Chess mastery

Play chess against your computer with this free portable program.

Playing chess against a computer is supposed to be Mr. Spock's territory, but there's nothing stopping you from pitting your skills against a cybernetic opponent, thanks to Yea Chess by Drazen Beljan. It's a free chess-playing program that uses artificial intelligence and your computer's processing power to test your chess-playing ability at various skill levels.

Yea Chess is portable freeware that requires no installation; you can copy it to a USB stick or other portable device and always have access to your saved games. The program's interface is a chessboard with Game, Option, and Homepage file menus and control arrows for initiating moves along the bottom and numbers and letters along either axis. When you hover the cursor over your pieces, it takes the form of a pointing finger that lets you make quick and easy moves by clicking a piece and then clicking the square you want to move it to. You can zoom the rather compact view up to 250 percent on the Options menu, which also accesses the computer strength level settings; we used the rather low default setting, level 8 of 10. We clicked Game and selected New Game as Black, which shifted the black pieces from the top of the board to the bottom. The computer initiated play by advancing the White Queen's pawn, a classic opening move. We responded, and the computer instantaneously responded with a countermove. Yea Chess won't let you make wrong moves, but it'll sure let you make bad ones! Although we deliberately played an abbreviated game to test the program's moves, we expected to lose; Yea Chess achieved checkmate in eight moves. Clicking Save Game at current position saved the game in the program's folder, a nice touch that keeps things together in one location.

We're definitely living in the future when something from "Star Trek" becomes reality. Yea Chess not only gives you a challenging match but also helps you refine your game. It's easy to use and fun, too, if you don't mind losing a lot!

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