Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Two Killer Apps for the iPod

Months ago I looked into chess applications for my iPod Touch and didn't find anything that grabbed me. I checked again this last weekend and found two I was quite pleased with. One is free, and one is ten bucks. Which is for you?

Glaurung is the free chess app. You can vary its playing strength on a scale from 0 to 100. You can play against it or analyze with it (best line only shown), and can set up positions. There are several different preset time controls, and you can tweak other options such as permanent brain, play style, and book variety. One advantage that Glaurung has is that it can save games or load them from a .pgn file. I have no idea where this .pgn file is located, or if it syncs to your computer, but it at least means you can save games.

Shredder has an app available for $10. What do you get for your money? First, you can vary the play strength from 850 to 2400 Elo (I can't independently verify the accuracy of its Elo scale, but I like it better than Glaurung's 0-100). It can also be set to automatically adjust its rating to your level as you play games. You can adjust its play style, and can turn on a coach feature. The one main drawback to Shredder is that, at least in the current version, you cannot save your game. However, you can email it.

One final edge that Shredder has is that it has a database of 1000 test positions built into it that you can solve. The points you get for each puzzle depends both on accuracy and speed of solving. I like this feature a lot, although for some of the positions it says "you have solved this puzzle" after getting the first few moves correct, when I would still like to see a few moves further into the solution. this isn't a big deal, though, because you can stop the quiz and select "play this position".

So far my conclusion is: Shredder has the advantage if you're looking for a program to play against. The Elo rating with a sliding scale and automatic adjustment to match your play level is a nice feature, and I really like the puzzle feature. However, if you want to be able to save your games (e.g. if you don't have email access and can't email the game to yourself), or if you're thrifty, Glaurung is really quite nice. Both look attractive, and both appear to be hideously strong (I'm worried about the consequences this technology will have on tournament play). If you're serious about chess, and can already afford an iPhone or iTouch, then I don't think you'll regret purchasing Shredder...but you can download Glaurung first and then decide if you really want or need more.

1 comment:

Steve in TN said...

I have a Blackberry Bold and the best I found for it is Chessmaster ($9.95 I think). I just upgraded from the Pocket PC (WinCE) and on that I used Mobile Thinker which is free. With Mobile Thinker I could log on to ICC and FICS. I havent found anything to log on with the Blackberry.

I'm hoping more stuff (especially freeware) comes available...