27 August 2013

A Strong Move

Dragan Paunovic had White and the move in this position. The event was the Open Internacional “Villa de Roquetas,” which he won four months after suffering a heart attack during the Serbian Premier League. His move here is perhaps not terribly difficult to find, but in Chess Informant 113, he evaluates the resulting position as White with a decisive advantage. That evaluation requires some impressive calculation of the refutation of several defensive ideas.

White to move

20 August 2013

Kamsky -- Mamedyarov, FIDE World Cup 2013

Gata Kamsky won a stunning game against a formidable Shakhriyar Mamedyarov this afternoon. Commentator Lawrence Trent calls it the "game of the tournament," as does ChessBase News. Many more able commentators than myself will be looking at this game, which may be remembered for many years.

Kamsky,Gata -- Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar [B82]
FIDE World Cup 2013 Tromsø NOR (4.8), 20.08.2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7

The most popular move, and played by Mamedyarov at least six times in 2010. It seems likely that Kamsky would have looked at these games in preparation.


The fourth most popular move has the highest scoring percentage for White.

Black to move


6...a6 is the main line. It is interesting to look at statistics through the opening phase of this game. White's winning percentage continues to increase as they approach the end of theory. Even so, there appear to be excellent resources in Black's position.

7.Be3 Nf6 8.Qf3 a6

Reference Game: 8...Be7 9.0–0–0 0–0 10.Rg1 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 e5 12.fxe5 dxe5 13.Qg3 Rd8 14.Be2 Rxd4 15.Rxd4 Bc5 16.Rc4 Be6 17.Rd1 Bxc4 18.Bxc4 Rd8 19.Nd5 Nxd5 20.Bxd5 Kh8 21.Rf1 f6 22.Kb1 b5 23.Qf3 b4 24.g4 Qb6 25.h4 Be3 26.g5 Bf4 27.gxf6 Qxf6 28.h5 a5 29.a4 Qg5 30.Qe2 Rf8 31.Rh1 Qe7 32.Qa6 Qc5 33.Bb3 Rd8 34.Ka2 Bg5 35.Rf1 Bf4 36.Rd1 Qf8 37.Bd5 Qc5 38.Bb3 Qf8 39.Rh1 Ra8 40.Qb6 Qd8 41.Qe6 Qe8 42.Qd5 Qd8 43.Qb5 Qe8 44.Qe2 Rd8 45.Qa6 Ra8 46.Qb7 Rb8 47.Qc7 Qd8 48.Qc4 Qd6 49.Rh3 Rd8 50.Rd3 Qf8 51.Rd5 Ra8 52.Rd7 Rd8 53.Ra7 Ra8 54.Rf7 Qd6 55.Qb5 Bh6 56.Rd7 Qf6 57.Qd5 1–0 Leko,P (2751) -- Ivanchuk,V (2779) Nice 2009


Reference Game: 9.0–0–0 Bd7 10.Nb3 Rc8 11.Kb1 b5 12.Bd3 Nb4 13.g4 Bc6 14.g5 Nd7 15.Qf2 g6 16.Rhf1 Bg7 17.f5 Ne5 18.Bb6 Qd7 19.Be2 Qb7 20.Na5 Qb8 21.f6 Bf8 22.a3 Nxc2 23.Kxc2 Bxe4+ 24.Kb3 Ba8 25.Ba7 Qc7 26.Qb6 Qxb6 27.Bxb6 h6 28.Nxb5 Kd7 29.Bd4 Bd5+ 30.Ka4 axb5+ 31.Bxb5+ Bc6 32.Bxe5 Bxb5+ 33.Kxb5 Rc5+ 34.Kb6 Rxe5 35.Rc1 Rxa5 36.Rc7+ Kd8 37.Rfc1 Rc5 38.R1xc5 dxc5 39.Kc6 1–0 Kramnik,V (2807) -- Topalov,V (2743) Monte Carlo 2003

9...Be7 10.0–0 0–0 11.Kh1 Bd7 12.Rae1 b5 13.a3 Rab8

Reference Game: 13...Nxd4 14.Bxd4 Bc6 15.Qg3 g6 16.Qh3 e5 17.Be3 Qb7 18.f5 a5 19.Bh6 Rfe8 20.Bg5 Nh5 21.f6 Bf8 22.Qe3 Rac8 23.Bh6 Bxh6 24.Qxh6 Re6 25.Qg5 b4 26.axb4 axb4 27.Nd1 h6 28.Qh4 Kh7 29.Ne3 Nf4 30.Ng4 h5 31.Nf2 Kh6 32.Nh3 Nxh3 33.Qxh3 d5 34.Qe3+ Kh7 35.g4 dxe4 36.Bc4 Bd5 37.Bxd5 Qxd5 38.gxh5 Rg8 39.Qxe4 Qxe4+ 40.Rxe4 gxh5 0–1 Xu Yuhua (2501) -- Ioseliani,N (2499) Shanghai 2001

13...Rac8 has been played as well.

