reviews\ Mar 20, 2005 at 7:00 pm

Garry Kasparov Teaches Chess - PC - Review

Chess is chess. The game has remained unchanged for centuries, and that's a good thing. It's a perfect game for stretching the mind and developing strategies. It's a game that requires more than just learning the rules and relying on the luck of the draw (like a game of Poker or Blackjack). Chess has brought great minds together for a civilized match in times when there was otherwise public, political disarray. Hence, it has been known as The Game of Kings.

Bringing it to a videogame format is ideal, as it is not always easy to find a opponent for a quick "pickup game." The challenge for videogame makers now is finding ways to make it interesting and unique. While "Garry Kasparov Teaches Chess Vol. 1" is certainly unique, it is far from interesting. In fact, this would best be handled as a "movie review" than as a game review. 

Requiring a DVD reader, this game consists of Garry (the man known to the general public as the guy that plays chess against IBM's "Deep Blue" computer for kicks) talking to the "player" in a one-on-one sit-down chat. He, rather plainly, explains the thought process and theories of how to play the Queen's Gambit. If you do not know what that means, you've read too far and the remaining test will require some caffeine. 

The best part of this game is that the game engine itself is Fritz, which is widely recognized to be The engine for serious chess. I was new to this monster until a recent rude awakening. I haven't viewed computer chess the same way since. While there is the ability to play chess with this game, the purpose of it is to address the viewer/player on the finer points with a series of chapters. Each section covers a variation or previous (Grand)Master's legendary approach. In agonizingly boring detail, Garry talks you through the moves as the visual equivalent is displayed on the screen. Aside from listening and watching, all you can do is sit back and tweak the screen settings. Not exactly nail-biting excitement.

I roll my eyes when people dismiss chess as being boring, but even an enthusiast such as myself found it hard to find keep my eyes open during some of the monologues. Ranging in length from under a minute and a half to almost thirty minutes, each section is a step-by-step lecture right from the classrooms of Harvard, or so it felt. The back of the jewel case makes it seem so simple:

  • Create a plan.
  • Use what you've learned.
  • Defeat your opponent.

The only thing missing is "Rinse and Repeat." That over-simplification is humorous, if not just idiotic. I feel sorry for the beginning player than picks this up and thinks they will get a enriching experience from sitting through all of the lectures. This is solely for the hard-core, experienced player that understands chess beyond just knowing the rules and having beat Chessmaster a couple of times. The serious, ranked player will find great value in Kasparov's teachings, but aside from that small core audience, it will fall flat with anyone else. 

The sound is not good. Although this is not supposed to be a Tony Robbins seminar, you would hope that Garry would inject some passion into his explanations. Instead, it is literally like listening-in on a polygraph session. 

The visual elements consist of Garry sitting in some decent lighting and watching him talk. At a table with a screen in front of him, he barely raises himself above a Disney animatronic figure. You can hear Garry breathe, so you know it really is him. As mentioned, you can tweak the board settings to make it 3D or not. Aside from that white-knuckle adventuring, it's a graphical dud. 

You have to know his incredible history to even want to pick this up. If you find yourself thinking "Who's that?" - keep walking. Even more, if you do not know what the Queen's Gambit is, run away. This is a highly specialized "game" that attempts to cozy up to the wine and cheese crowd with his insight and history lessons. 

Reviewer Scoring Details for Garry Kasparov Teaches Chess

Gameplay: 3.5
There isn't much to do except watch. Yes, you can play, but if that's what you're after, this isn't the title you need. This is a video to be watched, not really a game.  

Graphics: 4.5 
Aside from board appearance, there isn't much to appreciate. I can't even say I liked Garry's clothes! He looks as boring as he speaks. Like Fred Rogers going out on the town - without the cool puppets. 

Sound: 3.0
The speech pattern cries for some enthusiasm. I am not sure how you can make chess "fun" to hear about, but no attempt at all was made here. No snazzy music or dramatic score to keep you awake. Just a brilliant man and a microphone.

Difficulty: Easy
Unless you have trouble watching TV and learning, it's a breeze. To get the intended punch from this, you have to really listen to what he is saying, but it requires no effort. The hard part comes when you actually play against Fritz.  

Concept: 3.5 
This probably looked great on paper. It should have stayed there. Almost every tidbit of information is out there in the history of chess. This was just a vehicle to have it read to you instead of you doing it, yourself. 

Overall: 3.5
I imagine having your tax returns read to you would rank as highly as this. The thrill level is about the same. Seriously, the dedicated, ranked players will enjoy this immensely. But, this is presented in a videogame format, which is a miss. It is so focused and specialized that it would be a tragedy if a new player were to get it in expectations of being a better player. It almost feels like false advertising - just by the remarks I listed from the back of the case. If an inexperienced player were to see that, and buy it from that information, they will be pounding their heads against the keyboard when they realize they can't return it for a refund. For ranked players that want to be lectured by a true Grand Master, this will be a unique experience. To anyone else, the disk will be a great place to hold your cup of coffee while you play Chessmaster or Doom 3. 


About The Author
In This Article
From Around The Web
blog comments powered by Disqus