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Old 09-01-2003, 05:30 PM
Andy Sjostrom
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,177
Default The Ultimate Mobile Game: Chess!

Pocket PCs continue to carry on a valuable tradition in the history of computer chess. In this article I discuss chess, computer chess engines and the Pocket PC chess games: Pocket Fritz 2, Hexacto’s Kasparov Chessmate and Superscape’s Chesscapade.<br /><br /><IMG SRC=http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_04.JPG><br /><!><br /><span><b>Pure Fascination</b></span> <br />Chess is a fascinating game. It’s easy to learn, fun to play and you can never learn enough. The history of chess grandmasters is also quite intriguing. From the 18th century, when chess games become much better documented there is a lot of really interesting stuff to read about those who pushed the envelope, developed new openings, strategies and theories. Today, Garri Kasparov is regarded as the strongest player. He is well known even outside the chess world since he is more open than most of his peers are or have been in terms of media, public simultaneous matches and computer chess matches. Garri is just about to enter the man vs. machine ring again! This time against a <a href="http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=1061">3D monster</a>!<br /><br />I learned how to play chess as a child, like many of you I'm sure. I played in a chess club and while I never became a strong player I always enjoy playing a casual game. Today, I combine my interest in chess history and chess play with collecting chess boards from my travels. I have so many interesting stories to tell about these boards! One of them includes how to lure guards of the former Soviet Union by not showing that you pay with western currency. But that is another article!<br /><br /><span><b>Chess Strength</b></span> <br />Active players are continuously rated using a system called Elo. In 1960, Professor Elo came up with a few changes to the rating system which was in use then and Elo’s system is still in use today. In short, the system is relative and you gain rating points by winning and lose rating points by losing. The stronger the players you beat, the more you gain and vice versa. Strong chess club players usually play with ratings of between 1800 and 2300, beginners play at levels between 800 and 1100, grandmasters play at 2300-2900. Garri Kasparov, already mentioned, plays at 2800-3000. You can check out the World Chess Federation’s (FIDE) <a href="http://www.fide.com/ratings/top.phtml">official rating list</a>! The highest rated woman is Judith Polgar, who currently holds the 11th place. Also, don't miss <a href="http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=1093">Jenny Shahade</a>, the 2002 U.S. Women's Champion, the strongest American-born female chess player in history and the story about when she beat another (male) Grandmaster who thought little of female chess players.<br /><br />If you register an account in the online chess game server <a href="http://www.playchess.com">PlayChess.com</a>, you can play rated games against other players and soon get an indication on how strong you are! I frequently visit PlayChess.com and play under the name “Andy Sjostrom”. Maybe you want to play?<br /><br /> <img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_01.JPG" /><br /><i>Figure 1: Playing on PlayChess.com! Opponent gave up.</i><br /><br /> <img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_02.JPG" /><br /><i>Figure 2: My Elo rating development in Bullet over number of games (game limited to one minute per game and player).</i><br /><br /><span><b>Computer Chess Engines</b></span> <br />Computer chess engines became popular as processors became faster and cheaper. The first affordable consumer computer chess engines arrived in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were not very strong but often came in extremely nice packaging in dedicated chess boards with integrated circuitry. As developers and chess players combined strength, the chess engines got stronger and stronger and faster processors helped the development. Today, the strongest chess engine can even beat the highest ranked player even though most agree that computer chess engines still need more work before the definitive win can be exclaimed!<br /><br />Computer chess engines are also rated and obtain their ratings by playing either against human players or against other computer chess engines. The <a href="http://w1.859.telia.com/~u85924109/ssdf/list.htm">Swedish Chess Computer Association</a> maintains a huge computer chess engine rating list which includes 92,970 games played by 254 computers, so far. Check out the list and note that Shredder holds the two first places and Fritz 8 has the third place.