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Comparative review: Online Chess Games for the iPhone & iPod touch

In preparation for my round table reviews of some of the best chess platforms and chess engines for the iPhone and iPod touch (apologies for the delays on these), I thought I’d do an overview review of some of the best way to play online chess against other real live humans. I’ll be taking a look at 5 apps that offer online play: Chess with Friends, Cyber Chess, Versus Chess, Chess Elite, and Chess.com.


Chess.com doesn’t have an official iPhone app (yet; there is talk of one in the works) but the entire site runs via javascript and you can play full timed games online or correspondence chess via Mobile Safari on the iPhone or iPod touch. The site includes puzzles, videos, training materials, gives you a rating based on your gameplay, and is pretty useful for anyone interested in chess. Although there is a membership you can sign up and pay for, a lot of Chess.com’s features are free. Review Rating: YAY YAY YAY!

Chess with Friends

I previously reviewed Chess with Friends alongside Words with Friends and it is definitely my favorite way to play chess against other actual people on my iPhone. The app is free (direct iTunes link), which is a huge plus, and it allows you to play chess in a way that works with your schedule. You receive email notifications whenever it is your move and if you and the person you are playing against are both online, you can even play a “live game.” Your opponent’s presence is indicated by little eyes appearing in the upper right hand corner of the screen. You can also review games you’ve played after they are complete, navigating through your moves with a back and forward key, and you can chat with your opponents. Unfortunately, there is no way to export the PGN of played games, which would really make this app great. Also, for those of you looking for a chess engine to play against rather than a human, Chess with Friends contains no such option. However, it is free. Review Rating: YAY YAY YAY!

Versus Chess

Versus Chess ($5.99; direct iTunes link) was one of the first chess apps that allowed online play on the iPhone and it seems to now have a good following of users. You play the games live online against other players, but there are also some bots mixed in that you will get to play every once in a while. Also, at $5.99, the application is a bit over-priced considering that there are free options out there that provide the same online play. Review Rating: Meh.

Chess Elite

Chess Elite ($3.99; direct iTunes link) is the first iPhone chess app to offer push notifications when it is your turn to move. The notifications come in the form of a sound (that can be picked from a list of various sounds) and an updated number on the app’s badge that indicates how many games are waiting for your response. To play the game online, you have to sign up for a free account with 99Games and you then challenge and receive challenges from other players. Then games proceed much the same as games in Chess with Friends, but instead of receiving email notifications of when it’s your move, you receive push notifications. You can also play live against someone if the person is there, but there’s no real indication that your opponent is looking at the board. The game also has a basic chess engine so that you can play local games against your iPhone or against other people. All in all, the push notifications are cool, but $3.99 is a bit expensive when there are options like Chess with Friends available. Review Rating: Somewhere between Meh and YAY!

Cyber Chess

Cyber Chess ($0.99;direct iTunes link) is great because it lets you play online on either FICS and ICC, two of the more popular free online chess clubs, complete with ratings and ranked games. It also has a basic chess engine and a rudimentary training mode to teach you how to play chess. Overall it’s a great app that is worth the current $0.99 sale price, so grab it before it goes back up to $4.99. Review Rating: YAY YAY YAY!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • janptr 10/3/2009, 4:37 pm

    Will add that myself is using Chess Elite and very happy with the application. Just waiting more people to join and have many exciting battles going on at the same time. Today they changed the price from $4 to $1! After make the registration all players is starting at a Elo of 1600 and that will change each time after winning/losing the games.