This kindly old man only looks like he’s tired
Leggo my rook, you no-good disembodied hand!
PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
PUBLISHER: Software Toolworks
DEVELOPER: Software Toolworks
RELEASE DATE: January 1990
I learned to play chess in the third grade during recess. With the exception of me and my friend Mark who taught me, none of the other third graders knew how to play. One would think that flaunting our chess abilities – which we did – would have gotten us beaten up and such, but we went to a small private school where, surprisingly, the majority of the kids were really nice. I remember playing chess at recess with Mark on the outskirts of the basketball court, not realizing how lucky we were that some chowderhead didn’t just throw a basketball at our game or at us. Over time, Mark ended up teaching others how to play. Since we only had one board, we would rotate players. Games took a lot less time then they should have: we would routinely play two games during a twenty minute recess period or thirty minute lunch. I chalk that up to us being stupid kids who didn’t know how to really play chess. For a brief period, I thought I was hot stuff for being one of the first kids in my grade to know how to play, until that movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer” came out. It was then that I learned that, no matter how good I thought I was at something, there would always be someone better than me and that I should get used to losing because life is unfair unless you’re a child/teenage prodigy.
The latter lesson – get used to losing – is one that every budding virtual chess player should take into playing The Chessmaster. After all, the game isn’t called The Guy Who’s Kinda Good at Chess. The computer is a master and will make no hesitation in displaying this fact. Too be fair, the computer starts you off easy: the first game I played, I beat the computer so fast I thought I was some sort of twenty-five-year-old prodigy. Turns out the game starts you on the lowest setting, but that still didn’t stop me from feeling like a champ. There are numerous options to change the look of the board, the difficulty. You can decide whether the game will teach you how to play chess through a tutorial, or if the Chessmaster will open up a can of Dasvidanya on your pathetic self. All in all, though, the game is about playing chess and having fun. If you really want to get better, there are several difficulties to help you progress, but if you just want to pretend you’re awesome at chess, keep playing on the Newcomer 1 setting. You’ll win every time!
As a chess simulator, The Chessmaster is hailed as one of the best and I would be inclined to agree. The series itself started out in 1986 for all the old computers like the Amiga, the Apple II, Commodore 64, etc. Versions have since been ported to just about every console you can think of, including the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo DS. Compared to Battle Chess, the one and only other chess simulator I’ve played both on NES and Windows 95, The Chessmaster is leagues above its competition. If you’re learning chess or you want to learn chess, but you don’t have any friends who would be willing to play with you (all too common these days, I’m afraid), you can do worse than to pick up a used copy of Chessmaster. It entertains your mind and your soul. How many old Nintendo games can do that?!