Chess apps for the iPad and other iOS devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad Mini) proliferate. When I wrote my initial review of iPad chess apps, there were slightly more than a dozen. Now, it would take some effort to count all of the available programs in the Apple App Store. There might be dozens of applications specifically designed for chess tactics training. Other multipurpose apps offer training resources. Currently, I am using five apps in my tactics training: Chessimo, Chess Quest, Chess-wise Pro, Shredder, and Tactic Trainer. What are the principal features of each? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Read on.
Chessimo offers training in tactics, endgames, strategy, and openings. It also has a rating estimator offering play against Crafty, and can transform the iPad into a chess set with clocks. There are over 800 classic games included for playing through, and these are referenced in the opening training.
The rating estimator should not be taken seriously. I found that Crafty played typically absurd "weak" computer moves until my rating was near 1400, then became far tougher than players at that level. Nevertheless, I discovered a weakness, and by playing the same game repeatedly was able to push my rating over 2300.
For players just beginning tactics training, Chessimo is worth considering. It may also be useful for improving board vision for stronger players (I hope so). The app is free, and lets the user play through the first four units of the first training module. Each unit introduces thirty problems, and then repeats them, or repeats exercises from previous units. An in-app purchase ($2.99) opens the rest of the tactics modules (five total, consisting of 51 units each). For $7.99, the user may purchase all modules in tactics, endgames, commented endgames, strategies, and openings.
Chessimo's method is repetition. Each exercise is repeated six times. The tactics begin with one-move checkmates, then two-move. Eventually, checkmate threats are present, but such tactical motifs as interference must be employed for the solution. The exercises are timed. If the answer is not found before time runs out, the app executes the solution. The time per exercise can be modified by the user, and the solution can be turned off.
Chessimo has vastly more exercises than most other training apps, but the difficulty level of these may be of little benefit to advanced players. Even so, the large quantity of problems that gradually increase in difficulty drills essential patterns into the memory. At least some of the checkmate in two problems come from the same games as the checkmate in one.
The app tracks haw many problems I have solved, the average time for each set, and the total time.*
As with all automated chess training programs, alternate solutions are not always supported. Sometimes, the preferred solution is not the best (see "Endgame Training with Chessimo"). Chessimo works in landscape mode on the iPad and does not rotate.
GM Gilberto Milos selected the exercises.
Chess Quest offers 1200 exercises in six levels (200 each). After the so-called "Basic Level" for beginners, the exercises in the Level 1 are comparable to the educational exercises in the Anthology of Chess Combinations. In fact, some of them are the same exercises. Exercises in level five are challenging for advanced players, perhaps even for masters.
The app has a simple design. Pressing a plus advances through the exercises in each level, or through the several levels. The user may configure whether the objective (White to checkmate, White to draw) is announced at the start of the problem, or remains hidden. I find this feature useful, and have turned off the notification. Hence, I must assess whether I am playing to win or to draw. Sometimes. the objective is merely to gain an advantage, or to avoid losing equality.
The quality of the problems selected is a significant strength of Chess Quest. They are well chosen.
The app works in portrait mode and does not rotate. I paid $4.99 for the app, but this price is a sale price "for a limited time."
GM Leonid Yudasin selected the exercises.
Chess-wise Pro ($4.99) is a comprehensive chess program offering play against the computer, six-piece Nalimov tablebase access, online playing at FICS, database features, and tactics training. There are 300 training exercises. Through the first 100, a hint can be seen on request.
The app tracks which exercises have been completed. All exercises are accessible from the entry screen, making it possible to solve them in any order, and to return to any problem at any time. After I completed all 300 exercises, I was able to reset the list so that all are marked as unsolved. I like the possibility of going through the whole set a second time.
I use Chess-wise Pro as an integral part of my training, but do not rely upon it. I recommend against using it to the exclusion of other resources.
Several sets of chess pieces are available to suit different preferences. The app rotates fully.
Shredder ($7.99) is a terrific training tool as a playing program, and it offers 1000 tactics problems to solve with the clock ticking. Speed and accuracy are necessary for full score.
Most of the problems are slightly less challenging than the norm in Chess-wise Pro, but the timer balances the effort needed. Shredder is an integral part of my chess training. Recently, I completed my second pass through all 1000 problems. In 2013, I aim to complete my third, but with a higher scoring percentage than achieved through the first two passes.
There are several board colors and piece sets from which the user may choose to render the appearance aesthetically pleasing. The app rotates fully.
See my more in-depth review at "Tactics Training: Shredder iPad App."
Tactic Trainer ($2.99) offers exercises to be solved that increase in difficulty after success, and decrease in difficulty after failure. The developers claim that it contains more than 20,000 problems. Solving the problems produces a rating--Glicko rating system--that determines the level of problems presented.
Weaknesses are that access to problems previously solved does not permit trying again. An update in May 2013 added tracking for number of problems attempted, and how many were solved correctly. The app is like a Chess Tempo lite with minimal capabilities for review, and with limited performance data. However, Chess Tempo requires a web connection. Tactic Trainer can be used in the back country or on an airplane far from internet access.**
The app offers a range of chess sets and pieces from which to choose (slightly fewer than Shredder). It rotates fully.
See my in-depth review at "Tactic Trainer for iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android: Review."
I believe these five apps are among the best resources for tactics training using the iPad (or iPhone and iPod touch). But, it may be that there is a terrific app unknown to me. Please leave a comment if you know of one that should have been mentioned in this comparative review.
*In two and one-half weeks use, I have spend more than five and one-half hours on tactics (1707 exercises) and another two and one-half on endgames (307 exercises).
**This paragraph was altered 8 June 2013 to reflect changes included in an app update several weeks earlier.
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