on December 1, 2000
I am somewhat of a chess nut and I have owned the most recent version of Chessmaster since its inception. Chessmaster 8000 is an excellent chess partner/teacher for players at almost any level. It is versatile and can provide opponents that will challenge but not overwhelm players at skill levels from beginner to master. However, if you really want to test yourself, you can crank it up to its highest level and give it a go. Unless you are an international grand master, chances are that it will be a lesson in humility.
The tutorials for beginners and children are particularly good. There are a number of exercises for intermediate players, but the real value is Chessmaster's ability to analyze games and recommend moves. The opening book database is vast and the database of games of Grand Masters is very useful, especially for intermediate and advanced players who want to improve their games.
Chessmaster 8000 has several desirable improvements over 7000. This is the second release using the new interface and the initial bugs have been worked out. I have had no problems with it on Windows 98. The 3D perspective has been improved and a number of new chess sets and boards have been added. The children's area has also been improved. There is a very valuable tutorial on endgames by Josh Waitzkin for intermediate player and above. There are also far more computer opponents to play against. The best improvement is an enhancement of the chess engine that makes it even stronger. This is a difference that less than 1% of tournament players will discern, but it furter legitimizes Chessmaster in minds of serious chess players. Even with the stronger engine, Chessmaster 8000 is not the strongest chess program available, but on the highest level it will beat 99.9% of players and it cannot be matched for versatility and teaching.
If you are you are looking for a good chess partner or teacher, you can't go wrong with Chessmaster.
on November 26, 2001
First I want to make a correction to a review I read on here that is WRONG. In fact, I almost didnt purchase Chessmaster 8000 on the basis of this review stating that the program didn't run on Windows XP.
It DOES run on XP. I have had no problem whatsoever installing or running this great game. I also installed the patch, available off of Chessmaster.com. Maybe there are problems with Win 2000, but none that I can tell with XP.
As far as the game...I am blown away. It's simply fantastic - with a wealth of opponents to play, detailed learning materials to access, and a variety of cool sets to play on. I was introduced to chess over 20 years ago when my parents brought me back a wooden hand-carved set from Germany (I still have it), and although I havent played consistently over the years, I have always enjoyed the game. Certainly this is no substitute for sitting down across from another person, but CM 8000 will definitely improve your game, no matter your level.
on February 9, 2001
I bought this game shortly after the christmas holidays, as, although I can't say why, I was consumed in a storm of chess obsession, and was buying chess paraphernalia left and right. Over the holidays, while in Montana, my younger brother and I played several games a day on a set we had brought, and had a great deal of fun, but we both had absolutely no idea of how to play the game beyond simply moving the pieces. Becuase of this, I decided to, once we got back home in Virginia, buy several books and a computer program to work on my skills. Let me tell you, I'm sooo glad that I bought this game.
In short, this game is outstanding. The size of the game is enourmous, packing two CD's full of constant learning and fun. The game is organized into six rooms, namely the Game Room, Tounament Room, Classroom, Kids' Room, Database, and Library. The Game Room, obviously, is where you can play unrated games agaist a whole host of personalities, ranging from simulations of such GM's as Tal, Kasparov, Anand, and Fischer, to three year olds. In other words, you're sure to find a suitable oponent, and, for 99% of the players out there, an oponent who can dispatch you with ease. In addition to a wide selection of possible oponents, the Game Room has a great deal of other attractive features, such as a Quick Hint option for your next move, and, my personal favorite, the option to have the game analyze all of your and your opponent's moves, offering suggestions and highlighting mistakes(after you've finished the match, of course). This feature can have a decidedly sobering effect, of course. For example, shortly after discovering the feature, I had one of my games analyzed for me, smugly thinking I had soundly beaten my opponent, only to be informed that I had missed 16 mating oportunities!
Another area of the game that I frequent is the Classroom, where a whole range of interesting and informative tutorials can be accessed, starting with basic stuff, such as how to move the pieces, to advanced end game courses by Josh Waitzkin, the protagonist of the movie Searching For Bobby Fischer. Josh's courses are absolutely great, as you can actually hear him speak his lessons. The only downside, I suppose, to his courses is that he goes very rapidly, and you need more chess ability than I currently possess to really get the most out of them. Unfortunately, the other courses are spoken by someone with an incredibly irritating voice, so I normally just turn off the sound when he's talking. In fact, its almost painful to listen to him at times, when he says stuff like: "If you got that one right, give yourself a cookie. Oh, and, give me one to." Yes, its really that bad.
