Stroud Chess Game

Of Knights, Bishops, and Pawns: a Look into Stroud Chess

Practice, that is the one single keyword that anyone will tell you about the kley to mastering any sport. And while some people do have the advantage of innately fast reflexes, or a keen sense of observation, the fact of the matter is that practice does make perfect -or at least close to it. And when it comes to figuring out the game of chess, there are hundreds of great simulation games out there just waiting for you to try out. So what makes Spark Chess stand out? What makes it a good practice game? Why use it over all the chess games out there? Read on and find out.

Stroud Chess Game
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Knowing What You Need

The fact of the matter is that Spark Chess is a great chess simulation game. It is not the best, but it certainly makes for one of our most recommended practice boards. Consider it a combination of having a good game pace, solid visuals, easy to use controls, and most importantly, it is a game that is light enough to use on any netbook without much hassle. The only thing you need to do is be online long enough to cache the game into your browser window.

For First Timers

The key point here is knowing what you want out of the experience. If you are a first time chess player and you do not have the luxury of having anyone you know whom you can play it with in real life (yes, we really encourage you guys to play it first with an actual board before going all digital), this makes a pretty decent starting partner. The only problem here is that there are no tutorials that will give you hints on what to do next.

The best thing to do is to have a small rule book open (or just open a wiki-page or something on your browser) that will teach you the basics of chess. Then load up Spark Chess and select the easiest difficulty. The game provides you with a save board state and an undo move option -this will allow you to try out moves, see how the computer reacts and when things are not going according to your plan, you can take a few steps back or load a game from an earlier state. It may seem like spoon feeding, but if you keep going at this, you will learn to understand the concept behind each move that your opponent makes.

For Intermediate Users

So you have learned your fair share of chess rules and have player a few games. Chances are, you have won a few matches of your own, and has already lost plenty against the more seasoned players. Spark Chess is still a great digital alternative if you cannot find someone to hone your skills against.

With the medium difficulty, the AI is a bit more aggressive, taking more control of the center board and starts using more complex setups involving the knights and the bishops in order to prevent you from castling your king or to force you to sacrifice your rooks in a check scenario. If you have yet to try out more complicated plays or are curious as to how to set up these clever little positioning schemes, this is the mode for you. Again, the undo function and the save feature is a great tool for figuring out how the opponent managed to get your queen and more importantly, exactly what you did wrong (or how you never saw it coming).

For Self-Proclaimed Masters

And for the rest of us who think that we rule the world of bi-colored 8 x 8 squares, there is the hard difficulty, which pits you up against a pretty hardcore AI that will pull every single possible tactic from the book in order to beat you. Unless you are a solid chess enthusiast with a real solid grasp of the game, do not expect to win in this level without having to resort to a few undo's.

In this difficulty, board control becomes the key of the game as the challenge starts from the moment you are choosing which piece to open the game with. Do not expect simple plays to work here, the AI is adaptive to many of the known techniques (but if you are familiar with predicting moves, you may also recognize some of the computer's setups as well). Expect to play really long end-game matches here as the computer is a real hard seller when all you two have left are 4 pawns and a king each. With that said, try to win fast the moment you get the upper hand as the stalemate rule applies to all matches.

Board Control

Using the game is very simple, all you need is the mouse, and that is it. Of course, some knowledge about the rules of chess is also needed but you should have figured that out by now. Moving is a simple matter of clicking on the piece you want then clicking on the target square; the game automatically highlights all the possible spaces for you to move in so there is not going to be any issues about not knowing if a piece can be moved into a space or not.

If you accidentally clicked on the wrong piece, just click on it again to cancel the move highlight and select another piece. While some players may frown on this practice in real life (as they would say: "touch move", if you touch a piece, you need to move it. This practice discourages players from idly touching their pieces and focus on deciding what move to make before taking any action), you are free to touch any piece you want if you want to see all your available moves before making a decision.

While there are no take backs in real life chess, this game's undo and save buttons are neatly located on the left side of the screen -all you need to do is to click on them on your turn. You can undo all the way back to the opening move, but watch out, the undo is a one-shot deal. Once you undo a move, it cannot be re-done. You can play a whole new set of moves after fixing a mistake, but you cannot go back and forth with the actions. That being said, do not expect the computer to make the same moves as well -even if you re-create your own moves. This makes the game a little unpredictable and slightly challenging despite the under feature.

It Certainly Looks Like a Check

The board is seen from a slightly elevated perspective, which is what you would most likely get from a real life scenario of the game. The good part about this is that despite the elevated view (as compared to the more common top view perspective that most computer chess games use) you can still see each piece and each square on the board clearly -allowing you to identify hot spots and more importantly, weaknesses in your own line. That being said, the game's visuals are done well enough that you cannot give the excuse of "not seeing" where that bishop was placed.

Aside from having a nice view of the board, the actual field and pieces themselves are nicely made too. Each chess piece is colored appropriately (dark brown for the black pieces, and a solid beige for the white pieces), and the board is a nice shade of wood. It feels a little old-timey at times, but it does provide that classic and refined atmosphere you would expect from a playing chess in a study.

Still Has Some Spark

The one thing you will not find in this game are complicated animations, funny events, and any of those typical gimmicks that you would fins with most computer chess games. If you have never seen one, imagine the knights whipping out swords and the bishops casting spells on their targets as they move around the board. Sure, there's less entertainment to be had, but that also means less distractions. Depending on how you approach chess, this is can be a good thing or a bad thing. In a general sense however, this is actually a good thing.

There does not seem any way to activate the timer based game -where you will only have a limited amount of time to decide on your move, but aside from that, the game is actually pretty much complete in terms of having a complete move history list, classically designed pieces and also with the fact that the computer will most likely follow through with whatever game formation it started with -provided that your moves did not directly counter it. When it comes to delivering an authentic chess experience, Spark Chess is your best bet.

The Verdict

Sadly, this game is far from being the end all for chess games -mostly because of the fact that the game does lack a mode that goes beyond its hard rating. That being said, if you do happen to be one of those really hard core chess players, then this game will only serve as a decent warm up. For the other more casual chess players however, Spark Chess is the perfect game to play around with if you want to take your game up a few levels. With its simple controls, true-to-form chess delivery, and user-friendly gameplay setup, Spark Chess is one of the best games we have played that places you on the checkered board. We give this game a checkmated king's 91/100.

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