28 October 2011

Social Chess iPad/iPhone App: Review

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.

Social Chess has a clean interface, implements an Elo rating system, and permits players to chat while playing. Finished games may be saved to an archive or emailed in PGN format. It is simple, ad free, and functional. It works on the iPad and iPhone. It is free.

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.

Comparisons to Chess with Friends intrigue me. I played one game on that app when a friend from Facebook and college--we studied math together--asked me to get the app so we could play a game. He had noticed my frequent posts about chess, including links to completed games at my two favorite turn-based chess sites: Chess World and Chess.com (joining through the links to the right will credit my account).

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.


Update: 11 August 2013

My review, "Correspondence Chess on the iPhone," updates my experiences and views of SocialChess, as well as several comparable apps. I have employed both iPad and iPhone to play on SocialChess. After my opponent resigned this afternoon, I will be able to leave this app alone for another year. The "improvements" in this app over the past two years have made it vastly more expensive, but not substantially better. Other apps offer far more at less cost. My games will continue, and I will add more, on ChessWorld.net (sadly no iOS app), Chess.com (web and iOS), ChessByPost (exclusively mobile--iOS, Android, Windows), and others. With better alternatives, SocialChess is not worth my time.

19 comments:

  1. Chess and Soccer aren't in the same league. Soccer is played world wide in every country of the world games are going on. In comparison to the numbers chess players to soccer participants they are small.

    IMHO
    Denver.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Anon. Could you mention which countries have soccer and not chess? AFAIK, there are none.

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  3. I have only tried "Social Chess" and the "Chess.com" app. I rate Social Chess 5* for playing turn based chess. Its very nicely implemented on the iPad, which is more than can be said for Chess.com which works portrait mode and has adverts. I know chess.com has more features and you can also use a browser, but for just playing a friend turn by turn Social Chess does it for me. As long as the friend has an ipad.

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  4. Thanks Keith. Both apps fail to handle rotate. I must turn my iPad to landscape for SocialChess and back to portrait for chess.com. As a paying member of chess.com, I see no ads. These could be frustrating for non-paying members.

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  5. I have been a paying member of chess.com for the
    past three years until I made a request to have the European Union listed, in the absence of any listing I pushed the point creating a simple graphic thinking working on the analogy that a picture is worth a thousand words.. result I Found myself restricted from posting any further... this action restricted my ability to run my groups... effectively I have been forced out based on a request to have the European Union listed...
    The thinking behind Chess.com is a great format unfortunately from my experience they were severely lacking in the Customer care department the support
    reign supreme if your face fits your OK but if they
    don't like your group theme topic's they play the rules
    card... during my stay I created groups that circumvented current issues that I deemed important on an intellectual site....
    ranging from Gaza, The homeless around the world,
    Diy,various film Topics,news events,the Arts,
    there there last note from accused me of peddling war
    when in fact had the visited my sites nothing could be further from the concept of my topics.
    It was fun while it lasted...a final point I wrote two messages to Erik the founder which were either blocked or just ignored.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,

      I'm certain that you are not the only one at Chess.com whose non-chess issues have been handled in a manner that you find unfortunate. Sites vary in the manner in which they handle sensitive social and political issues. Red Hot Pawn has the most open forums in my experience, and seems to be the only site where other chess sites may be named openly in the forums. There, you will find places devoted to discussion of global political affairs. Even so, many who have become dissatisfied with RHP's enforcement of its policies against engine use have gravitated towards Chess.com. There criticism abounds, but there is no question the administrators take the issue seriously.

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  6. For. Someone who goes for tournaments, etc, chess.com would be the perfect app. However, for chess enthusiasts, who just love the game but cannot dedicate a non-disturbed time to play one game, thrn Chess with Friends or SocialChess is better. I myself would make moves in between seeing my kids doing their homework, during a commercial on the tv, waiting for someone, etc. it's like playing a simultaneous chess event without the pressure of time constraint and pressure to win. A move takes about 10 secs of analysis. I find this the best app for relaxation that still stimulate the mind.

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    1. Mindvest, thanks for sharing your views. Perhaps you are not aware that Chess.com offers the sort of play you are describing, too. They call it Online Chess, which they distinguish from Live (requiring "a non-disturbed time to play one game"). The terms turn-based and correspondence are more commonly used at other chess sites. Chess World offers no other type. Social Chess and Chess with Friends offer clean and uncluttered interfaces, but with the Chess.com app, one can make an occasional move every few days, or several in one day.

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  7. In my opinion SocialChess has the best 2D chessboard and pieces. It fully supports retina display! If we look at chess.com pieces we can see uneven edges of pieces. Also, the chess.com's chessboard is not as sharp as in SocialChes. It is more comfortable to analyze the position for a long time. Besides I like more the interface of SocialChess. Just better and more fun to play.

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    1. Darius, thanks for your input! As I am using an iPad 2 instead of an iPad 3, the retina display is not part of my world. In my version, I find the Social Chess pieces crowd the squares a bit more that the chess.com pieces. Does the retina display repair this problem?

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  8. I've been playing Chess with friends on the iPhone for a while but I've been continually frustrated by a bug with the game review - if you touch outside the arrows while reviewing a game, the board resets to the current position. I've told the developer this but they don't seem to be interested in improving the game, rather they develop more data mining features which prompt you to log in using Facebook etc. Social Chess looks a lot nicer so far.

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    1. Chess.com is supposedly accessible via the iPhone as well. I agree that Social Chess is vastly better than Chess with Friends. Chess.com is better yet. However, they, too, encourage connecting via Facebook.

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    2. Chess.com application does not support conditional moves. Social Chess with last update supports it. SC interface looks nicer. I still prefer SC.

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    3. It is possible to enter conditional moves via the Chess.com app, but the app must be used as a web browser (access via stats). That's how I played blitz with the app before they officially added that feature.

      Interface appearance is a matter of aesthetics, and personal opinions will differ. You should use what you like. It's great that we have choices.

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    4. I know it is possible to enter conditional moves but we have to use web browser and it is inconvenient. Besides, on my iPad I can not enter moves via chess.com website.

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  9. Social Chess is now at .99c, however, a great purchase I believe. I upgraded to change colors and add opponents.

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    1. Now, the price has increased to $1.99, and downloading games is no longer available to non-subscribers ($4.99 per year). The app was overrated; now, it is worse. The "improvements" increase its value to the developers, while reducing its value to those who have it on their iOS devices.

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  10. Wow! Thanks for sharing the post and introduce us with this chess app. I'm often looking for iOS latest launch for games app and other social networking apps.

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