Monday, May 4, 2009

Chess Problems. ($0.99, version 1.0)

iTunes Link.

I've been playing chess since I was five years old and I love it. That's why it's been great to find developers pumping out chess apps, including chess problem sets. Chess Problems includes 100 puzzles. When you first start the app you get taken directly to the first easy problem without much fanfare. A chess problem is a certain pre-determined position. You have to mate or gain a winning position in a certain number of moved. Chess Problems starts with two moves and ramps it up as the difficulty progresses.

The game screen contains the chessboard, the name of the person who compose the chess problem, the year the game was composed, what you have to do (i.e. mate) and in how many moves, arrows to go backwards and forwards through the moves you have done in the current game, a button to go back to the list of puzzles, and the time it took you to beat the problem for the first time. At the bottom it lets you know how many moves you have left. Run out of moves and you won't be able to make any more moves until you press the left arrow a bit.

There are four difficulty levels. Beginner, Standard, Difficult, and Expert. At the beginning you have four puzzles in each category. Each time you solve a puzzle, you get a brand new one. The iTunes description page promises more puzzles in future versions.

I'm not a chess expert, but I can hold my own. I was one of four people that represented my high school at the Florida State Scholastic Championship (in 1995-1996, when I was a senior) and we came in at #2. My rating hovered around 1260 USCF. I've found a couple of the beginner puzzles quite challenging. This is probably not a good app for a chess beginner (it doesn't teach you how the pieces move, for example, and you don't actually play a game), but it's a great app for any chess fan.

There's no music or sounds. It would be great to have to option to turn sounds effects on and have tapping noises each time you select a piece and sliding noises each time you move.

I'm a little torn on the time recording. On the one hand I wish it would record the lowest time but I understand that it would then be easy to just re-do all puzzles once you know the answer to get a lower time. Just make sure you're ready to go before going into a puzzle. I would love to have a main menu so that you don't accidentally go into a puzzle and set the timer off.

I've played other chess problem apps and the ones that offer you help (i.e. they only allow you to select the right piece and then only allow you to move it to the right square, so you can pretty much solve every problem by brute force) now seem like a piece of cake compared to this one, and that makes this particular app much more enjoyable and satisfying.

I see myself spending hours on this solving the problems, and highly recommend it for those that already know how to play. $1 is just an introductory price, and it will go to $2 for regular pricing or even $3 when more content is added, so grab it now!

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