14.Nxc6 Bxc6 15.Qh3

Black to move


Stockfish 3 dislikes Shak's move, suddenly evaluating that White has a one pawn advantage.

15...Rbd8 has been played in a handful of games 16.Bd4 e5 17.fxe5 dxe5 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.Bxe5 Qxe5 20.exd5 Qxb2 21.Rxf6 g6 22.Rxa6 Rxd5 23.Qf3 Re5 ½–½ Borghi,H (2335) -- Varela,G (2273) Buenos Aires 2000


This move is of the sort that sets masters apart form the rest of us.


"This is the critical moment." Lawrence Trent, Official Website Commentary, with Susan Polgar.

17.e5 Ne4 18.f5!

Kamsky's bishop sacrifice was the only move that maintains an advantage.

Black to move


Mamedyarov could have refused the offer of a bishop 18...exf5 19.Qxf5 Bf8 or Rf8 and a complex battle (19...Nxd2?? 20.Qxh7+ Kf8 21.Qh8#). Trent and Polgar thought that 18...Nxd2 was obligatory.

19.fxe6 Ne4 20.exf7+ Kh8 21.Nxd5 Bxd5

White to move

22.Rxe4 g6

22...h6? 23.Qf5+-.
22...Qc6?? leads to the sort of position that one finds in tactics books for beginning players.


Trent thought that 23.Re3 was an easy move to find.


23...Qc6 was suggested during Trent and Polgar's commentary following 23.Re3, and was still the correct move after Ref4, according to my engine.

24.e6 Rf8 

24...Bg5 25.f8Q+ Rxf8 26.Rf7+ Qxf7 27.exf7 Rxf7 28.Rxf7+ Bxf7 29.Qd7+-


Kamsky shows that his queen can access the long diagonal at many points, and then it is curtains for Black.

Black to move

25...Bc5 26.Qe1 Bd6

Was 26...Be7 better? 27.c4 bxc4 28.Qc3+ Kh6 29.Bxc4.

27.Rh4 Be7 28.Qe3

White's advantage is overwhelming.

Black to move


28...Bxh4 29.Qd4+ Kh6 30.Qxh4+ Kg7 31.Qf6+ Kh6 32.Rf4+-.


29.Rxh5 was a quicker win 29...gxh5 30.Qd4+ Kh6 31.Rf6+ Kg7 32.Rg6+ Kh7 33.Qg7#

29...Kh6 30.Rxh5+ 1–0

19 August 2013

Socko -- Lautier, 2001

White sacrificed a bishop to create disharmony and vulnerability in Black's position. White's pieces do appear well-coordinated in attack.

Black to move

How should Black play?

18 August 2013

Chess World Cup 2013

Terrific chess is on display at the FIDE World Cup, taking place in Tromsø, Norway. Play began Sunday, 11 August 2013 and continues until September 3. At stake are two slots in the Candidates Tournament, scheduled for March 2014. The winner of the Candidates will become the challenger in a World Championship match.

Interview with Mikhail Markov
I have been following the games on the official website where there is exceptional commentary by GM Susan Polgar and IM Lawrence Trent. Polgar and Trent offer their own analysis without reference to engine evaluations. Their analysis emphasizes aspects of the battles that are instructive to average players: main ideas in the openings, common tactical motifs, checkmate threats, and basic principles in the endgames. As games finish, they often interview some of the players. They answer some questions that viewers Tweet to #chessworldcup.

The event is a 128 player knockout. Each pair plays a mini-match of two standard games of 40 moves in 90 minutes, 30 minutes for the rest of the game, and 30 second increment beginning at move one. If tied after these two, they play two rapid games of 25 minutes, plus increment of 10 seconds per move. If still tied, two accelerated games at 10 minutes with 10 second increment; then two blitz games at 5 minutes with 3 second increment. Finally, if still tied, an Armageddon game where White gets 5 minutes, and Back 4, with 3 second increment beginning at move 61. Black has draw odds in the final game.

In the first round, two matches went as far as the Armageddon game. Tomashevsky -- Ramirez was won by Tomashevsky; Melkumyan -- Granda Zuniga was won by Granda Zuniga, who won with Black. There were many notable upsets through the course of the first three days, and in a few cases the higher rated player did not advance to the second round. More upsets ensued in the second round, where there was a single Armageddon game. In that game, former FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov fell to Daniil Dubov after eight draws between the two players.

The initial group of 128 players included most of the world's top players matched with a truly global list of competitors. Only one player is untitled, Mikhail Markov (2304). Markov qualified by placing second in the FIDE Zonal tournament in his hometown, Osh, Kyrgyzstan. During an interview after his loss to Levon Aronian (2813) in the first game, he expressed his sense that he was privileged to play in such an event and to be able to play a match with Aronian. He lost 2-0. Women's World Champion, Anna Ushenina (2500) stung Peter Svidler (2746) in their second game, but then fell in the rapid games, losing both. She will be defending her title against former Women's World Champion Hou Yifan (2609) next month. Hou took Alexei Shirov to the tie-breaks before being knocked of of the World Cup.