The Library, like all of the areas of the game, continues the trend and has a ton of great stuff. For example, there is a section containing illustrative games dating back to the late 1700's, of such players as Morphy, Kasparov (including his Deep Blue matches) and many others, all with commentary and annotation. In addition to to classic game section, you can look at Chessmaster's opening book references, or make your own opening book, which, needless to say, is an invaluable tool.
The Tournament Room is where you can play in tournaments with other personalites, or even create a tournament with only the best of the GM's and watch how they play each other. Actually, I got some interesting opening ideas from watching a Kasparov-Karpov simulation match, so making tournaments like the above can actually be quite helpful. Also, the tournament room is where you can play rated games, to get a feel for what your actual chess rating is.
The Kid's Room is basically a mini game within the game, and provides kids with a condensed version of bits of all of Chessmaster's other rooms. For example, you can play kid specific opponents, ranging from very bad to a young Josh Waitzkin, rated at 2100. My little sisters, 6 and 9, both enjoy this part of the game a lot, and the 6 year old was overjoyed when she crushed Stanly the Chimpanzee, rated at 1, who makes completely random moves. Also, the kid's room has a great deal of chess sets designed for kids, like a set where the men are all little gnomes.
The next room, the Database, contains a collection of some 500,000 games played throughout history. Unfortunatly, I don't have much to say about this area of the game, as I haven't used it very much, but its basically what you would think it would be. You can search for specific games, specific opening lines, etc.
After such a glowing review, you may be wondering why I bothered to say that the game has some flaws in the title of my review. Well, it certainly has its fair share. As nearly every other reviewer has written, the game, for some idiotic reason, doesn't seem to work very well with Windows 2000. Most of the problems seem to arise in the classroom sections of the game, especially when audio is involved. Its become a painfully common occurence for a little error window to pop up, saying that something or other's size is too small, whatever that means. Regardless, the sound gets cut off, and every once in a while, the whole game crashes. Also, as others have said, the game takes up all of your computer's available resources while running. For example, while writing this review I had the game on, minimized obviously. The game's seemingly unquenchable thirst for memory caused the appearance of my typing on the screen to be delayed, so that what my fingers were doing didn't show up on the screen until after I had finished typing. Although not that bad, it is somewhat annoying. Also, as at least one other reviewer stated, the game lacks polish. For instance, the classroom tutorials a chock full of minor errors, such question numbers that don't match the page number of the tutorial. For example, on one tutorial, the page number was something like 17, but the question number on the page said 27. Minor things like that plague the game, things that should have been caught before putting the game on the market.
Despite all of this mind-boggling flaws, the game is still amazingly fun. Chess on its own exerts a peculiarly addictive force on all those who come in contact, and this game, in my mind, multiplies that force several times. With this game, you can participate in a lively, challenging game whenever you want, day or night. You don't have to bore yourself because your opponent doesn't feel like playing. Its always there. Consequently, I've played an enourmous amount of chess during the past two weeks, and I've profited from it immensely. When I first bought the game, I played a player named Jonesie, rated at 900 or so, and I was utterly annihilated. Now, only two weeks later, Jonesie is a breeze, and I rarely loose to players rated at 1450 and above. If your a beginning player who would like to become a serios competitor, this game is ideal. Look at my results. In two weeks I jumped 500 rating points. I can't wait to see how I'm doing two more weeks from now! In conclusion, buy this game if chess means anything to you at all. Although I've never played any other computer chess games before, I can't imagine them topping this one. Thank you Chessmaster.
