What's The Most Fun Chess Program Out There These Days

peterk1

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I was a bit bored this weekend with tons of time on my hands and thought I'd get back into chess...which is an absolute time-vacuum cleaner and hence the perfect solution to my boredom.

(Before settling on chess I though D&D might also fit the bill so I ended up installing Neverwinter Nights and ended up on some serious role-playing server and the first person I run into goes into incredibly long winded descriptions of some smelly festering wound on her leg that I absolutely did not care about....might have been a DM setting up some kind of quest for me, but I ended up realizing I REALLY, REALLY hate role-playing in a chat window, and maybe even serious role-playing with strangers in general...so on-line D&D was unfortunately out although I still now kind of have the urge to kill monsters, explore and find treasure) :)

I was very disappointed to find that the vast majority of my chess programs that I used to run on Win 95 (haven't played seriously for about 10 years), don't run anymore. Most of them played but access a menu to do something and poof...crash.

So I'm just wondering if anything really cool has come out in the past 10 years or so in the world of chess software.
...and just for fun....a small list of the games I liked and why.

Power Chess from Sierra. This was a really fun game when it came out. The "Queen" would pop up every now and then during the game to give you a tip or tell you to be careful or to give you a little lesson in the middle of the game. It was a little too focused on teaching you only one specific opening (Kings gambit I think) though.

Chessmaster 6000/8000. I used to take advantage of the personalities in the game to set up little tournaments with myself and 5 computer opponents (2 weaker and 3 stronger). I'd play one game a day for a week and keep track of the standings. This was tons of fun and felt really serious. I think I upped my game tons in a really short period of time by doing this. The final games on Friday or Saturday were always stress filled affairs if I was at or near the top of the standings.

Haven't checked to see if my old Fritz runs OK yet, but to be honest I never had much fun playing against Fritz. It was awesome for analysis though.
 

peterk1

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Absolutely nothing????

Actually I've been poking around and it seems that things have been pretty stagnant in the computer trainer field since I stopped playing. Doesn't look like anything is really trying to compete with Chessmaster at the intermediate level. The Chessmentor series (excellent learning tool by the way) is exactly where it was 10 years ago.

Anyways, I'm a happy camper. Was tough to find, but there's a little trick to getting older Chessmasters to run on XP (just have to disable Asian language input...obvious huh?) and I'm busy playing my first 20 games to get past the provisional rating stage so I can get the tournaments going. 0-2 so far GRRRR. Played absolutely horribly tonight and screwed up the input of a queenside castle by moving the rook on the computer instead of the king. Last night though I played decently and made my first boo-boo 41 moves in, so I'm pretty happy with that considering it's my first game in a decade. Actually had a won game at that point. Fritz was very disappointed with me.

Just had another bit of a disppointment...do a Google on "Fun Chess Books". One and a half frikking page and none of the hits are actually really for a fun chess book. Oh well, guess fun and chess aren't as compatible as I think they should be. I'm actually looking for a good book I can read on the bus on the way to work, but something with more than the usual one diagram per page. I can never follow analyses in my head if its more than trivially complicated. I have some good puzzle books but no real good lessons with enough diagrams to do it away from a board.
 
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kcdusk

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He Peter
I've only ever had Chessmaster 7000. Loved it. But i have found it unstable on XP and now vista. Halfway through games it freezes up. Or if you try and modify a window in your chess screen it shows your screensaver where you moved the window from instead of letting you see whatever was behind the window (ie the chess board).

But like you, i'd get 5 similarly rated personalities to have tournys against.

Now? I'd go for chess on line. Have you tried chess.com? Sign up. Then accept any open games. Some people have 40 games going at once, although, these people sometimes end up loosing for failure to move!

I like chess.com and accept games with 14 day move time limits. Most people make a move or two per day, but the 14 days means if either of you take holidays or are away for work you dont time out. There is also live games and speed chess (ie 10 minutes per side) if your keen.
 

peterk1

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I used to fool around on chess.com when they first started up. Used to have games with guys in the office on it - we'd make moves while waiting for our code to compile. I'll join the next tourny that you guys start up here....but correspondance chess isn't all that great for getting back up to speed quickly, I don't think. It's tons of fun once you're well-oiled though. The blitz bug has never quite hit. I'm more of a game in one hour kind of guy, but it's really hard to get those types of games on-line I have found.
 

peterk1

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Well, game #3 in 3 nights and the torture continues as we work our way down the chessmaster opponents to find my current level and the first opponent I can beat. 3 losses so far. Played better than last night but worse than the first game. It's OK, I read somewhere a long time ago that if you're "training" as opposed to just playing for fun you should be losing 8-9 out of every 10 games and playing opponents strong enough to do that to you.