Selection criteria for players is evident from a document on the FIDE website: four semi-finalists from the 2011 FIDE World Cup, the Women's World Champion, the Junior World Champions of the past two years, 18 players based on average rating on the FIDE rating list (March 2012 to January 2013), 46 players from the European Championships 2012 and 2013, 20 players from the Americas, 20 players from Asia/Oceania, six players from Africa, six nominees of the FIDE President, and four nominees of the local organizing committee.

After the first two rounds, when the field had been narrowed to 32 players, most of those remaining are rated over 2700. A few strong players have been eliminated. More were eliminated in round three, including the top seed, Aronian. He lost with White against Evgeny Tomashevsky (2706). After needing to go to the Armageddon round against Alejandro Ramirez (2588) in the first round, Tomashevsky dispatched Wesley So (2710) 1 1/2-1/2 in round 2. Then, he won with Black in the first game with Aronian. Needing only a draw with White, he sacrificed a pawn to create disharmony among Aronian's forces. Then, he sacrificed a knight to lay bare the Black king.

White to move

Tomashevsky played 19.Nxh7!

The last game of round 3.2 lasted 154 moves, with Alexander Grischuk (2785) finally reaching a Lucena position against Quang Liem Le (2702).

A few sub-2700 players are going home. India's Baskaran Adhiban (2567) was defeated by Hikaru Nakamura 2-0 after Abhiban made it to round three with upset victories over Evgeny Alekseev (2710) and Alexandr Fier (2595). Alexander Moiseenko (2699) lost 1 1/2 - 1/2 to Boris Gelfand. Norwegian Jon Ludvig Hammer (2605) fell 1 1/2 - 1/2 to Gata Kamsky after Magnus Carlsen's former schoolmate knocked out Sergei Movsesian (2699) and David Navara (2715) in rounds one and two.

The current youngest Grandmaster, fourteen year old Wei Yi (2551) held Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2775) to two draws in the classic games, and will be struggling with his formidable opponent during tomorrow's tie-breaks. Wei defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi (2723) and Alexei Shirov (2696) enroute to round three. Daniil Dubov (2624) will be playing tie-breaks with Anton Korobov (2720). Others going to tie-breaks: Alexsey Dreev (2668) has two draws with Dmitry Andreikin (2716), Yuriy Kryvoruchko (2678) has two draws against Vassily Ivanchuk (2731), and Julio Granda Zuniga (2664) exchanged wins with Anish Giri (2737).

Tomorrow's tie-breaks promise more exciting chess. Perhaps another match or two will remain tied through the rapid, accelerated, and blitz. Perhaps a few of the under-2700 players will advance to round four: Chess's Sweet Sixteen!

08 August 2013

Attacking d4 in the French Defense

In the French Defense, Black attacks White's pawn on d4. If White replaces the pawn with a piece, Black often attacks that as well. This game played on the iPhone illustrates how White's game quickly suffers when d4 is not protected well.

Internet Opponent -- Stripes,J [C02]
Chess Time (iPhone) 07.08.2013

1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e5 c5 4.d4 Qb6

White to move

Qb6 is a common move that usually is played a few moves later. With this move, Black immediately pressures d4.


This move is a tactical and positional error. Black is attacking d4, and White ignores the threat. In the French, Advance variation, White needs a pawn on c3 to protect the base of the central pawn chain.

5.Bd3 is worth considering. In an email game, Black gained nothing with 5...c4. It is generally best to defer this move until White has castled queenside. Black's counterplay nearly always requires flexibility and mobility for the queenside pawns. 6.Be2 Nc6 7.c3 f6 8.exf6 Nxf6 9.b3 cxb3 10.axb3 Bd6 11.0–0 0–0 12.Ba3 Bxa3 13.Nxa3 Bd7 14.Bd3 Rae8 15.Re1 a6 16.Ne5 Nxe5 17.dxe5 Ne4 18.Bxe4 dxe4 19.Qxd7 Qxf2+ 20.Kh1 b5 21.Qc6 e3 22.h3 e2 23.Nc2 Rd8 24.Nd4 Qxe1+ 25.Rxe1 Rf1+ 26.Kh2 Rxe1 27.Qxe6+ Kh8 28.Kg3 Rf8 29.Qxa6 h5 30.Qxb5 h4+ 31.Kxh4 Rf4+ 32.Kh5 1–0 Turner,L -- Weiss,F email 2008.


5...Nc6 is more accurate.

6.Nxd4 Bb4N

6...Bd7 7.Be3 Qxb2 8.Ncb5 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Bxb5 10.Nxb5 Qxe5+ 11.Be2 Bxd2+ 12.Kxd2 a6 13.Re1 Qf4+ 14.Kc3 axb5 15.Bxb5+ Nc6 16.Rxe6+ fxe6 0–1 Liwa,L -- Marcos,J (2200) Port Moresby 2003.


This move is a frequent idea against the French. However, in this game, it is rooted in failure to understand the demands of the position.

7.Bd3!? Bd7= (7...Qxd4?? 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Qxd4+-).


The queen does not threaten g7 because she must protect d4.