<br /><br />The strength of a computer chess engine depends on many factors such as opening book, processor, memory and, of course, algorithm. When packaging a consumer chess game, the strength is one important selling point. However, for most players one other quite important chess play related aspect is how human like the chess play gets when playing at lower strength. It is difficult to instruct an engine to play weaker moves and do so realistically and human like. If you are interested in buying a really good chess program, you should check out the store at Chessbase.com. The most popular PC based chess program is currently Fritz 8. Personally, I think that the most fun feature of Fritz 8, apart from its incredible strength, is how you can adjust different settings in order to alter its playing style. Strength, blunder range, attack vs defense, king vs queen side play and so on! If you are hooked on the online chess server PlayChess.com, you will notice that their chess client is identical to that of Fritz 8.<br /><br /><span><b>Pocket Fritz 2</b></span> <br />Pocket Fritz 2 shares both user interface and chess engine features with its PC-based sibling Fritz 8. This means that Pocket Fritz 2 looks and functions very much like Fritz 8 and the PlayChess.com’s client. One example is the arrow which shows the latest move, which is identical to Fritz 8:<br /><br /> <img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_04.JPG" /><br /><i>Figure 3: Latest move indicated</i><br /><br />Even though I haven’t seen any results from tournaments or volume testing where Pocket Fritz 2 has played, the general consensus among interested chess players is that Pocket Fritz 2 is the strongest chess program for Pocket PCs. In fact, the key selling point for Pocket Fritz 2 is its strength. I played the PC based Fritz 8 against Pocket Fritz 2 and found that it played on about 2100 to 2200. When setting up a new game you can choose from setting:<br />
  • • “Time per Move”, for example 20 seconds per move;<br />• “Game in”, for example 5 minutes per game + Inc 3 seconds per move;<br />• “Time Controls”, for example 1st Time Control 40 moves in 40 minutes;<br />• “Easy Level”, where you set playing strength on a scale from 1 to 6.
<br /><br />As you can see, there is no way of setting both playing strength and time limits. In other words, Pocket Fritz 2 is primarily for the strongest players.<br /><br />Other settings include board design, move animation, “Coach is Watching” which warns the user if a bad move was played, “Permanent Brain” which allows the chess engine to “think” while the opponent thinks and so on. Pocket Fritz 2 can also provide hints and show threats on the board.<br /><br /> <img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_05.JPG" /> <br /><i>Figure 4: Threats on the board!</i><br /><br />Pocket Fritz 2 contains a valuable “Tactics Training” feature which presents the player with different positions. The player then needs to enter the correct move for that position. Finally, while Pocket Fritz 2 does not enable online play against other human beings you do get one really cool online feature! You can search a huge online database of historic chess games on Chessbase.com directly from Pocket Fritz 2, download the games and then analyze them offline! All in all Pocket Fritz 2 is the ultimate Pocket PC chess game for the strongest players.<br /><br /><span><b>Hexacto Kasparov Chessmate</b></span> <br /><a href="”http://www.hexacto.com/”">Hexacto</a> is one of the leading companies in Pocket PC entertainment. With game titles such as Lemonade Tycoon, Tennis Addict, Links, Slurp and so on, Hexacto has established a solid mark of quality and feel for what works in the mobile device games market. It should therefore not have been a surprise when Hexacto recently launched their Pocket PC chess program, Kasparov Chessmate.<br /><br />Kasparov Chessmate is extremely well designed from a user interface perspective. What else is to be expected from Hexacto? Just take a look at the game’s main menu!<br /><br /> <img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_06.JPG" /><br /><i>Figure 5: Kasparov Chessmate’s main menu.</i><br /><br />The game is played in landscape mode, which I personally prefer. The chess engine behind the scenes is called Ruffian, not the strongest, but probably the best chess engine in playing human like at lower levels. When playing against the PC based Fritz 8, Kasparov Chessmate played at between 1800 and 1950. Hexacto has done a marvelous job at giving the chess engine a face. Or multiple faces, that is. Let me explain. One of the play modes is called “Kasparov Chess Club”. When playing at the Kasparov Chess Club, you get to play against a number of persons with different faces, personalities and seemingly different playing types. You can either play against any club member, including Garri Kasparov, or play in the club championship. The club championship consists of three cups (bronze, silver and gold). Each cup consists of six rounds in which you play against four club members. All in all, 72 matches. You can’t move to the next round until you have beaten all club members in that round. Addictive. As you can see in the figure below, I have finished four rounds + 1 match!<br /><br />If you don’t care to play the club championship, you can set up games by defining:<br />
  • • Elo rating (the chess engine’s that is!);<br />• Timing (Blitz, Rapid, Tournament or no Time Limit);<br />• Level of how specific you want hints.
