward/motivator to play more games.

Yes, this edition also uses more than one core if you have a dual/quad core (I have a quad). On my Quad it uses 2 cores at 100% instead of just 1 core at 100% as before. Those of you with older computers might not find this a good thing (I see some reviews claim lockups). I have an XFX Nvidia 8800 GT graphics card - this game runs smooth and is beautiful!

For the kids this game has the fun section with some seriously entertaining chess sets. Nothing like a fun way to play chess!

Warning: There is a massive update when you get done installing the software. It is over 100MB if I remember right - took a good 15 mins to download on my high speed cable.

Should you update to this edition if you have 10th edition? Yes - the fact that you don't have to use the CD is worth $20 for me.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2010
Platform for Display: PC
I'll just start out by saying that Chessmaster-Grand Master Edition is a cut above Chessmaster 9000 and prior versions. I've read alot of people saying its not worth the upgrade. If you have CM10th Edition I would probably agree. But, from CM9000 and prior I would definitely upgrade for two chief reasons:

1) The Chess board can be zoomed, tilted or rotated to any angle. This important feature is missing from CM 9000 and prior versions. I use only the Classic Wood 3D board. But, its so much more entering playing with a 3D board that I can actually see and use. No more boring 2D.

2) Tournament mode did not work properly in CM9000 and prior. You would have to wait and watch the same 'simulated game' over and over for AI Matchups. In Grand Master Edition, you can just 'get a result' of the AI vs AI matchups.

Now, as for the other features. They are great. The one I love the most is the Auto-Annotation after a game. It will analysis your game and, in spoken language, will explain erros and missed opportunities from your games. Excellent!

The only negative is the 'all to too common' Knight for Pawn sacrifice at F2 (or F7). I just don't believe players do this as often as Chessmaster simulates it. It makes for an interesting game and totally messes up your King protection. But, it typically fails. So, I always feel its a cheap win.

This is the best chess game ever produced!
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2007
Platform for Display: PC
I purchased this about a week ago and I think it is a really great game/program. It might not be a huge jump up from previous versions of Chessmaster, but the last time I bought a Chessmaster game was a LONG time ago and I'm not rating this in comparison to previous versions. All I know is this was a great buy for me.

All the lessons and annotated games by Josh Waitzkin have been really helpful to me so far. I haven't had time to go through everything yet, but I've already spent several hours viewing the videos (well, video of a chess board with audio of Josh Waitzkin) and they've been very beneficial to me. I'm a beginner/intermediate player and I've already learned a lot just from what I've seen so far. There's a LOT of material and I agree with another reviewer that this product would still be worth its price even if it ONLY came with the chess lessons/videos.

I also really like that it has so many different "personalities" to play against. Each personality has different qualities (e.g. what openings they favor) and of course you can move up in difficulty very gradually. After every game you play, Chessmaster will suggest another opponent that is either more difficult or easier depending on if you win or lose.

The program runs fast and has a pretty good interface.

I can run it without having the DVD in the drive. I read reviews of some previous versions of Chessmaster and people complained a lot about being required to put the CD in to run the game.

If you enjoy chess and want to improve your game, I think this would be a good buy for you. I think you'd have to REALLY be a chess EXPERT for there to be nothing for you to learn from this program.

Also, for those interested, I'm running 64-bit Vista and there are no problems/crashes/bugs etc. that I have noticed.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2007
Platform for Display: PC
As soon as this program starts, your CPU shoots up to 100% and stays there. Not a big problem if you have a multiple-core/processor computer, but it makes the program unusable on my single-core laptop (and would kill the battery too). Fritz only pushes up the CPU when it's actually analyzing a chess position. That's the way you'd expect a chess program to behave.

From a looks perspective, if Fritz is the ugly basement of your apartment building, Chessmaster is the penthouse suite as envisioned in some sci-fi movie. In trying to make the interface look super-modern and cool, it goes to an extreme that makes it less usable. The people who created Chessmaster, for some reason, thought the only way to compete in the chess market is to make some super-overblown interface.

A lot of effort went into making super-cool-looking 3D chess boards, all of which I find completely unusable (because it's NOT 3D, it's a photo of a 3D board displayed on a 2-dimensional computer screen). If you want a 3D chessboard, put a real chessboard next to your computer.

The advantages of Chessmaster over Fritz is that Chessmaster contains computer personalities of various levels of ability to play, which allows beginning and intermediate (and intermediate is anyone who doesn't regularly play in chess tournaments) players to have human-like players they have a chance of beating. It's no fun to always lose every time to the computer. (In contrast, the handicap modes of Fritz are aimed more at advanced players. Fritz will not provide a human-like opponent suitable for a beginning or intermediate player.)

Chessmaster also includes a bunch of tutorials aimed at intermediate players. These are really good. Worth the price of the software just for the tutorials.

Regarding intermediate vs. advanced, don't trick yourself into thinking you're an advanced player who needs Fritz if you're not. I'm a very smart guy (if standardized tests mean anything), but I'm not such a good chess player. Unless you've been playing chess every day for years (or perhaps you're some child prodigy) you are NOT an advanced player.

The CPU bug really annoys me, which is why it's rated only 2 stars. Unusable on my laptop. Only buy this if you have a multiple-core computer. Even without the CPU problem, I wouldn't have given this 5 stars, because the interface is too confusing, trying to look good instead of actually be practical. The game also lacks context-sensitive online help. You just get a short PDF file.
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