8.Bd2? h5

Already, Black has a clear advantage.

White to move


9.Qf4 Ng6 10.Qe3-/+.


White is lost.

10.Qg5 Qxd4 11.0–0–0 Qxe5 12.Qxe5 Nxe5 13.Nb5

Black to move

c7 is often a weakness in the French. White's errors gave Black an early attack, but now some defensive moves are necessary to maintain the advantage.

13...Bxd2+ 14.Rxd2 Na6 15.Nd6+ Ke7 16.Nxc8+ Rhxc8 17.Be2 Nb4 18.Kb1



Black's attack is strong. The knights and rooks are well-coordinated for action on the queenside.

White to move


19.Bxc4 was better. As long as White places targets on d4, Black will attack.

19...e5 20.Rh4?

The rook is not the main target, however. Black is after the king.


20...Nd2+ 21.Kc1 

21.Ka1 Nxc2#

21...Rxc2+ 22.Kd1 Ne4 23.Rf1 

Black to move


23...Rac8 was the correct move.


24.Ke1 Nc2#

24...Rc8+ 25.Kb1 Rcc2 26.Bxh5 Rxb2+ 0-1

Black plans 27.Ka1 (27.Kc1 Nxa2#) 27...Nc3 28.Rxb4 Rxa2#.

06 August 2013

Correspondence Chess on the iPhone

In ancient times, a handful of chess players bought many post cards. They sent these cards to people they had never met, but with whom they played a form of chess called postal or correspondence. I recall abandoning this form of chess when I discovered Net-Chess.com in 2003. Within the next two years, I was playing "correspondence" chess on half a dozen websites that I favored over the other dozen that I had tried. It has been a rare day since 2003 that I do not have at least one opponent awaiting my move. These games range in time from one day per move to ten. Occasionally, a time control requires a set number of moves over a specified period of time, such as ten moves in fifty days.

New terms have emerged for this correspondence-paced chess played on the web. Some call it turn-based chess. Others call it eChess, Slow Chess, or something else. The owner of Chess.com requested input for renaming this form of chess, which there is called "online" to distinguish it from "live". The majority of responses have favored correspondence as the traditional term, but there are dozens of other serious responses, as well as a great many comic offerings.

Chess By Post
Correspondence chess has evolved from telegraph to postcard, then to email. Email chess remains popular, but plays second fiddle to website-based correspondence. This form continues to evolve as players connect to the web, or to one another sans web via iOS or Android devices. It is possible to play correspondence chess on Chess.com via iPad or iPhone, PC or Mac, Android, or even older phones employing Java.

A growing number of apps offer correspondence-style chess. Some of these apps are dedicated to this sort of chess, while others include it as part of an array of features, including live chess, play against a computer, tactics training, and other forms of instruction or study. For example, tChessPro was the first iOS app to offer database support. An update connected it to Game Center, making it possible to play live or turn-based chess on the app.

Over the past week, I have been playing correspondence via the iPhone on ChessWorld.net with the Safari Browser, and also playing via several apps: Chess.com, tChess Pro, Chess Time, Chess By Post, SocialChess, and Candywriter's Your Move Chess. The Chess.com app has the most features, but most of the others offer a pleasing interface.

Your Move Chess
I recommend against Your Move Chess. The interface is busy and childish, and the app quite clearly is aimed at the casual player. Users playing with the sounds turned on (default) may feel as if they are in an arcade. The app makes available "lifelines"--one free per game, and more may be purchased or earned. These may be used to get assistance in a game in progress (something usually considered cheating elsewhere). There appears to be no way to download finished games, nor is it even possible to review them. Many apps carry advertisements, but Your Move Chess makes them as intrusive as possible. Not only are ads banners across the top, rather than below as in most apps, they are colorful and active. A few moves into a game, they cover the entire screen after each move.

This app's one positive feature is a good quality board and set.

Of course, one may upgrade for $1.99 to remove the ads, as well as gaining other features. Game review and download are not mentioned in the upgrade package description.

Chess Time by Haptic Apps LLC offers a selection of four chess sets and four board color schemes, all of which are pleasing to my eyes. In fact, several are a model of simplicity. For visual appeal, I might prefer removal of the border along both sides of the chessboard. On the other hand, getting a fat finger past the protective cover on my phone onto the a- or h-file may be facilitated by this border. Still yet, larger squares also facilitate movement by fat fingers.

Chess Time
Chess Time is not my top recommendation, but it seems adequate to the task. Unlike most apps, the game timer is clearly visible. The time control can be set at any of one to seven days per move, and the timer counts every second. Other app developers would do well to imitate Chess Time's clock.

After a game is completed, it is saved in a player's game history, where it may be reviewed from within the app or may be emailed. It is possible to do both. The emailed game, however, did not adhere fully to the PGN standard. The moves were in column format, rather than paragraph. Some chess database software may have difficulty with such columns, but ChessBase 11 was able to read the game without error.

