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Chessmaster 8000 vs. Fritz 6

By Roger McIntyre

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing in Best Buy and came across the Chessmaster 8000 program for $29.99. I remembered Chess Life advertising it for $49 so I thought this was a pretty good price and purchased it.

On the front of the Chessmaster 8000 box it states: "The Most Powerful Chess Engine Available on a PC". Well, I thought, I'm gonna have to pit this program up against the tried-and-true Fritz 6 that I currently use for all my game analysis.

Fritz 6 doesn't make as bold a claim as the Chessmaster does but it does claim some impressive achievements. In Hong Kong in 1995 Fritz beat the strongest mainframes, including Deep Blue, to win the world championship title. In Munich it won the strongest blitz tournament of all times, together with Garry Kasparov, whom it later defeated in an exhibition game on German sports television. Its latest triumph was at the Frankfurt Chess Classics 1999, where it won the Masters division ahead of world top-ranked grandmasters, with an Elo performance of 2825. Chessmaster 8000 claims a rating of 2903 on my computer. This rating is based on the computer's processor speed as well as other criteria which you can read about on their FAQ page.

I decided to pit these programs against each other in a 12 game tournament. Each program would have exactly two minutes to make each move. I used my home PC which has a 1.0GHz AMD Athlon processor with 128MB SyncDRAM. The programs were never running on the same PC at the same time to avoid conflict for CPU time.

As the games were being played I noticed that Fritz was consistently looking 1-3 moves deeper than Chessmaster. Fritz also claimed to be looking at about five times more positions than Chessmaster in the allotted two minutes. In a typical position Chessmaster would look at about 20,000,000 positions after the two minutes and Fritz would look at about 100,000,000. This fact alone doesn't mean that Fritz is the better program because there are other factors involved in making good moves such as which positions are analyzed and how they are evaluated.

One very irritating bug I found in the Chessmaster program during this tournament was its evaluation display. Both Fritz 6 and Chessmaster 8000 use the same format to show a position's evaluation. A positive number means white has an advantage and a negative number indicates an advantage for black. The magnitude of the number represents pawn units. For example, if the evaluation is 1.00 it indicated a one- pawn advantage for white and -0.50 indicates a half pawn advantage for black. The bug that I found in the Chessmaster program is in the sign of this number. It will never show a negative number when the magnitude is less than 1. So if black has an advantage of 0.50 it will show 0.50 when it should show -0.50. I consider this a serious bug because it almost renders it's evaluation capability useless because you are not able to tell which side it thinks has the advantage until the advantage becomes greater than 1.00. When I contacted Chessmaster's technical support regarding this problem they informed me where to download a patch for this program which fixed this as well as other bugs. So I downloaded and installed the patch and sure enough, the problem was fixed.

As the games progressed it became obvious that Fritz was making the stronger moves. When he got Chessmaster into some trouble he usually was able to increase his advantage and eventually win the game, as opposed to Chessmaster who usually did not hold his advantage for very long. Fritz would also announce mates a few moves before Chessmaster was able to see them. After all the games were played Fritz ended up with 8 points to Chessmaster's 4. Fritz won 5 games to Chessmaster's 1 with 6 games drawn.

Maybe Chessmaster 8000 isn't "The Most Powerful Chess Engine Available on a PC" based on the results from this tournament, but it does have many tutorials and many different personalities to play against. I enjoy playing it more than Fritz. I think I'm going to use the Chessmaster mostly for the tutorials and for playing and I will continue using Fritz for my game analysis.

Below are the results and games from this match.

Click on the game number to see the game.
1CM 8000Fritz 6 -
2Fritz 6CM 8000 - 11
3CM 8000Fritz 6 - 11
4Fritz 6CM 80001 - 012
5CM 8000Fritz 61 - 022
6Fritz 6CM 8000 - 33
7CM 8000Fritz 6 - 33
8Fritz 6CM 80001 - 034
9CM 8000Fritz 60 - 135
10Fritz 6CM 80001 - 036
11CM 8000Fritz 60 - 137
12Fritz 6CM 8000 - 48

Last modified: 08 February 2002
David Hayes