<br /><br />One small caveat is that when setting a time limit, you can normally set the number of seconds to increment your time by each move. Kasparov Chessmate misunderstands this setting and decreases the time by each move instead of increasing it. I would expect this to be fixed soon.<br /><br /> <img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_07.JPG" /><br /><i>Figure 6: Setting difficulty in Elo rating!</i><br /><br />You can play either rated or non-rated games and the game engine’s strength is very “Elo-realistic”. From a user interface perspective, playing against Kasparov Chessmate is a delight. Both the 2D and 3D boards look really classy.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_08.JPG" /><br /><i>Figure 7: 2D and 3D board designs</i><br /><br />On the subject of playing rated games, there is one feature I would like to have in all chess programs. When you lose a game, you lose rating. In all chess programs tested here, it is possible to cheat your way around this by soft resetting the Pocket PC if you believe you are about to lose. In Kasparov Chessmate it is even easier. If you undo a move or ask for a hint, the game is no longer rated. In my opinion, a rated game should either be won or else be lost. If the game is started after soft reset and a rated game was started but not finished, it should be regarded as lost.<br /><br />That said, I think that Kasparov Chessmate is very well designed and flexible.<br /><br /><span><b>Superscape Chesscapade</b></span> <br />Chesscapade is a chess program in the same genre as the good old Battlechess which I played fifteen years ago on my PC. Chesscapade includes a play mode called “Battle mode”. In “Battle mode”, a battle is fought in 3D every time a piece has to leave the board. Obviously, this is spectacular and fun to watch and show. But after a while, when you have seen all “battles”, you get bored of the graphics and instead turn off the actual chess play… and Chesscapade’s chess play is very good. I estimate the chess engine’s strength to approximately 1800-1900.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_09.JPG" /><br /><i>Figure 8: Battle mode in action!</i><br /><br />When you start a game you are taken through a wizard like step-by-step process. First select the game type (one player, two players or online play), then you select time limits and whether or not the game should be rated, and lastly you select the playing strength (in Elo rating).<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/chess_10.JPG" /><br /><i>Figure 9: Select playing strength</i><br /><br />Superscape’s Chesscapade is the only game of these three that enables players to meet other players over the Internet. The only issue one might have with this is that it doesn’t connect to any of the large online chess servers on the Internet but implements their own chess server.<br /><br />Chesscapade also allows the user to set the board design in either 2D or 3D. Of course, when battles are fought in “Battle mode” they are fought in 3D always!<br /><br /><span><b>Where To Buy</b></span><br /><a href="http://www.chessbase.com/shop/index.asp?cat=Fritz+Programs&user=&coin=">Pocket Fritz 2</a> is $42,20 + VAT and ships on a CD.<br /><a href="http://www.handango.com/PlatformProductDetail.jsp?siteId=311&productId=80606">Hexacto Kasparov Chessmate</a> is $24.95 and is available from Handango. (affiliate link)<br /><a href="http://www.handango.com/PlatformProductDetail.jsp?siteId=311&productId=80099">Superscape Chesscapade</a> is $18 and is available from Handango. (affiliate link)<br /><br /><span><b>Conclusion</b></span> <br />All these three Pocket PC chess programs will bring you hours of fun and challenging chess play. Pocket Fritz 2 is great if you want to know that when you get beat, you get beat theoretically correct. You learn a lot from seeing how Pocket Fritz 2 plays. The tactical training included is an excellent feature which increases the value of the game. Kasparov Chessmate is addictive and is the game I play the most due to the Chess Club mode. The graphics are excellent, the chess engine is both strong and very human like and who doesn’t want to play in the Kasparov Chess Club Championship? I also like the use of different profiles and that the game keeps track of each profile’s rating. Superscape’s Chesscapade is the most spectacular game and is the only game which enables players to play against each other over the Internet. After a while, most players will turn off the 3D effects and just use a standard 2D board. But even without 3D effects, this game has its advantages. I particularly like that the levels you can choose from are Elo related. If I could ask for just one feature to add to these chess programs, it would be the ability to connect and log on to PlayChess.com!<br /><br />My favorite chess game is Hexacto’s Kasparov Chessmate. I frequently practice against Pocket Fritz 2 to learn more accurate moves and keep Chesscapade installed to show interested chess players I meet the excellent 3D graphics!<br /><br /><span><b>Links</b></span> <br />Check out these links for more cool chess information!<br /><a href="http://www.fide.com/ratings/top.phtml">World Chess Federation (FIDE)</a> - The official site!<br /><a href="http://www.fide.com/ratings/top.phtml">ChessBase</a> - Chess news around the world<br /><a href="http://www.chessgames.com/">Chessgames.com</a> - Almost all historic chess games ever played!<br /><a href="http://www.playchess.com/">PlayChess.com</a> - Internet’s largest online chess community. Meet me there!
 