on August 11, 2001
Most people really enjoy making fun of Chessmaster 8000, saying that other engines like Fritz 6 and Shredder are a lot stronger. However, personally I don't care if I'm beaten in chess by a 2600+ engine or a 2700+ engine. Chessmasters true advantage lies in its easy-to-learn approach. Often in other engines the interface and the menus are hard to navigate through, and if you have a child they easily become discouraged by playing against such an engine. But in Chessmaster 8000 you have everything to make you play better. If you have a child that's interested in chess, he/she can play in the "Kids room" where there are exercises, voice lectures by IM Josh Waitzkin and tonnes of opponents, from rating 1 to rating 2200. If you are a teenager like me, or an adult, you might want to move on to the "game room" where you can play the same opponents as in the kids room, but in this case their USCF rating goes as high as 2700, with more than 170 different players, including 80+ human-like players, 39 opponents based and styled after famous grandmasters, and the CHESSMASTER himself, expected to play at 2600 USCF, when playing at full strength, and if that's not enough, you can create your own characters, set their strengths and weaknesses, and you can even incorporate other chessengines into chessmaster, such as Crafty. Furthermore you can play the masters such as Kasparov, Lasker, Capablanca, Nimzowitz, Larsen and Botvinnik, and you can have your game analysed by chessmaster, so that he points out where you went wrong, and where you did the right move. He can even during a game suggest the best move to you, or he can go into dept and try to find a forced mate. You can also pair computers vs. computers, play rated and unrated tournaments in the tournament room, look up EVERY opening and see comments to it in the "library room", check out classic games (more than 700) with annotation by Grandmasters, including Yasser Seirawan and Larry Evans, hear voice lectures from Joshua Waitzkin, solve exercises from mate in 1 to highly advanced Master exercises, you can go online and play against other users of chessmaster 8000 (and no it's not possible to cheat during play), there's a giant database with over 500000 chess games played throughout history, you can search for ELO, player, tournament, position etc. The graphics are 16-bit and you can choose from 33 different chessboards, in "birds eye view", "over the shoulder view", "3D", "Perspective" or the traditional "2D". You can also chose the pieces. If you are not satisfied, you can create your own board. There's nothing that you can't do in chessmaster, and the lectures by Bruce Pandolfini, Seirawan and Waitzkin are of top quality, and most of them are read aloud! This is like having your own personal IM or GM at your disposition at any time. Chessmaster 8000 is an awesome and fun way to learn chess, recommendable to children, teenagers or adults! If you're 400, buy this game, if you're 1500, buy this game, if you're a grandmaster, yes, buy this game, seeing it is grandmaster strength. This is definitely the best chess engine ever.
on January 9, 2001
I own several chess-playing software programs, including Fritz 6, HIARCS, Chessmasters 2000-8000, and they all play strong games. Chessmaster 8000 is a great buy for virtually all players, including serious tournament players (though I greatly prefer Fritz 6). However,if you already own a Chessmaster 6000 or Chessmaster 7000, do you really need the update? Chessmaster 8000 isn't dramatically different, although there are improvements in graphics, playing strength, etc. The analysis function is still less than satisfying (I prefer the more professional Fritz 6 annotations) and although the Josh Waitzkin endgame course is both valuable and entertaining, I couldn't say that it made CM8000 a must buy.
on March 2, 2002
If you don't own a Chessmaster product, you should get this one. Chessmaster lives up to its claim of being the "best-looking, best-playing chess game" around. The play is good, with many "people" (computer personalities) to play against, from children up to advanced players like "Liam" (whose fictional bio says he is a disaffected ex-CIA agent). You have good control over the game timing options, and there are a good variety of 2D and 3D chess sets to suit all tastes.
The teaching in Chessmaster is also excellent. The lessons by Bruce Pandolfini are narrated by a computer voice (albeit a pretty nice one), whereas International Master Josh Waitzkin speaks for himself in his annotated games and his new endgame course. There is enough teaching material in the game to get a good grasp of the opening, middlegame and endgame stages. There are also drills (such as find mate in one, or avoid being mated), which you do against a clock. Good for keeping your eye sharp.
Overall the game provides excellent tutorials on the middle and endgame but less on the openings. This is partly a reflection of Josh's style - his exceptional talent for strategy and endgames took him a long way before his loose openings began to hold him back. This is different from how most players learn, but as Josh says in one of his games, by playing and studying endgame situations with only a few pieces, you begin to develop a more intimate understanding of the pieces, and how they work best. This helps in earlier stages of the game by giving you a feel for how to use them effectively.
The opening book library contains text annotation on a wide range of standard openings, and there are some Pandolfini lessons on the subject. But there isn't a detailed tutorial dealing with specific openings. There are masses of books around if you're really interested in finding ways to smash the Sicilian or win with the Ruy Lopez.
