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Chess – The greatest game ever! Updated.

Discussing which game is the greatest game ever is something I really enjoy. We all have our own favourite to the title. Be it Doom, Halo, Civilization, Half-Life, Quake, Age of Empires, Dune 2, Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart, Bubble Bobble, Elite, Grand Theft Auto or Gran Turismo the discussions have always been heated. What all those games have in common is a skill progression where you get challenged harder the better you become. They force you to stay on your toes, to evolve your knowledge and skill. It is not based on graphics or sound, heck a game like Civilization still plays best on an old Amiga. What defines a great game is that it keeps you challenged, and gives you the chance to become better. The more you master it the harder it gets. And when using that definition to what a great game it is not hard to understand that chess is one of the greatest games ever, if not the greatest. It has been around with it’s current set of rules since 1475, and originated in Afghanistan before 600 AD. This is according to the free App Store book Learn Chess by Tom Kerrigan. This book is also included in tChess Pro, one of the tested chess applications.

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Chess players can be found everywhere, and the amount of chess applications is growing constantly. Developers try their best to distinguish their version of chess from the crowd. There is even a chess application by Gameloft out there, Chess Classics, catering to the masses but I can’t recommend it because of it being to slow, and focused on graphics instead of chess. It is the only app that has actually crashed on me. It might be a good enough game for a beginner, and at $0.99 it is really cheap. Still I think it is better to get one of the five professional applications I have tested below.
Chess Classics $0.99

I have tried five different chess applications ranging in price from $6.99 to $9.99. There are a lot of free chess games in the App Store but I have focused on those considered to be of a higher quality, and price as well. The tested games all feature two-player modes letting you play against a friend on the same device. Often it is most fun playing against a friend, but in those cases I find it better to pull out a real chessboard.

All five have strong chess engines, and sadly I am not a good enough player to say which is the strongest. I feel challenged by them all. Chess difficulty is generally measured in Elo and I am somewhere at 1200 Elo, which means I am a casual gamer. A grandmaster plays at around 2400 Elo.

All tested games have tutors/hint systems built in giving you the opportunity to ask for help when in trouble. All use working touch controls. I have had no crashes on any of them during testing.

I won’t rate these games as they all manage to play the game of chess perfectly, rather I want to highlight strong and weak points out of a hardcore gamers point of view. Of course functionality and layout also need to be mentioned.

img_0134Shredder Chess by Eiko Bleicher

Probably the chess game I have played the most as it has two features that really speaks to the gamer in me. It looks a bit terrifying to the beginner of the game with all information found on the screen. You can customize and remove information you don’t want or find to be a help to your game. Shredder lets you play versus a friend by email, to me that is too slow but I know a lot of people really enjoy thinking for hours about their next move.
The first reason to get Shredder Chess is that the game adjusts the difficulty to your skill level. If you lose the game lowers the Elo of the Shredder engine to the next game. Winning equals harder engine. This is something I really like, as skill progression is easier to follow.
The second reason to get Shredder Chess is because of the extensive amount of chess puzzles included. Massive 1000 puzzles that help you evolve your understanding of the game. The game keeps track of both your chess and puzzle skills.


Shredder Chess $9.99

img_0122tChess Pro by Tom Kerrigan
tChess Pro is a complete professional looking chess application that even comes with the book Learn Chess integrated. tChess Pro has a distinctly own minimalist style that I really enjoy. It is the quickest app to load, and you can continue your game within a second. It has a massive number of openings. I think this is for those players who are well versed in chess, and don’t need a lot o bling bling to keep them entertained. There is a lite version that lets you enjoy the complete game on easier levels. I still think a lite version should be free though but if you are new to the game of chess a buck is a good investment as tChess is a really good chess application.

tChess Pro $7.99

tChess Lite $0.99

Learn Chess free book

img_0136Chess Genius by Richard Lang

Chess Genius has a clean look and caters to those quite familiar with chess. It features play by email. I think Chess Genius feels most like playing against a human opponent of the tried engines. On my level it makes the same kind of mistakes I do, not really stupid mistakes but rather those you get to pay for four moves later. It plays in both landscape and portrait orientation.

Chess Genius $9.99

img_0129Deep Green by Joachim Bondo

I have had trouble getting really into Deep Green. It is actually the best graphically of the tested games. It looks great with nice zoomed in animation effects when moving and capturing pieces. And probably that is my complaint, as the graphics somehow distracts me. It plays well with a cool cogwheel sound effect while the computer is planning the next move. If you want to watch the iPhone play itself at chess I think Deep Green is the best choice. The lite version lets you play complete matches but it won’t save your game. Try the lite version to see if Deep Green is the chess for you.

