Chess, the definition of a "thinking-man's game." Without it, we wouldn't have games like Risk, Stratego, or even tower defense games. When it comes to predicting your opponent's next move, chess is the master's master.
MateMaster takes chess and moves it a step further into the casual gaming realm by turning the classic board game into strategic puzzles. These puzzles are the same type of mind-benders that still appear in some newspapers next to the word jumble and bridge game brainteasers. They represent what chess players call "endgames."
The idea is simple: produce a checkmate in a given number of moves. Checkmate occurs when you put your opponent in a position where they can not make another move without their king being captured. At the beginning of a puzzle, pieces are set on the board as if you were near the end of a game. Some puzzles will involve only a couple of pieces while more complex ones will often use a larger number.
The puzzles start off relatively easy, with checkmate only one move away. Simply move the right piece into position, and you win. These puzzles will help the uninitiated to get a feel for what the various pieces look like and how they move. When you click on a piece, small circles appear on the board wherever you can place it.
As you graduate to more difficult levels (there are six in total), the number of moves increase, with the "fiendish" level set requiring checkmate in 6 moves. This requires quite a bit of strategy to think through, because you are playing a game against an opponent, who is not going to just sit back and watch you capture their king.
Analysis: As puzzle games go, MateMaster is fairly unusual. While two-player chess games on the Internet are common, this type of riddle is harder to find. The uniqueness helps to offset the rather bare-bones presentation of the game. And with 650 different puzzles, you'll be busy with MateMaster for quite some time.
While the puzzles are challenging enough, the included engine for playing a full game is somewhat lacking. I'm no chess expert, but even I was able to beat the computer by sacrificing a few pieces and chasing down its king. Perhaps the purpose is to initiate beginners, but anyone who is succeeding at the higher puzzle levels will find the computer opponent far too easy.
But MateMaster is about the puzzles, and it delivers in spades… or is that pawns? Bishops? Well, anyway, regardless of your Elo rating, you'll find a challenge that will suit you with MateMaster.