By Al Giovetti, 03/16/97
Chess games have been a favorite of both computer gamers and game players for years. Just visit the book store or library to see how popular this game still is, even in the computer age. Some of the most notable games in the chess genre include Interplay's Battle Chess where animated chess pieces move across the board and defeat their opponents in humorous combat. My children learned to play chess on Battle Chess, they played just to see the funny animated characters.
One of my first computer games was a chess game. My father introduced me to chess somewhere around my sixth birthday. Like all the other games he likes to play, such as ping pong, strategy was always a common denominator. Chess is still one of my favorites, because it has staying power and it challenges the mind with ever increasing depth of play. Like all great games chess is deceptively simple, but when played by a master has depth which astounds you.
In May of 1997, Gary Kasparov was beaten by Big Blue, a chess computer programmed by a team of brilliant chess players, engineers, and computer specialists. It is interesting that it took an entire team of men and a computer to beat Gary. Many articles have sprung up claiming that the computer did not beat Gary, but a group of clever men who programmed the computer did. Other articles say how surprisingly simple chess is for computers who have yet to learn to keep robots standinf up straight or master bipedal locomotion.
Company LineNow, avid chess players can test their skills against one of the world's most powerful chess programs, Extreme ChessTM, new chess CD-ROM software of grandmaster caliber, announced Davidson & Associates, Inc. and Simon & Schuster, Inc. (American: VIA) at the E3 trade show beginning today.
Based on the internationally renowned chess engine Fritz, the reigning World Computer Chess Champion, Extreme Chess's powerful chess engine has defeated No. 1 ranked grandmaster Garry Kasparov and IBM's Deep BlueTM. In fact, Kasparov uses it as one of his primary training partners.
Endorsed by the Professional Chess Association, Extreme Chess is designed to help intermediate and advanced players boost their chess skills to a whole new level. Extreme Chess includes many features previously only found in high-priced, specialty chess software: state-of-the-art, artificial intelligence chess technology, a massive database of millions of moves, unparalleled analysis capability, a library of 10,000 classic games, and customizable 2-D and 3-D chessboards. Additionally, users can play and analyze chess game files downloaded from the Internet.
Says Peter Yunich, president of Simon & Schuster Interactive, "Extreme Chess provides serious chess players with the qualities they look for in a computer chess training program: speed, strength, full on-line analysis and a massive games database.
Now, with one of the world's most powerful chess engines, intermediate and advanced chess players can bring their game to the next level."
Adds Jan Davidson, president and founder of Davidson & Associates, Inc., "Extreme Chess offers personalized coaching and thorough game analysis to help players fine tune their chess game. This CD-ROM offers players a high level of customization ... players can tailor their training to work on specific aspects of their game. In addition, the ability to play and analyze games downloaded from the Internet provides new challenges and unlimited competition."
Extreme Chess is expected to be available at most major computer retail stores and mass merchants in Windows® 3.1 (Windows 95 compatible) CD-ROM format during the 1996 holiday season for approximately $60.
Product Overview: Brute Strength, Raw Speed and a Massive Database
Extreme Chess is a computer chess playing and training program -- complete with personalized coaching, full on-line analysis and a massive database -- designed to improve game skills and board visualization. Extreme's highly advanced chess engine (a software module that actually calculates moves) is one of the most popular training tools for the best players in the world, and has defeated many top-ranked grandmasters.
Players can customize their training with a variety of options. They can train against the computer or a live opponent; adjust their computer opponent's playing strength; select multiple skill levels; select game simulation options (blitz, tournament and handicap); and alter attributes of chessboards. In addition, Extreme Chess will automatically readjust the playing field for any screen size and graphic resolution. The program features optional coaching: warnings and graphical hints about pitfalls and mistakes a player is making. The player can then take back the move, start a new variation, or ignore the coach and complete the move.
The chess coach fully analyzes each game and offers players personalized advice as they play, as well as annotation and analysis of key positions in plain English or traditional chess commentary symbols. The program also provides a real-time game evaluation profile, which is displayed as a bar graph, to graphically indicate progress.
The CD-ROM incorporates an extensive games database and versatile search engine for players to reference the moves and games of the world's top players. Players can analyze and replay millions of moves and 10,000 classic games. Specific games can be effortlessly located by using search criteria such as player name, tournament, year, annotator, ranking and individual moves.
Extreme Chess boasts many features and benefits, including:
State-of-the-art, artificial intelligence chess technology
Extreme Chess will include modified versions of both chess engines -- Fritz3.0 and Fritz4.01. Fritz3.0, which was crowned the 1995 World Computer Chess Champion in Hong Kong, was developed by the Hamburg, Germany-based software developer and publisher ChessBase. The software has defeated many well-known grandmasters, including Garry Kasparov, Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Gelfand and Nigel Short, as well as IBM's Deep Blue.
A new version of this champion software, Fritz4.01, was released in December 1995. Fritz4.01 is estimated to be approximately 50 ELO points stronger than Fritz3.
The Extreme Chess engine is based upon the Fritz chess software that was used as a trainer by Gary Kasparov to train to play against Big Blue. Fritz is one of the smartest computer chess programs in the world. ChessBase originally brought out Fritz1.0 as Knightstalker in the early 1990's.
The interface shows a chess board in the upper left hand corner, either 2D or 3D with a chess clock in the upper right hand corner and two smaller windows with more information on the game. The windows can be resized and overlapped to play while doing other tasks in Windows. The chess coach can analyze your moves and warn you about bad moves and suggest good moves. The chess coach is one of the best features of the game, with well written and witty commentary.
You can rate your play by playing a set number of rated games. The computer will provide you with a rating once you have played enout games. The rating uses the FIDE ELO rating system, which rates you based on the number of games you win or lose against a rated game play. Once you have your rating you will know if you are a Kasparov or just a putz, an imporatant but demoralizing score for most.
You can set the computer to play at any rated ELO level between 1400 and 2200. Just for comparisons, the 1300 is Rank Beginner, 1600 is average (Club Player), 1800 is expert, 2000 is Master and 2200 is Grandmaster.
You play against the machine and lose, but you learn to play better with time.
There are two game board presentations, a two dimensional and a three dimensional chess board. The graphics are plain green and white or black and white squares on the 2D board, and yellow and dark grey on the 3D board. The graphics are plain and functional.
AnimationThe animation is simple and does not compare to Battle Chess or any other truely animated chess classic.
Sound EffectsThe game contains primitive but effective sound effects.
UtilitiesOne of the most important parts of a chess program is the online chess library of moves. Extreme Chess contains over 50,000 classic chess games, some of which are annotated.
Multi-player FeaturesGames can be downloaded from the Internet and replayed and analyzed. Null or Phone Modem, Network, and Internet play is not supported.
Compare to:Chessmaster 5000, Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess, Power Chess, Battle Chess and others.
Cheats, Hints, WalkthroughThe game contains its own cheat which suggests good moves and warns of bad ones.
JournalistsLiam feels this is the best chess program for the serious chess player.
ReferencesDavidson Extreme Chess Web Page
T. Liam McDonald, PC Gamer, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 131, 91%.
Jeff Lackey, Computer Games Strategy Plus, 80%.
Henri H. Arsenault, Games Domain, December, 1996
Please send us your comments and suggestions.