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Fritz Chess 9 PC DVD-ROM

Published by Excalibur Publishing
Developed by Chessbase
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99

Fritz Chess 9, an introduction.

A few years ago now we reviewed Fritz 8 and came to the conclusion that it was the best chess program you could buy. Unlike the Chessmaster series, the engine in Fritz 8 is the perfect companion for any chess player whether you're a complete beginner or a Grandmaster. In fact even Gary Kasparov uses Fritz for practice and analysis, which says it all really. Whilst the Chessmaster games always have better presentation, the game engine gets rather sloppy when scaling itself down to accommodate lower level players and ends up making very stupid mistakes. The Fritz games never resort to such tactics and always make good decisions, even when trying to accommodate beginners, which is a method that encourages beginners to adopt good practices and in the long run, become stronger players. Here we have the latest title in the Fritz series, Fritz Chess 9.

What's the game about?

When we reviewed Fritz 8 we were very impressed and gave the game a highly deserved 95%. When we found out that Fritz Chess 9 was being developed, we wondered what could be done to improve upon Fritz 8 and the only conclusion we could come to was that we would have liked more 3D chess sets. Pleasingly Fritz Chess 9 does have more 3D chess sets but it also comes with much more than that. New training features have been included that will improve your attack and defence. The chess engine has been made more knowledgeable for an enhanced experience (not that I can ever be anywhere near to finding any problems with the one used in Fritz 8). A one hour tutorial has been included with lessons ranging from the basics to advanced topics. You'll also get a one year subscription to the superb Playchess chess server which allows you to play against player of all abilities from around the world. This would cost you £20 by itself.

What's good about the game?

Fritz Chess 9 is still the superb chess experience that Fritz 8 was and the new features are all welcome. The game allows you to play Blitz chess, Long Games, Rated Games, Friend Mode, Sparring Mode, Handicap & Fun as well as the new inclusions of Giveaway Chess and Chess 960. Not forgetting of course that you can play online using the Playchess chess server. Whilst it's great to see the inclusions of Giveaway Chess and Chess 960, my favourite is the Friend Mode because the AI adapts to your playing strengths and no matter how poor your are to begin with or how good you become it still manages to give you a challenging game. You'll never see any of the stupid blunders that blight the lower level Chessmaster AI and this mode is instrumental in making Fritz Chess 9 a game that always manages to get the best out of you. You'll find there is now training for attack, defence and check. You'll be given a random position and will have a fixed amount of time to find the amount of pieces that can take a piece on their next turn, are not defended or can deliver check on their next move. The new 3D chess sets are superb and there are 13 in all. These include the Fritz Room that was previously available in Deep Fritz 8 and a recreation of The Turk chess machine. Realistic physics modelling has been included and will take advantage of the new physics accelerator expansion cards that should be available to purchase next year. The game also includes a tutorial in the form of a Beginners Course (presented by IM Andrew Martin) and a Grandmasters Teach Chess feature (by Andrew Martin and Gary Kasparov), which are certainly welcome additions.

What's not so good about the game?

There's little to fault with Fritz Chess 9. The biggest issue is a lack of provision for deaf gamers with some key features but we will talk about this more in a moment. One strange negative might be that if you already own Fritz 8, then you already own a chess game that is pretty much perfect. Yes there are some good additions in Fritz Chess 9 but we still stand by our opinion of Fritz 8 and still regard it as a superb chess title.

How does it look?

The Fritz series has always lagged behind the Chessmaster series in terms of presentation. Indeed Fritz Chess 9 doesn't have the same level of gloss that Chessmaster 10th Edition has. Comparing the two titles in terms of the number of 3D and 2D chess sets, also sees Fritz Chess 9 come off second best. The game has the standard look of a Windows application, which does give the game a basic look but it's a clean and uncluttered look and also means menu navigation is instantly familiar to anyone who has used a Windows application. The 3D sets in Fritz Chess 9 are far superior to any of those found in the latest Chessmaster game. You'll need a hefty PC specification to see them in their full glory though, although thankfully you can scale down the detail to give a smooth performance on PCs that don't have the latest and greatest CPU and graphics card. The 3D chess boards now come with refined camera controls that make changing your view of the 3D board much simpler than before. Of course if you don't have a great PC you can always opt to use the 2D boards and these are the same as those found in Fritz 8.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

The main part of Fritz Chess 9 is absolutely fine for deaf gamers but there are some causes for concern and some of the new features are absolutely useless for deaf gamers. The Beginners Course and the Grandmasters Teach Chess features are not subtitled. This is very disappointing and means they are two features that simply have no value for deaf gamers. As with Fritz 8, the AI has been equipped with a rather sarcastic voice that gibes you and these comments are not subtitled. This isn't so much of a loss to be honest, as the comments can become rather repetitive and annoying. In every other respect the game is fine for deaf gamers as all other information is displayed in text. The game manual is just over 20 pages long and covers pretty much every feature in the game in a brief and to the point fashion.

Final thoughts.

I can say without hesitation that whether you are beginning to learn the game of chess or are an advanced player looking to refine your style and develop as a more complete player, Fritz Chess 9 is definitely the game for you. As with Fritz 8 the AI scales superbly to your ability and will give you a challenging game whether you are beginner or expert. No other chess product really comes close in this respect. In terms of presentation the game is not as polished as Chessmaster 10 th Edition, but it's certainly good enough and Fritz Chess 9 can definitely lay claim to having the best looking 3D chess sets of any chess game to date. Overall Fritz Chess 9 is an improvement on Fritz 8 but the lack of subtitles for the Beginners Course and Grandmasters Teach Chess features is very disappointing. Even with that disappointment though what we have here is still the best chess program you can purchase at the moment and it's worth every penny.


Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Fritz Chess 9 is simply the best chess program you can buy. Whether you're a complete beginner or an expert Fritz Chess 9 has the ability to make you an even better player. It's a shame that some of the new content isn't subtitled but overall it just edges out Fritz 8 as being the total chess software solution.