One of the most underrated chess games ever made, Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess from Simon & Schuster is the best instructional chess program I've ever seen, bar none. International chess master Maurice Ashley is known in the U.S. as a fun teacher of chess who entertains countless young adults with an easy-going, humorous teaching style, and MATC brings his personality to life with an excellent multimedia presentation and great graphics. |
Using a variety of traditional chess problems mixed with non-chess metaphors, animations, and Maurice's friendly voice-overs, MATC is a good way for beginner and intermediate gamers to learn about the game and improve their performance. The package comes with four modules, all accessible from a central screen: coaching, championship training, Master games, and the actual chess arena itself. The coaching module is where beginners will likely spend most of their time. "Basics" starts at the beginning, describing each piece and the board. Challenges are a series of timed drills focusing on the movement of individual pieces. They include drills like Touchdown (move your piece to a target square in the least number of moves) and Escape (keep your piece out of danger as long as possible). Strategies teach you to focus on big picture issues like control of the center and weak squares.
Each segment in the coaching module starts out with a short video clip of Maurice explaining the concepts to be covered in that segment; from then on voice-overs and animations go into the details being illustrated. Each drill has multiple difficulty levels, hints, replays, etc., and pretty much stands on its own. This is by far the best feature of MATC, incredibly fun and addictive.
While the Coaching module provides a fairly freeform way of introducing chess concepts (and is useful if you only need to brush up in a specific area), the more serious student will want to move on to Championship Training. Championship Training is a more structured presentation of the Challenges and Strategy exercises presented in the Coaching Module; instead of the learn-as-you-will openness of Coaching you'll be led through the exercises in a specific order, advancing on to higher levels only when you've mastered the simpler concepts. While MATC tracks your progress (it automatically saves your position so you won't have to restart the training), it will take you some time to plow your way through all the exercises.
Once you've gotten through all this (or even if you're curious earlier) you can check out the ten replays of "classic" chess matches. While hard-core chess players probably won't be satisfied by just ten games, I appreciate the blow-by-blow analysis provided by Maurice. Instead of dry move listings you get Maurice explaining the games with voice-over and sports play -like diagramming (he even discusses possible alternatives the Masters might have taken).
While education is the primary focus of MATC, it does include a decent chess AI to spar with and all the options you can expect from a chess game, including several chess sets, time limits, hints, and 2D/3D views. The bottom line is that this is the one chess program that will really give you the big bang for the buck. If you are looking for a program to introduce your kids to the wonders of chess, or to hone your own skills, you can't go wrong with MATC. Veteran chess players will probably find the package too basic, although they may still enjoy the entertaining drills and chess puzzles. Highly recommended, and a proud entrant in our Hall of Belated Fame.
Reviewed by: Underdogs