Chess is one of those games that are easy to learn and but difficult (or impossible) to master. Its rules are fairly simple, but devising optimal strategies and planning multiple moves at the same time can be mind-bending. Still, regardless of whether you’re a novice chess player or an aspiring grandmaster, there is a surprisingly wide range of great chess apps available for Android and iOS devices. In this article, we run through best of the them, covering simple apps for quick games as well as ones that include a whole host of extra features.
Chess.com’s Chess app is probably the most popular of its kind anywhere in the world. Its basic offering is the ability the play an unlimited number of chess games for free, whether with the computer or with other players. It goes way beyond this, however, throwing in interactive lessons and videos from ranking grandmasters, as well as puzzle mini-games which help sharpen your skills and strategies. You can adjust the computer’s difficulty setting as you become more experienced, while you can also analyze games after they’ve been played, helping you to spot your mistakes and learn how to improve. There are also a bunch of other nice extras, such as coaching articles published daily, performance stats, and an active community forum. If there’s only one app you have time to download, it should probably be this one, although you do need to subscribe to unlock all of its features, from $5 per month or $30 per year.
Another app imaginatively named “Chess,” Optime Software’s effort is a great alternative if you don’t want to spend any money on a chess app and simply want to play games for free. You can test yourself against the computer and against friends, with the computer having an adjustable difficulty level that accommodates pretty much all players. The app is admittedly stripped down compared to other titles, but it does include configurable player names, a variety of immersive sound effects, and board rotation for two-player games. Another handy feature is that automatically saves your progress in a game if you happen to receive a phone call midway or need to quit the app. Also includes an option to pay to get rid of the banner ads, but otherwise, everything else is completely free.
Here’s a great chess app to try if you want to play with other people online, regardless of where you are in the world. What’s particularly good about it is that, aside from playing against others in real-time, you can also use it to play a relaxed game of correspondence chess, with the app giving you several days to make your next move. This also means you can play multiple correspondence games in parallel while mulling over your next moves in the shower or in bed. The app handily includes an in-game chat function, so you can goad your opponent or talk about the weather. It’s largely free to use, although the monthly or yearly premium subscription removes ads and grants you access to PGN (portable game notation) emails, so you can study games after they’ve ended.
Do you fancy yourself as the next world champion chess player? Well, you can put your own self-estimation to the test by playing Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, or at least a computer simulation of him. It’s based around a specially designed chess engine that has been tailored to behave like Carlsen at various stages of his career, going right back to when he was a beatable (just about) five-year-old. The difficulty soon ramps right up after that, but the app also offers a series of lessons and video tutorials with the world champion himself, helping newcomers understand the fundamentals while also sharing more advanced tactics. The app also lets you play online with other people, while you can compare your stats and ratings with friends, for bragging rights.
Yeah, we know this is supposed to be a list of the best chess apps for Android and iOS, but we couldn’t help but include Really Bad Chess. As the name suggests, this isn’t your conventional, three-square-meals kind of chess app. Instead, it sets you up in games with completely random pieces, so that you start matches with, say, three queens and seven bishops (or nothing but pawns). If this sounds like a fun concept to you, then you’d be right, because the game is addictively hilarious under the right circumstances. The app lets you play against the computer for free, or you can make an in-app purchase to gain the ability to compete against friends (as well as the ability to change color schemes and display captured pieces). Basically, the app is a great leveler, helping novices compete against masters on a more equal footing.
If you want to secretly get the upper hand on your chess buddies, Learn Chess with Dr. Wolf may be an ideal app. It’s essentially a chess coaching companion, with the app’s A.I. playing with you and explaining moves step-by-step so that you can learn from errors and work out ideal strategies. Aside from being able to play against the computer, the app also offers 25 lessons, each of which explores a particular concept or tactic so that you can get to grips with it. These lessons begin with simple exercises but then move to more complex aspects of the game, so it’s great for anyone from complete beginners to more experienced intermediates. The app does require a subscription, but it lets you play three games for free, so that you can have a taste of how “Dr. Wolf” coaches and decide whether you want to continue.
Okay, Chess Clock isn’t actually an app that lets you play games of chess on your phone. Instead, it is quite literally a clock for chess, so that you can play timed games against any opponent who may have accidentally wandered into your house and challenged you to a showdown. It’s really as simple as that, although you can choose from a variety of times and modes. This includes the ability to use Fischer and Bronstein increments, which are added to the time you have left on your clock. It also includes a number of time options you’re likely to find at official tournaments, such as 60-minute games. Helpfully, the clock pauses automatically if the app is interrupted, while you can also pause your clock at any time if you need to do something else.
You might think Twitch simply can’t be one of the best chess apps around, but it actually is. While you can’t specifically play games using the popular live-streaming app, it’s a fantastic place to watch some of the best chess players in the world in action. Grandmasters such as Hikaru Nakamura regularly stream using the platform, while Chess.com has its own channel through which it broadcasts matches and tournaments. The chess community using Twitch is growing all the time, having become particularly large during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s therefore a great venue to not only learn from the experts but to connect with like-minded chess fans.
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