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Chessmaster facts for kids

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Chessmaster logo.png
Genres Computer chess
Developers David Kittinger
Kathe Spracklen
Dan Spracklen
Johan de Köning
Publishers The Software Toolworks (1986–1994)
Mindscape (1993–1999)
Mattel Interactive (2000)
Ubisoft (2001–2008)
Feral Interactive (OS X)
Original release 1986–2008

Chessmaster (originally The Chessmaster) is a chess-playing video game series, which is owned and developed by Ubisoft. It is the best-selling chess franchise, with more than five million units sold as of 2002. The same cover art image featuring Will Hare was used from Chessmaster 2000 to Chessmaster 9000.


Chessmaster 10th Edition2 edited
Chessmaster 10th Edition
  • 1986: The Chessmaster 2000. First published by Software Country, and soon after by The Software Toolworks. It was published for Amiga, Apple II, Atari 8-bit computers, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Mac, and MS-DOS. The game had a chess engine (without mouse control) written by David Kittinger and the manufacturer rated the game at 2000 Elo. USCF rated it over 2000; in reality, it is unknown at what strength it plays because the testings were done on slow 1980s computers. In July 1986, CM became the first commercially available software to win the Personal Computer class of the United States Open Computer Chess Championship in Mobile, Alabama.
  • 1988: The Fidelity Chessmaster 2100 was published for Apple II/Apple IIGS and Commodore 64. In 1989 for DOS and in 1990 for Amiga.
  • 1989: The Chessmaster was published for NES, in 1991 for Game Gear and Game Boy and in 1992 for SNES and Sega Genesis.
  • 1991: The Chessmaster 3000 was published for DOS, Windows 3.x and Macintosh. Moves are now explained with voice output.
  • 1993: The Chessmaster 4000 Turbo, first published by Mindscape for Windows 3.x and Macintosh. Modem and LAN play was available for the first time. A CD-ROM version was released in 1994.
  • 1996: The Chessmaster 3-D for PlayStation (uses the Chessmaster 4000 engine).
  • 1996: Chessmaster 5000 for Windows 95.
  • 1997: Chessmaster 5500 for Windows 95.
  • 1998: Chessmaster 6000 for Windows 95/Windows 98 and Macintosh.
  • 1999: Chessmaster II was published for PlayStation.
  • 1999: Chessmaster 7000 was published for Windows 98
  • 1999: Chessmaster for Game Boy Color
  • 2000: Chessmaster 8000 was published for Windows 98. In addition to the English version, a Russian translation was created.
  • 2002: Chessmaster 9000, first published by Ubisoft for Windows 98/ME/XP and in 2004 for Mac OS X. Compared to the previous title, a French translation was added.
  • 2002: Chessmaster for Game Boy Advance
  • 2002: Chessmaster for Palm OS.
  • 2003: Chessmaster for PlayStation 2.
  • 2004: Chessmaster, the mobile Java version was published. In 2007 released also for Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.
  • 2004: Chessmaster 10th Edition was published for Windows XP and Xbox. The Xbox version is titled Chessmaster.
  • 2005: Chessmaster Challenge, a simplified version of the game was published for Windows as a downloadable game by PlayFirst.
  • 2007: Chessmaster: Grandmaster Edition (also Chessmaster XI: Grandmaster Edition) was released for Windows XP/Vista. Portable version for Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable is known as Chessmaster: The Art of Learning. It includes numerous tutorials by International Master Joshua Waitzkin and Grandmaster Larry Christiansen for players of all skill levels, 900 most important chess games in history, 190 personalities of opponents, children puzzles with Raving Rabbids and other minigames. A Polish translation has been added.
  • 2008: Chessmaster Live for Xbox 360.

Chess engine

The Chessmaster chess engine is called The King, written by Johan de Köning of the Netherlands. It was introduced in Chessmaster 4000; the first edition featured a chess engine written by David Kittinger, who went on to develop the engines for Interplay's USCF Chess, WChess for the German company Millennium 2000, and Sierra Entertainment's Power Chess, Majestic Chess and Disney's Aladdin Chess Adventures. The second edition had an engine designed by Kate and Dan Spracklen of Sargon fame.

According to the September 2009 Swedish Chess Computer Association (SSDF) rating list, Chessmaster 9000 had an estimated Elo rating of 2718 on an Athlon-1200 PC. If multiple versions of other engines are stripped out of this list, Chessmaster 9000 ranked 14th among all engines tested. As of May 2008, Chessmaster 9000 remained the most recent version rated by the SSDF.

The latest version, Chessmaster 11th Edition, was released in 2007, and has lagged behind more current chess engines. CCRL placed it 121st on its August 2020 list (15th among engines only available via purchase).

The King engine allows users to create new playing styles, called "personalities", by manipulating several dozen different settings, such as King Safety, Pawn Weakness, Randomness, Mobility and others. Individual piece values can also be adjusted. Chessmaster 9000, for example, features over 150 different personalities ranging from International Grandmaster strength down to Stanley, a chimpanzee who, in most situations, plays completely random moves. The Stanley chimpanzee personality inspired the Stanley Random Chess Variant.


The Chessmaster 2000 developers aimed to anthropomorphize the game's chess engine with a mascot character to give players the feeling of a human opponent. The "Chessmaster" character on the game's packaging and title screens was a photo of actor Will Hare costumed to look like "a person, a wizard, a chessmaster!" rather than a "black box" The image became iconic, and the original photo remained part of the series' branding for 17 years.

Notable games

  • Larry Christiansen vs. Chessmaster 9000 (September 2002), annotated at GameKnot: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4

Chessmaster won the four-game match against Christiansen held in September 2002, by a score of 2½–1½. The Chessmaster program was operated by John Merlino, the Project Manager of Chessmaster at the time of the match. Four different personalities were used in the match, the first three of which were based on famous human Grandmasters: Alexander Alekhine, Bobby Fischer, and Mikhail Botvinnik. The final game of the match used the default "Chessmaster" personality. Christiansen won the first game, lost the second and third games, and the fourth game resulted in a draw.


Chessmaster Nintendo DS
Cartridge Chessmaster: The Art of Learning for Nintendo DS

To date, various versions of Chessmaster have appeared on Amiga, Apple II, Apple IIGS, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, MSX, Commodore 64, IBM compatibles, Macintosh, Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Genesis (as a Sega Channel exclusive), Game Gear, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and mobile phones.

Early Macintosh versions Chessmaster 3000 and 4000 were developed by Sebastian Rapport and Troy Heere that leveraged the Kittinger and de Koning engines respectively. Later Macintosh versions were ported by Feral Interactive, and the latest Macintosh version available is Chessmaster 9000. Ubisoft also offers a downloadable version of the game, Chessmaster Challenge, which differs from Chessmaster 10th Edition in its simplified interface and scaled-down tutorials.

The more recent editions of Chessmaster include both 2D and 3D designs, and a large number of different boards and themed chess piece designs. The interface was revised for Chessmaster 10th Edition and features animated 3D sets in which the pieces "walk" between squares and have simulated battles when a piece is taken, reminiscent of Battle Chess or the Wizard's chess set from Harry Potter. Chessmaster 10th Edition also comes packed with a pair of red and blue glasses to view the set in "enhanced 3D".

An Xbox Live Arcade version with Xbox Live multiplayer and Xbox Live Vision camera support for the Xbox 360 called Chessmaster Live was released on 30 January 2008, but is no longer available.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Chessmaster para niños

  • Computer chess
  • List of chess software
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