Showing posts with label software. Show all posts
Showing posts with label software. Show all posts

27 November 2012

iPod/iPhone Chess Games Collection: Review

BoldApps LTD offers a database app for iPod/iPhone/iPad called Chess Games Collection. The app itself is free, but the information in the Apple Store is somewhat misleading. The description claims: "Chess Games Collection includes more than half of a million games exactly as played by world famous chess players." In order to access the half-million games, it is necessary to purchase ten additional collections in addition to the small number of games that come with the app itself. Inasmuch as there is likely some duplication within these additional collections, the total number of games may be slightly less than advertised.

These additional collections range in quantity and price from Pro (250,000 games for $4.99) to Women (20,000 games for $0.99). The Demo collection that comes with the app contains a sampling of games played by Alexander Alekhine (15 games), Jose Raul Capablanca (8 games), Max Euwe (8 games), Emanuel Lasker (10 games), and Akiba Rubinstein (10 games). There are not 51 games, however, because of duplication: three games were played between Alekhine and Rubinstein, for example. The roughly three dozen games included offer instructive value with emphasis on quick knockouts, such as Rubinstein's 17-move knockout of Bartoszkiewicz in 1897 (see screenshot).

The app permits searching by player, opening, year, number of moves, and result. It is a welcome addition to the small, but growing number of database chess applications for iDevices. For those who already have access to PGN databases and the ability to transfer them among programs (in other words, those who are computer literate with respect to chess software), there are better apps. For the casual chess player looking for ease of use, and willing to spend a few dollars to gain access to more games, Chess Games Collection might be a good choice.

The app works only in portrait mode, and does not flip. As it is designed primarily for the iPod Touch and iPhone, the graphics quality suffers slightly on the larger iPad.

When I wrote "Chess on the iPad" ten months ago, tChess Pro appeared to be the only database app for these devices. It remains one of the best. Now, users have many more choices, including, CBase Chess, ChessDB HD, and ChessBase Online, among others. ChessBase Online offers the most comprehensive collection and exceptional search options. However, it frequently crashes or fails to open at all. It also does not work offline (something that still matters for some users). ChessDB HD is awkward to use, and does not contain some of the advertised features. CBase Chess is primitive, but supports annotations better than any other app. Hiarcs offers limited database functions.

None of these apps are free, but the claim that Chess Games Collection offers half a million games in a free app is dishonest. Chess Games Collection is a free platform designed to sell databases. Most users are better off buying an app that supports unlimited transfer of PGN files (subject to the storage limits of the device). On the other hand, those apps that offer the best viewing and analysis support (analysis engines, configurable chess sets, rotation capabilities) also lack search mechanisms. That feature might warrant reappraisal of the merits of this app for advanced players.

28 March 2012

Missing Tactics

Hou Yifan is the Women's World Champion in chess, and the number two junior player (behind Anish Giri). In August 2011, she participated in the Chess World Cup, a qualifier for the Candidates stage of the 2013 World Chess Championship. She lost in the first round to Sergei Movsesian. Things might have been different. In her game with White (she and Movsesian played two games), she missed a winning tactic. The critical position was presented in the Combinations section of Chess Informant 112. I was frustrated to miss the tactic during my morning training, but at least I'm in good company!

White to move

Can you do better than the Women's World Champion?

Chess Informant Expert Software

Viewing Chess Informants is best within their proprietary software. Chess Informant Expert presents the positions much as they appear in the print edition.

Screenshot of CI 112 Combinations
Clicking on a diagram opens the position for solving. Feedback is limited to whether the answer is correct or wrong. A button (the green check mark) at the bottom of the screen reveals the full problem annotation. The hand makes the next move of the combination. The board can be flipped as well.

Solving Screen in Chess Informant Expert

06 March 2012

Chess Pro V for iPad: Review

Chess Pro V has large pieces and pink and yellow squares that may appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of some chess enthusiasts. If not, other colors and sets are available. Unlike most computer applications, it spends a long time thinking for each move, even on the lower levels. This element, while irritating for those seeking a quick game at lunch, may render Chess Pro V a good choice for impulsive players who fall into the habit of making ill-considered moves when the opponent--carbon or silicon based--moves instantly.

I tested the iPad version, but the app is available for Android and Symbian devices. A earlier version is available for iPhone and Windows Mobile.

This app has six basic levels: beginner, novice, amateur, intermediate, difficult, and expert. An additional six levels are set by the number of seconds per move, from one to thirty. These levels might suit the player looking for a quick game between other daily tasks. Another ten levels range from one minute to 180 minutes per game. Chess Pro V tracks the user's statistics at each level, although it lacks the option to save games.

Arrows beneath the playing board permit full review of a game in progress, or of a game just finished. From any position, it is possible to resume playing. This review feature renders the app far more useful than Ohm Chess HD (reviewed yesterday) for the player who aspires to improve. It also facilitates post-game recording.

