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JadeDragon's reviews and playing tips: Palm OS games

Chessmaster by Gameloft, $19
Reviewed January 2003

If you are Bobby Fischer or Gary Kasparov, you have Deep Blue or Deep Junior to play with. For the rest of us, there is Chessmaster. Ported from one of the most popular chess programs to Palm by Gameloft, Chessmaster for Palm offers a great learning and practicing opportunity for people on the go. The handheld version keeps the core of the desktop Chessmaster series and has stripped all the 3D visuals to fit in the palm of your hand.

The strength of Chessmaster lies in its mentoring abilities, even though the game engine is strong enough to beat the most experienced players. The Mentor option in this Palm version includes some quick help tips in Quick Advice, Detailed Advice, Analysis and Teaching, as well as some lengthy tutorial sessions such as Chess Rules, Chess Tutor and Chess Rater. The Quick Advice shows you the suggested next move visually on the chessboard, while the Detailed Advice gives you more moves in notation. When you use the Analysis, the engine will look at your current board and provide you with some intelligent suggestions and the likely results. The Chess Tutor includes 10 levels ranging from the Basics to Kings and Pawns, Queens and Rooks, Mating, Basic and Roots Combos and Sacrifices. Each level is a very short description of the moves with notations.

In addition, there are also a few dozen openings you can practice, including many variations of QGD (Queen’s Gambit Declined), DD (Dutch Defense), SD (Sicilian Defense) and many more established successful openings. To help those who need access the notation and stats, you can choose Learning notation, Advance notation as well as War Room in the View Options. You also have easy access to view pieces taken, moves made as well as the coverage for both sides.

There are several modes you can play and practice in Chessmaster. Other than the regular Human vs. Computer, Human vs. Human and Computer vs. Computer, one of the most interesting and impressive things in this program is that you can load over 150 classic matches including Kasparov vs. Deep Thought, Byrne vs. Fischer, Anderssen vs. Kieseritsky and many more of the greatest chess battles in history. If you are playing against the computer, you can also give one of the 16 Personalities to your opponent with different AI difficulty levels. The Tournament and Championship games are designed for the vets to sharpen their skills in epic battles.

The graphics in Chessmaster for Palm are in the traditional 2D view with a few variations in chess sets, very easy to see with bright colors. Even without the 3D special visual effects, my 33 MHz Clie SJ30 still experiences some slow downs in Analysis and other tutorial functions. Chessmaster supports all Palm OS devices including OS 5 and grey scale. It takes 900K in memory and needs 2MB RAM to run.

While it is hard to list every feature this program can offer, it is rather easy to see that Chessmaster is for both casual chess players and more serious chess vets. While some new engines are still learning, this engine is already matured. If your kids have a Palm PDA, this would make a great game for them.

Playing Hint and Tips

Explore all the options this game has to offer. You will find tons of great features.

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Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics Traditional 2D chess graphics, nothing special.
Sound Not a lot of sound effects. You can change the volume or turn it off.
Fun Meter For the Chessmaster addicts, the Palm version is a dream come true. This is a great learning tool and entertainment, suited for both chess newbie and chess veteran, both adults and children.
Addictivity The great depth of the game has been carried over from the desktop version. The collection of classic games, play modes and training programs makes this game one of the best chess software ever.

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