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Old 09-01-2003, 06:34 PM
DerekTheGeek
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 54
Default Which game is best for "teaching" one to play better?

Thank for the excellent review. I know how to play chess but I don't know very much about strategy and how to plan ahead in the game. I would like to buy a chess game that would be best at showing me how to improve my game with tutorials, advice on which move to make in a specific situation.
I don't really care about graphics or animations as much as I do about strategy and teaching. Any suggestions on which one to choose?

- Derek
 
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  #3  
Old 09-01-2003, 06:54 PM
CESkins
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 284

Great review Andy. I don't use any of the mentioned chess programs but have heard great things about Pocket Fritz. I currently use Pocket Grandmaster. Have you used it before and do you have any idea how well it compares to Pocket Fritz?
 
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Old 09-01-2003, 07:16 PM
yawanag
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Posts: 378
Default The Ultimate Mobile Game! Chess

This looks like a terrific Game. I'm sorry I never learned to play Chess. I did install a Trial of Mobile Checkers, but got disgusted because the Computer beat me all the time. I like games I can win at occasionally. :lol: I know the Computer would whip me at Chess.

Derek, I think I saw a great instructional game at Handango. You can probably find it by doing a search on their site.
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  #5  
Old 09-01-2003, 07:38 PM
Andy Sjostrom
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Posts: 1,177

Check out the front page post on ChessBase!


Cool! 8)
 
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  #6  
Old 09-01-2003, 07:45 PM
Andy Sjostrom
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,177
Default Re: Which game is best for "teaching" one to play better?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DerekTheGeek
Thank for the excellent review. I know how to play chess but I don't know very much about strategy and how to plan ahead in the game. I would like to buy a chess game that would be best at showing me how to improve my game with tutorials, advice on which move to make in a specific situation.
I don't really care about graphics or animations as much as I do about strategy and teaching. Any suggestions on which one to choose?

- Derek
Pocket Fritz 2 includes a tactics training feature. But your best bet is probably to either pick up a book on chess for beginners or even visit your local chess club even for just one evening. Then go to PlayChess.com and start play as many games as you can. You'll get beat at first, then you'll learn. Then you get to beat.
 
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Old 09-01-2003, 08:48 PM
mbassoc
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Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 3
Default Pocket Fritz 2 & Kasparov Chessmate

I have both Pocket Fritz 2 and Kasparov Chessmate installed on my iPaq. Both are excelent for opponents and I find that I use them for two different purposes. Pocket Fritz 2 is excelent for learning and researching your game, and it displays it'd own thinking as it plays. I use it for researching openings and developing my tactical play. Kasparov Chessmate is a great opponent and I tend to play complete games with this in it's 3D mode (for me it's more pleasing on the eye during a long drawn out game). Kasparov works on WM2003, and there's a patch for Fritz 2 on their website. I can't confirm this as HP haven't released the new OS in the UK yet? (anyone know where I can download it?)

Two point's I think I should mention; Pocket Fritz 2 is a developemet of the Chess Tiger engine, not the Fritz 8 engine (a moot point I guess), and in the UK you can buy Kasparov Chessmate in PC world, and the CD has both the PDA version and the desktop version on it.

Hope this helps.
Will (iPaq 3950, PPC2002, Sandisk 256mb SD Card)

PS. I also run Microsoft Chess and I quite like that too.
 
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Old 09-01-2003, 09:04 PM
Andy Sjostrom
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Posts: 1,177
Default Re: Pocket Fritz 2 & Kasparov Chessmate

Quote:
Originally Posted by mbassoc
Two point's I think I should mention; Pocket Fritz 2 is a developemet of the Chess Tiger engine, not the Fritz 8 engine (a moot point I guess), and in the UK you can buy Kasparov Chessmate in PC world, and the CD has both the PDA version and the desktop version on it.
Thanks! Updated!
 
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Old 09-01-2003, 09:11 PM
rpommier
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 214
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Don't forget PocketGrandmaster 2.1 The just updated the program to work with WM2003. Plenty of options and chess pieces/boards to choose from. You can also download different chess engines to use with it.

http://www.pocketgrandmaster.com
 
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Old 09-01-2003, 10:37 PM
marlof
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Posts: 1,350

I've not learned how to play chess as a kid. I only learned how the pieces move back then, and never had stamina enough to worry about tactics and strategy. So I never had much fun playing chess. But recently, I've picked up playing with a friend. I've bought the Dummies book (guess cause I felt like one), installed Pocket Grandmaster on my Pocket PC, and I will install Pocket Grandmaster on my Smartphone as soon as I get one. I am very tempted to buy the Hexacto game now you all say it's a nice one to play, although I guess it would be better for me to stick to Grandmaster in my learning stages. Which are steep, esp. for an impatient one like me. But I'll hang in there...
 
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