The following article by Christo de Klerk was published in the December 1999 issue of a braille magazine called Braillorama, a monthly magazine published by the South African Blind Workers Organisation. All the issues of Braillorama are available on their website at http://www.sabwo.org.za. The article was written about KChess Elite version 3.0. Thanks to Christo for permission to preprint the article here.
by Christo de Klerk
KChess Elite by Ark Angles is an excellent, powerful chess program for Windows that works very well with screen-reading software like Window-eyes. Although the program has a graphical display of the chess board and moves can be made by dragging and dropping with the mouse, moves can also be typed in via the keyboard and a list of moves is displayed in text form so that it can easily be read with screen-reading software. It is not necessary to use the mouse for anything; all functions are available through the keyboard and menus.
The program can be customised in many ways through many different options which include many strength settings. One can set it to play against a beginner or against an expert. One can learn from the program, as it also displays the name of the opening that is being played. One can easily take back moves and try out other options. It is easy to set up a board position with the keyboard to analyse a chess problem or to resume a game. Games can be saved with full information about the game, such as castling or en passant status, number of moves, etc. The program is aware of all chess rules, such as those related to pawn promotion and draws. The program can be set up to resign or offer a draw if it thinks it necessary to do so and it will consider an offer of a draw from its human opponent.
KChess will use your computer's sound card (if one is installed) to produce sound effects. For example, when a move is made, the program produces a very realistic sound of a piece being moved on a chess board. When time limits have been set and the time is up, a bell will ring. KChess also has a male and a female voice that will announce check, checkmate, stalemate, a draw or a resignation.
KChess has comprehensive help and on-line documentation including the rules of chess and helpful information for blind players. It can also be set up to provide helpful hints for beginners. A number of interesting sample games are included with the program, including those between Kasparov and IBM's Deep Blue chess program.
When I first bought the program, I found that it worked quite well with Window-Eyes, so I wrote to the author of the program, Rob McDonell, to tell him about it and to congratulate him with his excellent program. He was rather surprised to hear that a blind person could use it and was very interested to find out how he could make it more accessible. I wrote back and made a few suggestions and I was thrilled to see them implemented in subsequent upgrades. He has gone to a lot of trouble to improve the accessibility of KChess. He went so far as to obtain Window-Eyes and JFW to help him make KChess as speech friendly as possible. Someone who puts in so much effort to make a program accessible for blind people, certainly deserves our support.
A demonstration version of KChess Elite can be downloaded from the Ark Angles Web site. Visit them at http://arkangles.com for more information or to download your demo. You can order the program on-line and they accept credit cards. KChess costs $36 (US) or $45 (Australian) - a bargain for what you get. Once you've bought KChess, all future upgrades are free! I've already got two free upgrades since I bought my original copy.
Come on, you chess lovers, support this guy and buy KChess. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg and it will teach you a thing or two about chess.
Published by ARK ANGLES