The Chessmaster

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Genre: Board Game

Publisher: Hi-Tech Expressions

Total time played: 30 minutes

Short review: No twists or turns, no dated animations, just plain old chess with a very competent computer opponent.


Interesting links related to The Chessmaster


 

Cover Art

I want to know the backstory to the guy on the cover of this game. I mean, obviously I know the part where he was the groundskeeper at Hogwarts, but, what else did he do with his life?

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Don’t bother if you can’t play chess

Every day after elementary school I would ride the bus to my grandparents house. My grandfather had a chess set that I loved to open up and play with the pieces like they were action figures. Eventually my grandfather decided to show me how to set up a chess board and then how to play chess (my grandmother on the other hand taught me to play poker).

I picked up the rules to chess very quickly and started to consistently beat my grandfather. Basically, at age 8 I had mastered chess. As an adult I fully realize he was letting me win. That point was driven home as I played The Chessmaster and got destroyed a dozen or more times. Granted, I hadn’t played chess in 15 years, but still, I never realized how much I sucked.

Quick Start

When you see the menu screen and hit the start button the board is set up immediately and it is your turn to move. The board looks pretty plain but it doesn’t need to be fancy.

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The game is pretty fast paced and you don’t have to wait long for the computer to make a move (this may be different on higher difficulties). It took me quite a while to learn there is a menu if you hit the select button at any time during a match.

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I didn’t take the time to mess with any of these options but it looks like the game is much deeper than I originally thought. I realize now that I wasn’t playing the chessmaster, but just playing against the easy computer setting. Still, it wasn’t easy.

My playthrough

It took me about a dozen attempts to actually beat the computer. Almost every one of them ended in checkmate much quicker than I care to admit. It turns out, you actually do need to think several moves ahead to have any success with this game, even on the easiest setting.

I finally made a run and was able to beat the computer. I had a Rook that captured an opponents piece about 7 moves in a row which helped out a lot. Eventually the computer was left with only the king and gave up. Even though I didn’t checkmate I still call it a win.

The funniest thing that happened during my playthrough was when one of my pawns made it all the way to the other side of the board and I was able to turn it into the game piece of my choice. As I filtered through my options and contemplated the benefits of each piece I finally decided on adding a second Queen to my side. After that 30 second deliberation it took less than 2 seconds for the computer Queen to capture my newly appointed Queen, so much for that advantage.

Final Thoughts

It takes a lot of restraint to take a classic board game and turn it into a video game and not add a bunch of goofy animations that get old after one playthrough (I’m looking at you Monopoly).

I can’t imagine someone who is really into chess getting this game and being disappointed in how it plays. There are 16 levels of difficulty to challenge even the best players (at least according to the box art). It is fast paced and a very good alternative if you don’t have another human to play with or a chess board to play on.

Even though I’ll probably never be a “chess head” (I assume that is what they are called) I can see the brilliance of this game and would venture to say it has the best AI of any game in the entire NES library.

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