I've always wanted to be a good chess player. I understand the basic principles and philosophies of the game but I always seem to fall into a sort of checkers mentality, overlooking the big picture for the fast attack. After years of being severely trounced by human opponents and computer programs, I was excited to hear about Power Chess, a program that would adapt to my skills, with a built-in mentor who would comment on each game and help me learn from my mistakes.
Unfortunately, Power Chess is only partially successful. The game has a unique premise: While there are several opponents to choose from, with varying styles and skills, the main focus is on the Power Chess King, an opponent who learns from his mistakes and improves from game to game. While you're playing against the King, his wife (named, as you may have guessed, the Power Chess Queen) studies your moves. Considering the Queen is the most able-minded player in the program, she's no slouch to have on your side. After any given game with the King, the Queen will take you back through the game, move by move, commenting on your choices and showing you alternatives.
And it works well, to a certain point. After my first defeat, the Queen had a great deal to say about my opening game choices. She explained the philosophy of controlling the central squares and showed me some more effective moves. So I followed her advice and challenged the King again. In the second game my first few moves were flawless, but again I was defeated. In the post-game wrap up, the Queen complimented my improved opening. But that was it. From there on out, she simply showed me what moves I should have made, with little or no explanation. My earlier lesson had helped me understand why I was doing what I was doing, but this just made me feel like a heel - beaten by one computer opponent and criticized by another. My experience with Power Chess remained much the same for the dozen or so games I played against the Power Chess King. I'm like Deep Blue at the opening, but I'm code blue by mid-game.
Good chess players looking to become great will probably find Power Chess helpful. The included Chess Lab allows you to experiment with each of your games and see the results of different variations. But bad players looking to improve probably won't find much help. The Queen's advice doesn't clarify much about the game beyond the opening, and the Chess Lab is little consolation to those who feel lost on the board. Power Chess is an enjoyable game for anyone interested in chess, because the variety of opponents is wide enough to offer a suitable challenger to almost anyone. I just wish it could help me move a little bit more gracefully through the ranks.