Stripes, James - Chess Pro V, Amateur [A50]
iPad, 06.03.2012

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 b5 3.e3 bxc4 4.Bxc4 d5 5.Bd3 Be6 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.0–0 Bg4 8.Nbd2 e6 9.e4 Nxe4 10.Nxe4 dxe4 11.Bxe4 Rb8 12.Bc6 Bd6 13.h3 Bf5 14.Qa4 Bd3 15.Re1 Rb6 16.d5 Bf5 17.Nd4 Rb4 18.Bxd7+ Qxd7 19.Qxd7+ Kxd7 20.dxe6+ Bxe6 21.Nxe6 fxe6 22.a3 Rb7 23.Re2 Rhb8 24.b4 Rg8 25.Be3 Re8 26.Bd4 e5 27.Rae1 Bxb4 28.axb4 Kc6 29.Bc5 Reb8 30.Rxe5 Rxb4 31.Bxb4 Rxb4 32.Re7 Kb7 33.Rxg7 h6 34.Ra1 Rb6 35.h4 Rc6 36.g4 Rc4 37.Kg2 Rd4 38.Kg3 Rd3+ 39.f3 Rd6 40.h5 Rb6

Time for White to Simplify
41.Rxa7+ Kxa7 42.Rxc7+ Kb8 43.Rg7 Rc6 44.Rg6 Kb7 45.Rxc6 Kxc6 46.g5 hxg5 47.h6 g4 48.Kxg4 Kd6 49.h7 Kd7 50.h8Q Ke6 51.Qd4 Ke7 52.Kf5 Kf8 53.Qd7 Kg8 54.Kg6 Kf8 55.Qd8# 1–0

Advertisements are distracting, but a $1.99 upgrade offers to remove these.

Chess Pro V is no different than other free chess apps in lacking features that I consider essential: ability to save games, resignation and draw offer functions. Rotation appears limited to portrait mode. The menu did not make it immediately evident how I could change chess sets. The options button in the upper left corner brought up menus that allowed me to choose my preferred notation style, but I had to press an arrow in the lower right to access the menu that would cause notation to appear. Playing with the images at the bottom of the screen brought forth the six chess sets, and multiple color choices. It enabled showing the game clock and the notation. The notation lacks move numbers, an irritating omission.

All in all, Chess Pro V is an app worth considering for players looking for a sparring partner on the iPad. It is available in many other mobile device formats as well. For $1.99, it may represent a good bargain.

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 (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,, Red Hot Pawn, Game Knot, and many other sites is saved by the site. Among these, only has an iPad app. The app is free, as is membership in the site. Perhaps the app carries advertising. As a paying member, I don't see ads. But, in my experience 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 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 This aspect is not well-integrated in the 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: 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 (sadly no iOS app), (web and iOS), ChessByPost (exclusively mobile--iOS, Android, Windows), and others. With better alternatives, SocialChess is not worth my time.

23 January 2011

Chess on the iPad

A quick search of the App Store for the Apple iPad shows that more than two dozen chess applications are now available. Certainly many of these are or will become available for the Droid Xoom, Galaxy Tab, and similar devices. With so many choices, how does one select the best value?

I have installed close to a dozen chess programs since I purchased my iPad in late August. Three of these continue to draw my attention nearly every day, one is brand new to me today and remains untested, and one received its first use on Thursday. Shedder is exceptional, tChess Pro has features lacking in all the others, and continues their leadership in internet chess. DinosaurChess looks promising for young players looking to get started in our game (I may blog a review in the not so distant future). That an app allows my iPad to become a chess clock might prove useful, especially if there were more coffee houses with tables large enough to support a chess set, the iPad, and a couple of cups of java.

Essential Criteria

My major complaint concerning most playing programs for the iPad is that developers usually fail to build a resign feature into the program. After six decades of work among many of the world's leading code writers, we now live in a world where the typical college student taking classes in programming can access the resources to develop new software that plays at master strength. Competent players know when they are beat and gain little from playing on in hopeless positions, but resigning is not an option in any of the free apps that I have tried. Even so Stockfish deserves mention as possibly the best free chess app. The heart of the program is the Stockfish engine, arguably the strongest free chess engine available on any platform. It is nice to have this software available for the iPad. It does not let me quit when the position becomes hopeless, but it does let me go back a few moves and start anew from there.

Shredder lets me resign, which would be necessary every game if not for its ability to play a weaker game. No computer software programmed to play weak successfully mimics human players at 1100, 1500, 1900, or ratings above, below, and in-between. Even so, at the handicapped playing strength I have battled, Shredder strikes me as more realistic than Chessmaster. In addition to offering a reasonably decent silicon adversary, Shredder's one thousand tactical puzzles make it worth having. Speed and accuracy both count in its scoring feature. With each puzzle, the user gets to try moves until the correct answer is found, but time and wrong answers reduce the score. A hint feature will flash the piece to move. At 5.99 Euros (I paid just under $8 USD), it is a bargain.

Needs of the Chess Professional

As a part-time chess teacher with an array of printed teaching materials, I pack around a lot of paper. My shoulder bears the weight of self-published instruction books, often Dvorestsky's Endgame Manual or other essential texts, and often selections of games printed from databases on my computer. When I want to play the mule, I can always carry my notebook computer along with the chess bag that holds photocopies of lessons I give students for homework. The iPad has lightened my load. My self-published texts are supported by a host of iPad reading apps, the iPad Kindle app library makes Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and several other texts accessible another way, and tChess Pro handles databases.