One problem with the app crops up when a player wished to offer a draw. The offer must be made prior to making a move, contrary to FIDE rules. The correct way that should be implemented by all apps is to tender a draw offer with a move that has been made. Things are a little more complicated when claiming a draw by repetition or fifty-move rule. There some slight variance from FIDE rules might be expected.

The ads may be removed with a $4.99 upgrade. They are usually not unnecessarily intrusive, but a few have had a bouncing red ball moving across the screen.

Options allow a player to show/hide valid moves, coordinates, last move, and captured pieces. It is possible to view opponent statistics, as well as one's own. An irritating player may be added to an ignore list. Sending an open invite will start a game with another opponent. It is also possible to invite players by name, or a friend through email. The app has a leader list showing the top 100 players.

Chess By Post has a name that clearly connects the app to a tradition of correspondence chess. There are four color options for the chess board, but only one available piece set. My fat fingers have had less trouble moving pieces on this app than on any other. The ads in the free version are placed below the board controls, and not unnecessarily intrusive. The full version without ads costs $2.99.

Immaturity on display
Chess By Post has a nice website, where a strong claim is made.
Chess By Post is the only cross platform chess game that keeps track of your skill level and always matches you against players of similar ability to your own.
Jeff Cole, Chess By Post Developer
I am skeptical of this claim. Chess.com is certainly cross platform with a website, iOS app, Android app, Windows Mobile app, and even a Java phone app. Although Chess.com does not automatch players of similar ability, players may set their own narrow or wide rating range limits in their seeks.

Despite a claim that seems grandiose, Chess By Post has many well-implemented features that merit attention. It tracks a users rating via graph, offers three lists of games: "your move," "their move," and "finished". At the bottom of each finished game are rematch and export game buttons, as well as arrows for replaying the game. The export game button opens an email message with correct PGN implementation. All apps should make this process as easy.

The chat feature on Chess By Post is the best implemented that I have seen in an app. Of course, that permits immature opponents to display their character. I have not found a way to silence tiresome opponents, although nothing compels me to open the chat window.

I would like to see a game clock in the app, as the time control is not clear. The game lists display the time since the last move, but this information is not visible with the game board. Happily, my email query to Jeff Cole was answered within the hour. A player using more than five days will be "automatically resigned." He is working on additional chess sets, as well as other features, including facilitating planning notes.

It also offers a list of the top 100 players.

Chess By Post is a strong app, and one likely to get better. In my opinion, it has the cleanest and clearest interface. Although there is currently only one chess set, the pieces are very close to what I would select if given options. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Chess By Post is that it has succeeded in attracting strong players. While testing and reviewing these correspondence chess apps, I have won nearly every game. In Chess By Post, so far, I have lost two of three (one loss was due to gross blunders on my part).

tChess Pro
In my initial review of iPad chess apps, I praised tChess Pro (tChess Lite is $0.99 and has the same online playing features). When I acquired an iPad and started collecting chess apps, tChess Pro quickly became my top app. At first, it was the only app with database capabilities. Now there are four apps that I use regularly on the iPad for reviewing games, and three are on my phone. The features offered in tChess Pro (and the lite version) for importing and exporting games remain exemplary. The same app (with one purchase*) works on both iPhone and iPad. It is even possible to print games from tChess Pro! The printed page has a nice diagram of the current position, and the moves listed in three columns across the page.

The app connects via Game Center for correspondence chess, as well as live. A game timer is visible above the board that tracks the minutes and seconds a player has had the game in view without moving. Thinking time used while the app is closed does not show. Indeed, it appears that such time is not measured. I have a game going where my opponent (down a rook, bishop, and three pawns) has made two moves in the past month. This element is a tad illogical for correspondence chess, and I am not certain of the time control.

The app offers three board designs, and three chess piece sets, including true 3D.

In tChess Pro, the last two moves are always visible, and it is easy to scroll through the entire game and reset the board to display any point. This app remains among the best multi-purpose chess apps, but for each of its main features, another app is better. For correspondence chess play, I rate it 3.5/5. Adding clear time controls would improve this rating substantially.

I reviewed SocialChess (October 2011) after using it on my iPad. It works as well on the iPhone as on the iPad. Since my iPad review, the game timer has been fully implemented. Players get three days per move. When I wrote that review, the app was free, but it now costs $1.99. Moreover, an additional in-app purchase of $4.99 per year is necessary if a player wants more than five games simultaneously.

The game board is attractive, but offers no choices for users who disagree. PGN export is fully functional with annual membership, but non-functional without. In 2011, all users were able to export games as PGN either as email or by copying to clipboard. The latter facilitates opening the game in tChess Pro, Shredder, Hiarcs, CBase Chess, or other database apps.

It is wholly free of advertising.

I rate SocialChess 2.5/5. It has a clean, well-functioning interface. However, the "improvements" seem to be moving in the wrong direction. While writing my reviews of iPhone apps for live chess, I clarified my sense of the difference between my experience with SocialChess and the generous ratings it garners on the App Store: "mediocrity appears brilliant in light of true incompetence" ("Chess on the iPhone"). For those whose other experiences are limited to Your Move Chess and Chess With Friends, SocialChess offers a whole new world. However, Social Chess clearly is inferior to Chess By Post, Chess Time, and tChess Pro. Other apps offer far more at lower cost.

