UPDATE DECEMBER 2012
These days I’m using SOCIAL CHESS on the iPad to play turn-based games. I highly recommend it however you can’t export your games to .pgn, which is a shame for those of us that like to study our losses. 🙂
I have also been checking out CHESS PRO. It seems like a great training app for people who are new to chess. It takes a slightly different approach to other training apps.
How does it work? It’s really simple: you just play! The coach shows you the moves a Grandmaster would pick. Not just one move, but the 4 best moves.
Comes in a free version as well as a $9.99 version.
UPDATE (September 2012)
This post gets a lot of traffic, so I thought I should update it to include the apps I am currently using on my iPhone and iPad as a lot as happened since 2009!
Here are my main chess apps:
iPad / iPhone
This is my main app for playing real-time games online. I’ve tried both the iPad HD version and the iPhone version and I’ve ended up using the iPhone version on my iPad, as it seems a little more advanced in terms of features and reliability than the iPad version. I can usually find someone to play against in a matter of seconds and the gameplay, at least on the iPhone version, is quite smooth. The apps themselves are free however to play online you need an ICC membership which costs about $5 / month.
On the iPad, I tend to still use Shredder (see below) to play and study, and Chess With Friends (see below) to play asynchronous games, however I’ve found another app that is better at allowing the importing of .pgn files for analysis, and that is:
t Chess Pro
t Chess Pro allows me to grab the emailed games from ICC, drop them into a .pgn file, and upload it to Dropbox. Then I can download that on my iPad and open it in t Chess for analysis.
ORIGINAL POST from 2009:
There are a huge number of chess applications for iPhone these days and, as I’m a bit of a chess nut, I’ve been trying to test them all out to find out which are the best chess apps for the iPhone or iPod Touch. There are apps suitable for beginners through to grandmasters as well as apps that will let you play a quiet game by yourself on a plane, through to games that let you play against other iPhone / iPod Touch owners online.
These are the ones I suggest you take a look at. Prices and ratings are from the Australian iTunes store.
If you’re an avid chess player, you probably already know about Fritz and Shredder from their PC apps which have been around for many years and are battle tested against world champions. You might not have heard that they now have iPhone versions.
The PC version of Fritz has beaten grand masters from Kasparov to Kramnik. Not enough ratings in the Aussie appstore for an average, but seems to be getting 4 and 5 stars so far, which isn’t surprising.
- Suitable for beginners through to very, very, very advanced players
- Claims to have the strongest chess engine on the appstore
- Game analysis
- Allows you to send games to other players via email.
- No online play.
- At $8.99 it’s one of the more expensive chess apps.
Another chess app that’s been around on the PC for many years, Shredder claims to be “the most successful chess program ever”. It has an average rating in the iTunes store of 4.5 stars.
- Comes with 1000 in-built chess puzzles.
- Game analysis.
- Coach for beginners.
- Huge opening book.
- Send games via email.
- $12.99, it ties for the most expensive chess app for iPhone currently.
- No online play.
Best Free Apps
What options are out there for people who want a serious game but don’t want to fork out the big bucks?
Deep Green Chess Lite
Deep Green Chess Lite provides a solid game of chess for beginner or intermediate players. Average rating 3 stars.
- The best interface of all of the apps tested, IMHO.
- Doesn’t resume or save your game if the app is closed down mid-game. Considering how often I receive calls on my iPhone, this is annoying. Might be better for Touch owners.
iChess allows for online play on FICS (freechess.org) servers as well as standard play against the AI or human opponents. Average appstore rating 2.5 stars.
- It has the best of all worlds – online play AND AI play AND it’s free.
- It resumes the game you are playing if you take a call mid-game.
- There have been reports of the AI making illegal moves.
- The app has crashed on me a few times.
Best Online Play
Chess With Friends
I’ve been using CWF since it first came out and it’s a terrific asynchronous chess experience. It will set up games for you with random players or allow you to invite friends via email. Average rating of 2.5 stars doesn’t do it justice.
- It’s free!
- Works over 3G, Edge & WiFi.
- Also allows for local “pass the iPhone” games.
- Doesn’t have push notifications for when your opponent makes a move although I imagine with the release of OS3.0 that will be coming soon.
If you want real-time online play, then Cyber Chess might be your best option. It connects to both FICS (freechess.org) and ICC (Internet Chess Club) servers. Only one rating on the Aussie appstore, which is for 3 stars. Price $1.19.
- Allows for real-time chess against human opponents.
- Training mode.
- Support multiple chess variants.
- Currently doesn’t support FICS tournaments.
What I’d really like, but haven’t found yet, is a chess app that let’s me play against another human iPhone to iPhone on the same network. The same way that apps like Bump set up a private network, I’d love to play chess against the person sitting next to me in a cafe without having a real board. I’d love it if we could both whip out our iPhones and start a real-time game against each other. If anyone knows of an app that has that feature, please let me know in the comments section or on Twitter.