capsule review

Chessmaster 9000

With the free Chess game already included as part of OS X, you may wonder why you’d need another way to play chess on the Mac—or why you’d lay down hard-earned cash to get it. But Feral Interactive’s Chessmaster 9000 isn’t just a chess game. It’s the ultimate chess resource.

Chessmaster 9000 lets you choose from more than 60 different 3-D boards. New players are assigned a basic skill rating, and as you play games, the software adjusts your rating to reflect your skill level. Chessmaster 9000 then uses this rating to select the computer-controlled opponents that are most appropriate for you—opponents range from newbies to grand masters. If you run into trouble during a game, you can get on-the-fly advice from the Chessmaster.

Unless you play chess regularly, you’ll probably want to brush up on your strategy. And to that end, Chessmaster 9000 includes the Classroom. Here you can run tutorials, by real-life chess pros such as Josh Waitzkin, Bruce Pandolfini, and Larry Evans, on everything from moving the pieces to setting up elaborate attacks and defenses. The game lets you specify your level of instruction: beginners can run basic tutorials and drills, intermediate players can practice openings or take the Larry Evans Endgame Quiz, and experts can solve challenging chess puzzles or try advanced drills.

The game provides a Kids’ Room, which offers a simplified interface and basic drills to help youngsters hone their chess skills. There’s also a Database Room for true chess fanatics. A data miner’s paradise, this room contains information on more than half a million real-world chess games—some collected as recently as 2002. Here you can analyze openings, add new game content, and much more.

Chessmaster 9000 includes all the trappings of its Windows counterpart, but thanks to a complete interface overhaul by Feral, it feels like a Mac game. It even connects to iTunes so you can listen to your playlists as you compete. You can also set your iChat status to let others know when you’re playing chess. The game offers online play, but you’re limited to competing against other Mac gamers.

Feral lists the minimum hardware requirement as a 700MHz G4. But even with my 1.5GHz G4, I ran into some occasional pokiness when loading different parts of the game. However, the slowdowns didn’t detract from the otherwise excellent and trouble-free experience.

The Bottom Line

Feral Interactive’s Chessmaster 9000 is the best chess game you can buy for the Mac. It’s an absolute must-have for chess fans who want serious competition and training.

Chessmaster 9000 lets you relive a classic game played by 19th century masters.
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