The Social Chess iPad/iPhone app is well-liked by its users, at least by those who take the time to give it a rating on the five-star scale and write a comment. Nearly every reviewer gives it five stars. The comments typically call it the best chess app, but Chess with Friends is the only other app mentioned in comparison. Cult of Mac offers a similar perspective.
On the other hand, there is no game clock. There is no way to choose colors when issuing a challenge: the challenger always gets white. A recent update claims to have changed the timing aspect. Now games expire after completion if they are not archived. If a player has not moved in three days, the other player may cancel the game. Perhaps it is possible to claim a win on time as well, but I have not reached that point yet in my efforts.
My only Chess with Friends game is still accessible when I open the app. Games finished last week, on the other hand, have disappeared from my list in the Social Chess app. When I first started playing with Social Chess, all my finished games remained visible, including several abandoned games. I'm glad to see the abandoned games disappear, but would have liked a chance to archive the others in order to save them. Removing completed games via the tardy implementation of time controls suggests that the developer of Social Chess may be largely unfamiliar with turn-based chess--the online version of correspondence.
Social Chess has more features than Chess with Friends. The developer of Social Chess continues to make changes in response to suggestions. If only these two chess apps existed, Social Chess would merits its praise. Fortunately, there are better apps for playing online in a social environment.
Every game that I have played at Chess World, Chess.com, Red Hot Pawn, Game Knot, and many other sites is saved by the site. Among these, only Chess.com has an iPad app. The app is free, as is membership in the site. Perhaps the Chess.com app carries advertising. As a paying member, I don't see ads. But, in my experience Chess.com is the best social chess app for the iPad. Social Chess is not in the same league. PeeWee soccer is not the World Cup.
With the Chess.com app, I can play my turn-based games at a variety of time controls. Most of these are team matches or tournaments--social features wholly lacking in Social Chess. I can solve tactics problems. I can watch training videos. I can play blitz and bullet. I can post to the extensive chess forums, including a members only forum devoted to discussions of online cheating, cheat detection, and cheater bans. As Social Chess grows, its failure to prevent cheating will ruin it.
One of the pleasures of correspondence chess stems from the research aspect. Playing with Databases is an integral part of play at Chess.com. This aspect is not well-integrated in the Chess.com app. Apps for playing chess on the iPad do not replace play with a normal computer, but they can integrate with play that is carried on over multiple devices: Chess.com does this. Social Chess does not.
Update: 30 October 2011
After posting this review, I sent suggestions to the developer. We have exchanged a series of emails concerning his future plans for updates. At present, I regard Social Chess as overrated due to an astonishing number of five-star reviews by users who have low expectations for iPad/iPhone chess apps. Even so, I trust that there is a future for Social Chess as it improves. In the meantime, I am playing half a dozen games.
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