Chess.com has become the most popular chess website. They were among the first to offer apps for iOS and other mobile devices, and their app design remains among the best. Chess.com attempts to offer everything: correspondence chess, live chess, news, video lessons, tactics training, forums. The forums are difficult to access via the iPad app, and almost inaccessible via the iPhone. The other features, however, are well integrated.

Among iPhone apps, the Chess.com app offers the greatest range of choices for chess board colors and chess piece styles. Creating or accepting an open challenge is a snap. Time controls are set by the user with six possible time controls from one to fourteen days per move.

In addition, the website offers an abundance of tournaments, active team play, vote chess, and more. The mobile apps (iOS, Android, etc.) and the website all work together seamlessly.

From an open game, one touch opens an analysis board. This feature (crutch, some say) is invaluable to correspondence chess players.

All games are saved on the server.** These can be downloaded easily via the website, but no more than fifty at once. Downloading the games via an iPhone is more difficult, but this process is easier via the iPad. Premium users may download the games of any player on the site.

As a website site for correspondence chess, Chess.com is a close second to ChessWorld.net in my book. As a site for chess news, it pales in comparison to ChessBase. For live chess, it exceeds all other websites, but falters in comparison to the principal servers: ICC, Playchess, and FICS. For Tactics Training, Chess Tempo reigns supreme, but Chess.com is very good. Second place in nearly every website category may amount to first overall. Chess.com does appear to be the most popular website, although I'm fairly certain that a substantial number of its seven million members departed after a short time.

The iPhone app renders most elements of this terrific website easier to access when away from the computer.


I rate Chess.com's iPhone app 4.5/5. It is my top recommendation for the iPhone.

Chess By Post and Chess Time (see update below) are close behind at 4/5. I recommend them strongly, with preference given to Chess By Post. Chess By Post seems the one to watch as it improves. I suspect that it will get much better. For a wholly Mobile playing environment, it already leads the way. Chess Time has some nice features.

I recommend tChess Pro to those seeking playing environment and database integration.

Avoid SocialChess and Your Move Chess. They are a waste of storage space on your phone.

Update 7 August 2013

I am rethinking my positive review of Chess Time. The app has many useful features, but it seems to court nefarious advertising. This morning, an ad appeared that looked to be part of the app, and offered some sort of download. When I touched the ad, it asked for my phone number (a common technique in cell scams that increase a monthly phone bill). Later, an ad offered a free app, which I assumed was bogus and did not touch. Despite appealing features, I plan to delete the Chess Time app from my phone after my current games are finished.

Likely Scam
Arousing Suspicions

Update 11 August 2013

My game having finished, I confirmed my suspicions and concerns regarding SocialChess. That section was rewritten today.

Update 3 September 2013

The detail concerning draw offers in Chess Time, and that concerning the non-existent time control in tChessPro were added today.


*On the iPad, Hiarcs is my choice for reviewing games because it offers a strong engine and its opening book is geared towards positional play. Unfortunately, my purchase of the iPad app does not transfer to my iPhone. I must purchase a separate app for the phone.

**While I was replacing a lost database due to harddrive crash, I did learn that only my past 5000 blitz games were available (I have played over 8000 on Chess.com, as well as more than 14,000 bullet). My total number of correspondence games from postcards and all websites and apps over the past fifteen years may number close to 5000. My personal database of online games, which excludes nearly all bullet games, exceeds 55,000 games (and I am missing several thousand).

05 August 2013


My position seemed worse in my first thirty minute game on Instant Chess (Chess LIVE--see "More iPhone Chess Apps"). I have White.

Black to move

My opponent went for the win of a pawn.


26...Rac8, activating the other rook made sense positionally.


Of course, with 27.Rd5, we would be exchanging pawns.

27...Nxb2 28.Rb1 Na4?

It is better to defend the knight. 28...Re2, when Black maintains an advantage.


From a bad position, I have achieved equality, although I was a bit overconfident. My opponent's subsequent play suggests that either he also thought White had a clear advantage, or that he failed to comprehend my threats.

Black to move

29...Rf8 30.Bd6 Rfe8??

30...Rfd8! and White's pigs are blind (see Edward Winter's Chess Notes 3494, and CN 5160--both reposted at ChessBase News "Unsolved Chess Mysteries" [26 December 2007]). 31.Rxf7 Rxd6 32.Rxg7+ Kh8 33.Rh7+ Kg8 34.Rhg7+ The two pigs can check and check and check, but they cannot find checkmate.

31.Rxf7+- Re1+ 32.Kg2 c4?

The prophylactic 32...Kh8 avoids immediate checkmate, although Black still is lost.

White to move

Black grabbed material, and then attempted to protect his material gain. Now, as a consequnce, White has checkmate in three.