As a playing program, tChess Pro is a small step, but only a small one, below Shredder. It does permit the necessary resignations, and it can play a reasonable handicapped game. The real value of tChess Pro, however, stems from its control of the market for iPad database software. I know of no competitors. Moreover, if another developer wants to get into this market, he or she will find that the bar is already quite high. With an update that was released last fall, it became possible to upload my own databases. Not only can I drag PGN files into program via iTunes (Apple's back-up and sync system for iPad), but I can open email attachments. It was a wonderful day two weeks ago when I played an instructive game on during lunch, emailed the game to myself, and then during the after school chess club was able to reconstruct a critical position from the game and solicit input regarding alternate continuations from the analysis engine. This app is a chess teacher's dream come true. Also worth noting is that my inquiry to developer Tom Kerrigan was answered promptly. I purchased the app for a mere $7.99 USD in early September and wrote asking for the improved database features that as it happened he was then in process of submitting to Apple.

Playing for Fun

Speaking of, their iPad app facilitates playing correspondence style games on their site, or "online chess as it called there." It does not rotate as do most other apps, and the menu seems limited. However, it did not take long for me to discover that the Stats link provides access to all other site features. Moreover, and possibly to my detriment, the lack of flash support in iPad's programming no longer hinders playing live chess through the app. I do not recommend one minute play as the screen is far less responsive than a mouse, but imagine the possibilities if you share my addictions. The app offers ready access to play against their online computer, their tactics trainer (far superior to the popular Chess Tactics Server in my experience), and video lessons. As a commercial site, has limited features for non-paying members, but the iPad app is free. The site offers enough possibilities for free to keep the interest of most aficionados, knowing that in time serious players will crave the benefits of paid membership.

19 August 2009

Create Training Exercises

To have Fritz (or Hiarcs, Junior, or other ChessBase engine) analyze a batch of games, first highlight in the database view the games you want analyzed.

Then from the menu at the top, go: Tools >> Analysis >> Full Analysis.

This brings up a window such as you see in the image.

If you want the engine to create training exercises, make certain the box "Training" (see red arrow) is checked.

You can see on the right side of the image above the black portion some tags that Fritz adds to annotated games. You may need to click on the igae to see all of it. Those with the small t have training exercises. In this batch, that's close to half of the games. Fritz will not create exercises for every game, and it may create several in some games.

24 June 2008


My training regimen includes playing tactical positions from books against the computer. Thanks to the work of others, I have all of the games from Fred Reinfeld's 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations in a database. Within ChessBase I can open this database to a random position then go to Fritz and begin play. Alternately, I can play through every position in sequence. Finding Reinfeld's idea is often fairly simple, but nursing the resulting advantage to victory takes more effort, especially when the side to move--the side with the tactic--is losing. Such is the case with the third position in the book.

White to move

Reinfeld's solution:

1.c4 Ne7 (if 1...Nxc4, Rxd5) 2.c5 winning the pinned piece.

After 1.c4, Hiarcs 12 favors 1...Bxg3. My game continued 2.hxg3 Re7 3.Rh1 g6 4.c5 Ke8 5.cxb6 Ne3 and so on.

I could have resigned at any point. White is clearly losing in all variations, although not as badly when Black plays the insipid 1...Ne7 given as the main line in Reinfeld's solution.

Due to Black's vulnerability along the d-file, White is able to win back the lost piece, but not the pawn. White is losing in all variations.

12 December 2007

Chess Informant

This morning's email brought in an announcement from

Dear Chess Friend,

We have lived to be 100.

Please check us at or buy at

Chess Greetings
Chess Informant Team

I've been reading their books and using their software for almost eleven years. I started with Informant 64.

64/7 is the game Ribli - Sherzer, Magyarorszag 1995, which after white's move 12 reached this position

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I spent a few hours studying this game, seeking to understand the overall strategy of White's attack. I came to the conclusion that the point of White's 12.Bc3 and the game's novelty 14.Qb2 was a long-range plan to attack along the a- and b-files on the one hand, and along the a1-h8 diagonal, on the other.

Ribli - Sherzer continued (from the diagram)
12...b5 13.cxb5 cxb5 14.Qb2 Qb6 15.b4 axb4 16.axb4 Rfc8 and White eventually won.

I was playing a USCF correspondence game as I was beginning to learn the treasures of Informant, and of the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, published by Chess Informant. One of two games I was playing against Faneuil Adams, Jr. reached the position in the diagram above. That game continued
12...Qb8 13.b4 axb4 14.axb4 Rxa1 15.Rxa1 e5 and White eventually won.

So, I say today, congratulations Chess Informant on issue 100. Thanks for all the years of high quality chess information. Thanks for aiding me in my win against the saint of scholastic chess (Fan Adams was a major impetus behind the rapid growth of chess in the New York City public schools in the late twentieth century).