The Kids Room is good for younger players. There are bright colours; some Josh games especially for younger players, plus a nice feature that lets kids track their progress. You can print certificates for them as they attain certain standards of play and complete the tutorials. The windows are well laid out so that kids can easily get at the lessons, or get hints when they need them.
So I really rate this product, for sure. The question is whether it's worth upgrading from 7000 to 8000, as I did.
I am a big fan of Josh Waitzkin, I think he's the most interesting commentator on chess that I've ever come across. Unfortunately, there are no more annotated games in 8000 (except for the kids), which is a bit of a disappointment. There is a whole new endgame course, which is annotated by Josh and is a lot more extensive than the previous endgame tutorial by Bruce Pandolfini. The course is heavily illustrated by examples from the latter parts of some of Josh's games.
There is a new "match the masters" feature, which puts you into a middlegame of a famous match, and gives you a multiple-choice quiz on which moves to make.
Nunn's puzzles have been indexed much more effectively, so you don't have to start at page one and fast-forward to where you want to be (which takes a while in a 605 page feature!).
There are also many new chess sets, which are much prettier (now in 16 bit colour) than before, but that doesn't bother me as I find the novelty sets annoying and the 3D views impossible. I play with a 2D blue-grey board (find it under custom board) and the Staunton Red and White set. So the addition of (among others) a doggie chess set (with fire hydrants as rooks!) isn't a selling point for me.
I am running the game on Windows 2000, and there are some problems. The game crashes occasionally, especially if I have other applications running in the background. Ubi Soft won't support Windows 2000 because it's a business platform. They won't support XP either, though they can't really use the same excuse for that. I think that's rather poor performance, lots of people use PCs for both work and games, and plenty of other games have been released that work fine on Win 2K. But I can't say I wasn't warned.
Back to my original question, is CM8000 worth the upgrade? Probably yes if you're a Josh fan. Otherwise this is a new and improved game, but it's not radically different.
I have owned every Chessmaster since Chessmaster 2100, a charming little toy that ran on my old XT with an engine that played like a "D" player with poor positional judgment(!). Today's Chessmaster plays like something close to a Grandmaster.
It is a fine program with some annoying bugs, suitable for a wide range of players from beginners to master-level players. It is not, however, the choice of professionals. They prefer the elegant German-made Fritz since some of CM's features for the average player are of no interest to them. Unless you are a Senior Master level player however, in my opinion, Chessmaster is a better choice because of its many features.
Nonetheless Chessmaster 8000 is not much of an improvement on Chessmaster 7000. (You might want to read my review of CM7000 because some of the same comments apply here). In some ways CM8000 is a regression. For example, you can't run the program at all without the disk in your CD drive. Ouch! In CM7000 you could at least run the program for 14 days or 28 sessions before being required to insert the CD. Another problem is that the sight and music show after CM8000 loads always plays and you have to hit a key to get to the program. This is also a regression from CM7000 which allowed you to turn off this it-gets-old-fast "feature." A new bug occurs when you play a game at a fast time limit. The verbal announcement of moves is truncated so that CM's move is not announced. This is a bug that CM is aware of but hasn't fixed yet. Another regressive change is you can no longer pick the exact color of the chessboard. That feature has been eliminated, why I don't know.
The Think Lines window, though, has been improved. Now you can play over a game and see how Chessmaster evaluates the game without toggling between the Chessmaster mode and the player mode as in CM7000 and previous editions. Just click Chessmaster in the window and CM's thinking is always there.
The "mate in one" opening puzzle has been "improved" to offer avoid mate and find the pin and find the fork. This is still not anywhere near what it should be. At least a mate in two would improve, or even better, critical positions from master games could be featured so that the user could compare his or her choice with what was actually played.
The personality ratings are still a little high. One personality rated around 2200 on my machine often sac's a piece for two united pawns in the opening. Other personalities routinely give up a pawn and then some, but are also rated at around master-level. "Natalie," rated 2296 on my machine, gives up at least a pawn in the opening and in general plays the opening like a "D" player, yet plays afterwards like a master. Not realistic! But as someone at CM pointed out, one of the interesting things about the personalities is that they have weaknesses that a human can discover and take advantage of. I think a little more creativity in creating the personalities would improve the program. I like eccentrics like "Vlad" who always answers almost instantly because he just doesn't search any further than about three ply.