In good news though, I discovered my "fun" chess book for the bus/subway trip in the mornings. It's called just "Chess" and was written by the father of the Polgar girls to train them for competition as he was their coach. It's a very imposing book with over 5000 problems to solve that get gradually harder. You can find this thing on sale sometimes in bookshops for a couple of bucks because people are too frightened to buy it for what it's really worth. Bad news is it's a frikking War and Peace sized brick that doesn't transport too well volumewise. Luckily it's deceptively light weightwise. :)
 

Scott Tortorice

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When it comes to chess software, there really are only three programs:

1. For beginner to intermediate, there is Chessmaster: Grand Master edition. It is only an incremental improvement to CM 10, but it still has all the old charms, plus it runs on XP/Vista. I wrote a review of it a year or so ago.
2. For more serious chess players, Fritz reigns supreme. I currently use Fritz 11, but Fritz 12 is the newest edition. You can learn more here. As with all Chessbase products, Fritz is a quality production.
3. The new kid on the block: Rybka. Currently the strongest engine on the market. Never tried it (I think Lurker has, though), but it is a highly recommended program for strong analysis. Details.

PS: For a comparison of Fritz and Rybka, read here.

As for some reading material...I haven't read a chess book in a long while (I prefer the tons of free chess articles from sites such as Chessbase, Chessville and ChessCafe). However, I am considering reading Masters of Technique for some good chess short fiction, and The Genius and the Misery of Chess for some true stories.
 

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Hi Scott,

I very much enjoyed the review of CM11 and you answered a question that I had but that no-one else ever touches on. I love the fact that they added the possibility so simulate computer vs computer games in the tournaments quickly. CM 6/8 cannot do this and I actually ended up writing a little Java program to take the ratings of two players and then to randomly determine a credible result which i would then force into CM without actually playing those games.

I remember way back in the CM6 days, I started playing with the tournaments early on and absolutely loved them, but I found a bug and actually got in touch with the programmer about it. He told me I was probably the only person around using the tournament feature.

I'll be upgrading to CM11 once I can hunt down a bargain bin copy. Another question though....if you switch from a previous version of CM do you have to redo your 20 qualifying matches again or can you propagate your user/rating forward without restarting?
 

Scott Tortorice

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Hi Scott,

I very much enjoyed the review of CM11 and you answered a question that I had but that no-one else ever touches on. I love the fact that they added the possibility so simulate computer vs computer games in the tournaments quickly. CM 6/8 cannot do this and I actually ended up writing a little Java program to take the ratings of two players and then to randomly determine a credible result which i would then force into CM without actually playing those games.

I remember way back in the CM6 days, I started playing with the tournaments early on and absolutely loved them, but I found a bug and actually got in touch with the programmer about it. He told me I was probably the only person around using the tournament feature.

I'll be upgrading to CM11 once I can hunt down a bargain bin copy. Another question though....if you switch from a previous version of CM do you have to redo your 20 qualifying matches again or can you propagate your user/rating forward without restarting?
Thanks for the compliment! I always enjoyed playing in those AI tourneys with the CM series. They can take quite a surprising twist every now and then!

As for your question, I believe you need to restart from scratch.

I don't know if you use it, but Steam has CM11 for $19.99. Amazon has a boxed copy for $12.
 

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There are many strong programs out there today. This site will give you an idea of where they stand, although Rybka 4 hasn't been put on some of the lists.

This is another one with free engines. As for the most fun I'm guessing Fritz or Chessmaster would be the most user friendly for those who are learning, although I haven't tried them.
 

peterk1

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I'm not really looking for a strong program per-se...I'm more looking for something that will throw me games similar to what I would find if I started playing in tournaments again...or playing some of you guys on chess.com... :) I need the computer to screw up now and then and not tell me where it's screwing up.
The stronger the engine is the more boring it would probably be for me to play. Just the name Rybka is turning me off actually. I don't mind losing 8-9 out of every 10 games but if it's always 10 out of 10, that's no good.