Deep Green $7.99

Deep Green Lite

img_0131Fritz Chess by Gammick Entertainment

The most well-known chess game there is. You can find it across a multitude of platforms including the Nintendo Wii and XBOX360. It has got higher production values than the competitors, and feels like something you should pay at least $30 to get. It features three different musical themes, and a really polished user interface. You can change most settings as well as having small aids such as hints showing threatened pieces.
I think this is a good place to start if you are new to chess, but it also has a really strong engine capable of beating grandmasters. Play by email is available. Fritz Chess is the slowest to boot up, and has to ponder every move for a long time on the grandmaster level.

Fritz Chess $6.99 sale until update 1.2 is out.

Conclusion
Chess might be the greatest game ever to hit our small screens. With the strength the engines provide all five will challenge you. There is always discussion about which engine is the strongest but I can’t really comment on that as they all beat me silly on highest level of difficulty. If I had to choose one of the five to keep I would probably go for Shredder Chess based on the progressive skill level and 1000 puzzles. To a newcomer to the game I would recommend downloading the free Learn Chess book, and to go and buy Fritz Chess. If you are already quite good at chess I think it is a matter of esthetical taste that decides.

UPDATE!

HIARCS Chess by Applied Computer Concepts

img_7003I simply had to update the roundup of the greatest chess applications for the iPhone when I saw a real heavyweight title entering the App Store. HIARCS Chess probably has the strongest of the available chess applications in the App Store. It has beaten most competitors and grandmasters, and it certainly beats me. It is a smooth game with most of the features common to high-end applications. You can load/save your game, set up own positions, play by email and set up a wide variety of difficulties. Just like Shredder HIARCS tracks your progress, and adjusts the difficulty to your ability making it a perfect tool to develop your chess skills with. At times the engine thinks a bit too long considering I set it to my low skill level, and I have had some issues with crashing to home screen when the engine is being pushed by me forcing it to move. The only thing I miss in HIARCS is a collection of chess puzzles, other than that it is probably the best chess application out there for the seasoned player.

HIARCS Chess $9.99

Get your chess on!

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  • legend.inc

    i’m not very good at chess..

  • Torbjorn Kamblad, Sweden

    Neither am I, but I intend to beat my mates when out camping next week. Once the juice runs out of the iPhone I have a small portable chess board as well. Playing chess next to the fire is really neat. One year we played with plastic pieces, and all white pieces in the back row melted:)

  • http://twitter.com/nachorevolution Nacho, USA

    Deep Green is the best. :)

  • Nathan

    I would have to recommend shredder over fritz, even for a beginner. Fritz takes so long to load, move, and think that it is more frustrating, plus shredder has the adaptive play feature. I like the tChess program as well but it certainly is more spare in detailing than the others.

  • Tim

    Wow, what an excellent review. I’m a beginner at chess though, so I’m not sure which one to try. The Shredder, HIARCS, Fritz and Deep Green versions are all calling out to me. What to do?

  • Tim

    Here’s a question–can you play 1 human player vs. another with only the one device in all of these different games? that is a must for me.

  • Torbjorn Kamblad, Sweden

    @Tim.

    I would get Fritz if I were you. It is down to $6.99, and is a good way to learn chess. And it has got 2 player on the same device, and a nice clean interface.

    Shredder is another of my real favourites due to all the puzzles they have included(1000), a great way to learn more about chess.

    To sum up the 2-player question:
    Shredder and Hiarcs do not have any local 2-player mode.
    Fritz, Deep Green, Chess Genius and tChess Pro come with a 2-player mode.

  • Tim

    Thanks for the response Torbjorn. I’m going to take your advice and pick up Fritz. Great idea comparing the games like this, btw. Excellent write-ups. I’d love to see this format used more often–maybe write a comparison article on some of the word games or less talked-about puzzle games out there!

  • Tim

    I’m really enjoying Fritz. Boy do I suck at chess though. It’s a good thing I got this one, as it has tons of guided assisting features. Without them I doubt I could even beat the 400 ELO.

  • Dom

    I have to say that computer chess programs have completely put me off playing chess. I used to be fanatical on the free chess servers, but since Shredder routinely thrashes me with no hope at all for me and in a way so cold and clinical, I have stopped playing chess altogether and turned to Beethoven…

  • Tim

    I know what you mean Dom. I was able to get a promo code for Shredder about a month ago and the AI seems more difficult to me than Fritz’s for some reason. Even on the easiest level that Shredder is a bit of a bastard.

    By the way, did you guys know that Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air did the voice of the cartoon Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? That totally blew my mind when I heard it the other day.

  • Van

    I have a question, can you play two-players mode in Deep Green? If you can, how? I couldn’t figure it out:/

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