The only player stats kept are those in rated games. Stats reflecting performance in EVERY game should be kept. It would required just the slightest effort on the part of the programmers to offer such a feature. And such a feature would be very revealing (and perhaps sobering) for the player. Every game should be counted as (1) Incomplete with CM's score given at the time of abandonment; (2) Won, lost or drawn.
An annoyance is that CM doesn't remember your place in the scroll windows. In other words, if you are playing through a long list of games it would be nice when you click "Load" for the window to open where you left off so you can just click the next game on the list. However what CM does is make you start all over again because it always opens the window to the first game on the list.
Another silly annoyance is when you're going from one mode to the other, the program ought to recall and use the chessboard and set that you have chosen. Instead CM uses its default and you have to choose all over again.
Here's what I think would be a significant improvement: Add some code that would assess a player's strength based on an analysis of every move played, so that a rating could be established with just a couple of games. To illustrate what I mean, consider that in any given position there are "x" number of moves. Of those moves, a certain number lose outright (let's say lose the equivalent of two pawns or more, all the way to possibly allowing checkmate). Some others give away somewhere between the equivalent of half a pawn to a pawn and a half. Still others keep the chances about the same, while others might result in an advantage. Since the program keeps a running "score" of the game, it could simply compare each of the human player's moves with a change in the running score and easily construct a hierarchy of achievement or lack thereof which could be converted into ratings. This could be turned into a feature that would assess a player's strength for just the current session. After all, we all have days when we are "on" and other days when we don't play so well.
I love the Chessmaster program perhaps because I am used to it and perhaps because when I was a young chess player there were no programs at all. It is a fine program, but it is still a work in progress.
on January 22, 2002
This game is so good and UBI Soft is so bad!
Based on the other reviews, I decided to take a leap of faith and purchase this game for use on a Windows 2000 OS. Of course, UBI Soft says, explicitly, that they do not support Windows 2000 or XP. But, that's usually legalese to deny liability.
Sure enough, Chessmaster 8000 works on my Windows 2000 system even though the install program put DirectX 7a on my system. (When the install was finished, Windows informed me that it was an old version and would not run on Windows 2000.) Nonetheless, I tried running the program and it worked fine. For good measure, I went to the Microsoft Web site and downloaded DirectX 8.1 and installed it. No noticeable change, but I feel better.
BTW, do *NOT* install the patch available from UBI Soft Web site. It's an old version 1.0.3 and the CD is 1.0.4. The install patch goes so fast though (without informing you that you're about to install over a newer version) so that I had to un-install and re-install CM8000 to get back to 1.0.4.
There's a lot of nitpicky details (such as being unable to turn off the voice that reads the tutorial), but there's a lot of good stuff, too. The graphics are phenomenal. The tutorials are great. And there are a ton of computer opponents to choose from so that you don't get your butt whipped every time you play.
All in all, it's a great game, but be prepared to be annoyed by quirks.
on January 17, 2001
I bought the Chessmaster 8000 program when my seven year old son began beating his father after a few months of addictive play on the Lego Chess program. He took to this new program like a fish to water. All I did was install it, show him the Kid's Room Icon, and he was off, playing a range of kid opponents (names, photos, and playing style of each provided) with skills from Chimpanzee to future International Master. He has his choice of playing a rated or unrated game, so he can still practice playing strong opponents without compromising his rating and bruising his ego.
There's a large number of chess sets and boards to choose from, although the most whimsical (gnomes, dogs, etc.) are a little hard for him to distinguish during play.The tutorials in the grownup part, plus the drills that follow, have also been great fun for him.
We have not put this program to the full test, since no one in our family is an expert player (yet), but give us a year or two to work with this program, and who knows? In the meantime, I have to wait for the kids to go to school to get my turn with Chessmater 8000, and it has proved an excellent teacher and opponent for me as well.
on January 13, 2001
While the game is good (I have had it for a few weeeks), it doesn't work too well on Windows 2000! It takes up 99% of the CPU when the game commences and crashes from time to time - most often when there are popups in the tutorials section.
Also, quite a few times when its a really close game, the game just hangs! I have had this occur atleast 4 times out of the 15 or so times that I have played.
It definitely wasn't made for the Windows NT and 2000 OS's. So if you want to run it on 2000, watch out...