33.Rxg7+ Kh8 34.Rh7+ Kg8 35.Rbg7#

04 August 2013

More iPhone Chess Apps

In "Chess on the iPhone," I highlighted two iOS chess apps for playing online that are not worth having. Live Chess has nonstandard pieces and other irritating features, as well as a playing environment that resembles Yahoo! Chess (not something worth recommending). Chess Online is vastly worse. The flaws in this app suggest that the programmers need to learn how to play chess before they redesign their app.

As I am going through as many chess playing apps for iOS as possible, I'm learning that many of those available are so bad that they could be detrimental to young players seeking to improve through play on their or their parents' phones.

Chess++ by Fat Bird Games is slightly better than Chess Online, but worse than Live Chess. The pieces are standard Staunton design (a plus), but insufficiently contrast with the squares. I could barely see my rooks--fortunately, I remembered where I had moved them. As with Chess Online, the board has a thick border, rendering everything smaller. However, they do recognize light on right. The app also recognized when my opponent was in checkmate. At least the developers understand the rules of the game.

Prior reviewers warned me that it may be a long wait for a game. Indeed, I waited close to five minutes, but I did get an opponent. I would post the game score here, as it is was an instructive example of how the Falkbeer Countergambit can bust the King's Gambit on positional grounds. Alas, the app offers no means of saving finished games. For me, this absence of an essential feature is a deal breaker. The app claims to save unfinished games that are interrupted by a phone call. I did not test this feature, but if so, it reveals that the developers already have written most of the necessary code for saving finished games. They simply need to straighten out their priorities. Perhaps if they could make the app appealing to serious players, the wait for a game in Game Center would not be as long.*

Good news for the developers: three small changes could vastly improve this substandard app, and hence render it attractive to serious players. Allow games to be saved (and emailed) in PGN, change the colors so pieces contrast with the squares, and remove the border around the chess board.

In contrast to these substandard apps, Chess LIVE by Instant Chess.com deserves praise. The interface is clean, and configurable. There are multiple available time controls from one-minute to two hours plus ninety seconds per move. It is possible to log in via Facebook, but not necessary. There are many strong players using the app. My opponent clobbered me in the game from which the screenshot emanates, and yesterday I was schooled by a young Los Angeles-based model whom I was privileged to coach when he was in high school.

Instant Chess.com has been online since 2000.** Games played with the app are saved online for one week, and can be easily downloaded individually or all in a batch. This essential feature could be improved if the PGN data included the date the game was played, player ratings, and the time control. As with most chess apps, it is also possible to play against an AI opponent (called "coach" in Chess LIVE). Those playing with the Facebook version of the app can share easily a game that just finished.***

One major drawback to the app is that users are able to play only a limited number of games free (50 for those getting the Facebook Bonus). In-app purchases extend these limits, but strike me as rather expensive: $6.99 for 100 games, or $7.63 per month for unlimited play.

In contrast, Chess.com, which offers features too numerous to name, offers premium membership for as little as $5 per month (or $29 per year). Moreover, non-paying members may still play as many games as they like, limited only in the number of concurrent games. Their iPhone/iPad app offers some of the best online play--live and turn-based--available for iOS. Some features, such as the entertaining and instructive forums, are more easily accessed vis the iPad than the iPhone. Tactics trainer and video lessons have direct links from the home screen on both iPhone and iPad versions. Chess LIVE (Instant Chess) is vastly superior to most available apps for playing chess online on the iPhone, but it remains far outside of the league of Chess.com's app.

*If Game Center could match chess players across apps, it would become useful.

**My recollection, possibly in error, is that Instant Chess.com initially offered only play against a computer opponent, and that it was not possible to save games unless one took the time to review them afterwards and record the moves by hand.

***The option of sharing individual games on Facebook was part of Chess.com (a different site than Instant Chess.com) as recently as one year ago. No longer. Instead, those who enable Facebook sharing do not see that batches of their games (often embarrasing losses) appear in the FB news feeds of their friends. Aside from this defect, the Chess.com app remains vastly superior to Chess LIVE (Instant Chess).

02 August 2013

Chess on the iPhone

Only a few years ago, I played against Chessmaster on my Motorola RAZR while walking on the treadmill. The RAZR had more RAM than my first desktop computer, and yet Chessmaster could be defeated on its highest levels. There were better phones in 2007, and perhaps there were better chess playing programs for the phone then.

Today the choices are overwhelming. There are many hundreds of chess apps available for smartphones, and the number seem to grow daily. There are apps for playing against the phone, and against human opponents. There are apps for reading chess books, solving chess problems, and studying master games. When I wrote "Chess on the iPad" (January 2011), the number of chess apps for the iPhone/iPad/iPod numbered in the dozens. Only one that I was able to find contained database features. Many were versatile playing programs. Some offered tactics exercises.

For online chess playing, a quick search of the app store for "chess online" from the iPhone turns up 145 results (the same search with the iPad brings 147). The actual number of apps must be lower, for when I scroll through the list, some apps reappear multiple times. Some have free or lite versions that appear in the list separate from full versions that are not free. Social Chess and the Chess.com app appear near the top of both searches. Some apps contain several games, including checkers, chinese checkers, and word games. One app is for Junqi, a game as closely related to Stratego as to Xiangqi (called Chinese chess).

