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I am a novice, and I would like to find a computer program that will help me learn and improve my play.
Ideally, instead of getting my clock cleaned by the chess engine, I would like to also have the ability to use the chess engine as an instructor.
Which program should I get?
try chessmaster grandmaster edition. It has tutorials by a GM. and you can adjust the level it plays at so you are not always getting your clock cleaned :)
Though a premium membership at chess.com beats chessmaster hands down in terms of the learning material. Though if you can't be online often enough, CM would be the best offline tool.
I think nothing can measure up to all those Waitzkin lectures on Chessmaster considering the price, but chess mentor here in chess com is great too.
Chessmaster GM edition can be purchased very cheaply... its engine is out of date and I don't think it's being supported anymore (not sure why, or even if I'm correct)... but at any rate it's excellent software for a beginner. The tutorials are good, the interface is intuitive and pleasant to the eye and the 3d board is a vastly better than fritz's IMO (if you like 3d pieces that look like real pieces on a board -- I do, I think 3d is better training for OTB play)... the downside of chessmaster is that its database interface is really wonky and the software has some kinks and bugs, and the engine (the thing that decides on the best chess moves) is not nearly as good as top engines are now (but it's still plenty strong enough for the needs of intermediate and under players... only someone either very very storng, or trying to find novelties in openings -- that kind of reasearch -- actually needs a stronger engine IMO.)
Fritz is sort of the standard computer chess program for club-chess type players I think...but it's not great for beginners IMO. Fritz 12 is the latest fritz, but earlier fritz's can be had very cheap... there's no reason not to get an older Fritz and Chessmaster and see which you prefer. The fritz interface can be a bit annoying.
Shredder supposedly has the best interface for scaling down a computer engine so that it's a beatable playing partner. I have no opinion on that as I've never played it. Chessmaster is ok, but not an ideal playing partner for a beginner. Its engine plays a rather bizarre and unhuman style of weak chess. It gets better as a playing partner at the intermediate levels though, IMO.
Rybka Aquarium is a program I've tried in demo and enjoyed, but user reviews on the full version have been so negative as to put me off the program. One thing I found interesting about Rybka aquarium is the way it doesn't scale down its engine, but instead gives odds, (N or R, or pawn and move etc.) like they did in the days of Morphy. This produces an interesting realistic sort of intermediate chess against the computer IMO.
Shredder and Rybka Aquarium aren't available at the bargain basement prices that chessmaster and fritz are to the best of my knowledge... (if you get your software legally, a good policy IMHO.)
There's a free engine-gui: Arena, and dozens of free chess engines (Stockfish, Glaurung, Toga II, etc etc.) but the Arena interface is not designed with beginners in mind at all, and there are no extras like tutorials etc. It is NOT recommended for a beginner.
A free program I do recommend is ChessDb (or its older brother SCID)...it's a database, ugly, but decently put together. It's good for looking over (and analyzing with a free engine) games in the standard shareable PGN format. But it's probably overload for a beginner, so forget I said anything.
Thanks for the detailed reply.
I see that Chessmaster is up to the 10th edition. Is this an improvement on the Grandmaster version? (The price is essentially the same).
I also found that Rybka 4 is available for pre-order at a reasonable price. Is it worth the investment, or should I hold off?
You can download a 30-day trial version of Shredder here for free - not their most up-to-date engine but the current GUI.
I'm currently trying it out and so far I'm quite impressed. I'm using the Linux version but apparently the Windows and Mac versions are very similar.
It seems to adjust it's game to your level quite well. My usual problem with computer chess is that I either win easily or get trounced - with Shredder I'm having to push myself but winning is still possible.
Many people get confused when they hear all the fuss about Rybka 4 being the greatest engine ever when they've just started out playing chess and feel that they "must" have this prized treasure.
Rybka/Fritz/Chessbase are for players who compete regularly at OTB and have advanced beyond an intermediate Federation/Online rating in this game. For a beginner, it is like giving you a chainsaw when you are asking for a pair of scissors. While I admit that Fritz is trying to be more "beginner" friendly these days, they're definitely not there yet.
You'll most likely hurt yourself / hate chess than appreciate the good stuff. If you started with Rybka Aquarium, you might even consider suicide.
Or even worse, develop awful habits and end up being the typical 1100 OTB player commenting on Anand's vapid play on a live-game forum one day because you looked up a Rybka evaluation and feel all smug that you can "see" 10 moves ahead.
ChessMaster and Chess.com on the other hand actually have graded lesson plans and lectures that "teach" everyone from a beginner to an expert. They (the programmers) actually cared to design a beginner friendly interface as well.
I started with Chessmaster and while it is good for learning, I hated the 6 great moves followed by one silly move mode of playing that it used. I switched to Shredder 12 and love it....
Thanks for the advice everyone. Very helpful indeed!
Just to update everyone, I decided to pick up a copy of Chessmaster Grandmaster, and I am working my way through the lectures. So far I am enjoying it.
I imagine I will pick up one of the more sophisticated programs once I reach that level.
Again, thanks for the valuable input.
I coach kids ... mostly out of passion. I can see kids picking interest as they keep discovering the "problem" part of it. Most of the novice players are not aware of the problem they need to solve, and slowly lose interest.
There are books. But, it seems too "boring" for them to follow. I found most of the softwares (already mentioned in this discussion) made for intermediate or higher players. Is there any software which covers beginners to intermediate range. Which can teach theories in much user friendly way?
The Chessmaster series is the absolute best program when it comes to tutorials for beginners & intermediate players.
Has anyone tried Hiarcs? I can't get Chessmaster 8000 to run on Win 7. I bought Fritz 13 and may grow into it someday. I have Hiarcs on my Palm handheld, and it has a version for PC. But, don't need another 1400+ program.
I have Windows 8, and I had some problems running Chessmaster 9000 on it, but now it works just fine. Have you tried running CM8000 in "Compatibility Mode"?
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