Almost anything that's out there can hand me my butt on a plate (heck, I wrote a chess program 20 years ago that could clobber me). I'm more looking for something that's fun and engaging to play. My old Chessmaster 8's doing the trick so far and I've played 12 long games in about 8 days and I'm getting back up to speed.

On chess.com in the humor section I saw some screenshots of what looks like a chess program where all the pieces are blonde/brunette babes in very revealing armor. That might do the trick fun-wise (at least for a day or two)! Anyone know if that's a real program or something that was Photoshopped together?
 

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If you want periodic poor moves then the best is to play humans!! Start a bunch of games at Chess.com or ItsYourTurn and you will find those. Other than that you are probably best off with older programs that are just weaker to begin with. Chessmaster may have such settings, but Scot would know more about Chessmaster then I do.

Did you know that Chess.com has live games?
 

peterk1

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Are a decent number of people on there who play live but non-blitz? I gave up a long time ago trying to find people to play at anything more than 30min a game.
 

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I couldn't really say. I've only played some 5 to 15 minute games and those seem to be the majority of requests.

Chessbase and Fritz have ways of playing live on line and slow games too. Let me see what i can find out about that.
 

Scott Tortorice

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There are many strong programs out there today. This site will give you an idea of where they stand, although Rybka 4 hasn't been put on some of the lists.
Thanks for that link. I don't think I've ever seen that site before.

On chess.com in the humor section I saw some screenshots of what looks like a chess program where all the pieces are blonde/brunette babes in very revealing armor.
Do you have a link? Just out of curiosity, you understand....:D

Almost anything that's out there can hand me my butt on a plate (heck, I wrote a chess program 20 years ago that could clobber me). I'm more looking for something that's fun and engaging to play. My old Chessmaster 8's doing the trick so far and I've played 12 long games in about 8 days and I'm getting back up to speed.
Chessmaster XI is your best bet, then. Fritz has been getting better as a casual trainer, but I still find that its engine almost always goes for the throat. CM knows when to pull its punches. :)

I gave up a long time ago trying to find people to play at anything more than 30min a game.
That's unfortunately true. However, I have seen some long TC games (over 30 min) being played from time to time. Try posting a seek, you might be surprised at the number of people that will respond. Not everyone is a speed demon. :) Heck, that is why I prefer CC. Anything less than seven days is too fast for me! :nuts:

Another idea: Chess.com allows you to create a club (sort of like our clubs here). You could create a club for long TC players. If no one has already done this, I'd bet it would be a hit! It would certainly make it easier to find a game.
 

peterk1

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Do you have a link? Just out of curiosity, you understand....:D
God, just spent the last hour or so trying to track down that thread again. Chess.com is pretty big. Bad news...all my advanced Googling skill couldn't lead me back there. Mind you, I did however discover a whole series of computer chess games that I could never ever describe on this PG-rated board. I'm not going to try those because my rating would probably be cut in half after a few exhanges. :)

And after getting distracted by that for a while I finally located the actual first game we were talking about.....Amazon Chess....and it's free.
Hmmm...I wonder if old grumpy Fritz can beat some Amazons? Let's find out!

http://www.amazon-chess.com/shot2.jpg
 

Scott Tortorice

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That is hilariously awesome! :D Who knew such things existed!

Thanks for going to all the trouble to find it. It was worth it as far as I'm concerned. :) :thumup:
 

peterk1

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That is hilariously awesome! :D Who knew such things existed!

Thanks for going to all the trouble to find it. It was worth it as far as I'm concerned. :) :thumup:
The pawns are damn cute!
I love the way they have the traditional board up in the corner to stop you from getting too mesmerized! :)
 

kcdusk

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Great having you aboard Peterk. Seeing the chess discussions pick up is great. Its made me dig out my own CM7 to play some games with that again.

I currently have 5 games going at chess.com. I'd like to start more games, but i loose the "feel" of each game if i have too many more games going.
 

kcdusk

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Do you need to be a paid up member of chess.com to be able to play ftf/live? Or do you access live games via the open search?
 
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