After weeding out those unrelated to the target search, more than two dozen remain that offer online chess. Many of these connect via Game Center or to FICS. I have tried and continue to try many of these apps, and most prove that they fail to meet my standards. Live Chess by DreamOnline, Inc. is a good example. With 258 ratings in the store, it averages four stars. The description claims innovative graphics, and an app focused upon live online chess.

I found a game quickly; in fact, I was challenged within half a minute of logging on. My first move was awkward. After tapping my pawn, and tapping its destination square, I had to tap a third time on the pop-up bubble telling me the move in (slightly non-standard) chess notation. A few moves later, I captured a screenshot of this irritating feature. In the image, my opponent's last move is highlighted, as is my intended square. All squares where my queen may move are marked by shields (this feature can be turned off). My opponent's name is upside down at the far end of the board.

The chess pieces resemble balloons more than standard chess pieces. These can be toggled to show the board in 3D, and in that mode zooming and rotation are possible. I prefer Staunton 2D diagrams.

After the game, my opponent left me a message that he or she was returning to the lobby.* It took me a minute to find that there was an x in the upper left-hand corner allowing me to close this message and resume my search for the game score and some means of saving it. Later, reopening the program, I discovered that ability to save games is available as a $0.99 add-on.

The app runs advertising across the bottom when in the lobby, but not while playing. The second game took some time to find, and I did not need a PGN record. Although White's alleged rating was in the high-1900s, the game ended quickly. 1.f4 e5 2.f5 d5 3.g4 Qh4#. I had Black. My first game was a hard-fought draw, although my opponent missed an elementary tactic that would have netted a rook and pawn for a knight. After two games, I deleted the app and moved on. I would give it one star.

Chess Online by Digital Future Games is far worse. In the image (left), note the dark square in the right corner. The developers need to learn the rules of chess.

The pieces are standard Staunton, but with shadows, and they crowd the squares. Pawns should not be larger than bishops. The board is too small. The iPhone screen is small enough. The chess board should not be shrunk further by surrounding it with a thick border. Dots telling a player where the tapped piece can move do not appear optional. The timers count up, tracking total time used.

Chess Online is a Game Center app, and it awards points for wins, and for pieces capturered. I won some sort of Sir Lancelot Award when I captured my opponent's queen. Messages from the opponent obscure the game board, and then fade. As if the graphics are not bad enough, in the first game, my opponent was able to move his king two squares to escape checkmate. On my next move, I checkmated him a second time. Then, I received a message that I won by default because he abandoned the game. The second game ended the same way--by default when my checkmated opponent abandoned the game.

I could find no indication that games were saved in a format accessible to me.

It required an app as bad as Chess Online for me to begin to understand the praise heaped on apps like Live Chess. Neither is worth my time, but one is vastly worse. As I suggested in my review of  Social Chess (October 2011), mediocrity appears brilliant in light of true incompetence. Social Chess is simple, and reasonably good. It is vastly better than Chess With Friends, which is its major point of reference. But, to call it the "best chess app" reveals only the poverty of one's experiences with quality online chess.

There are good chess apps available. Indeed, there are quite a few. I play online almost every day with the Chess.com app. I have accessed FICS via Chess-wise Pro (see "Chess Tactics Training on the iPad"). I have played on ICC via several apps. The Playchess server has an app for its site. These apps all offer clean boards, some user choices in color and piece design (in most cases), full PGN support, and an abundance of competition challenging even for Grandmasters.

*The word "lobby" on a chess site always makes me think of Yahoo! Chess. Ed Collins offered a perceptive comparison table fifteen years ago that remains relevant today, "Yahoo! Chess vs. the Chess Servers." I get the sense that there are many yahoos in the app store.

01 August 2013

Gambit: Origin and Definition

In modern chess terminology, the term gambit refers to the offer of material for positional compensation. In the King's Gambit, for example, White offers the f-pawn for control of the center and rapid mobilization. Black may reply with the Falkbeer Countergambit, practically compelling White to gain a pawn at the cost of disharmonious development.

The term gambit originates as an Italian wrestling term, and appears to have been in use by chess players in Rome in the mid-sixteenth century. Ruy Lopez learned the term while visiting Rome in 1560, and he introduced it into print in his text the following year (see "Damiano's Gambit"). According to Lopez, gamba means leg, and gambitare means to set traps.

The original English spelling (gambett) was introduced by Gioachino Greco, and is derived from Italian; the modern English spelling derives from Lopez's Spanish. Francis Beale's publication of one of Greco's manuscript texts offers a provocative definition of the term.
[A] Gambett signifies here a game, so contrived, that he which loseth shall have a palpable reason for every remove he maketh, whereas the reasons of the removes of the winner are so hard to be found out, that they seem rather preposterous, and unfitting, which sheweth the excellent contrivance and invention of the Authors of them.
The Royall Game of Chesse-Play (London, 1656), frontmatter.