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Review: Glaurung Chess

Review: Glaurung Chess—Free Glaurung Chess
Genre: Games
Released: February 22, 2009
Developer/Distributor: Tord Romstad
Version 1.0.1 tested on a 16GB iPhone 3GS

To get the full features of Glaurung Chess along with a strong chess engine on the iPhone or iPod touch, you’d be spending $9.99 on one of the other strong chess engines, like Chess Genius, Hiarcs, and Shredder Chess. The amazing thing about Glaurung Chess is that it is free. It’s also open source, thanks to developer Tord Romstad. I pitted the application against Hiarcs for the iPhone, which is rated at 2850 elo, and while Hiarcs won, Glaurung put on a good show.

There’s also a free version of Glaurung available for OS X, in case you are interested in testing out how difficult this chess engine will be to play. It regularly destroys me in games. As such, it’s not really a chess engine for beginners and people who aren’t serious about chess. You’re going to be regularly defeated by the application, even at its lower settings.

However, if you’re looking for a good chess engine to help you improve your game and as a study aid for chess, then you cannot beat the free price of Glaurung. Any games played can be saved locally on the iPhone or emailed as a PGN file, so that you can load the game later for study on the iPhone or on your computer in a desktop application that supports PGN files. You can also set up positions on the board and use Glaurung to analyze moves. Also, if you’re just looking for a chess app to take notation of all your games or an app to play 2 player against a friend, Glaurung supports two player mode and a wide array of timing settings.

Glaurung also features 5 different playing styles (Passive, Solid, Active, Aggressive, and Suicidal), options for setting the engine to 3 different book settings (high, medium, and low), the ability to set the overall strength of the engine from 10 to 100 (unfortunately, the app lacks any indication of ELO rating settings that some of the other apps have), and a permanent brain feature where the computer continues to think and analyze moves while it is your turn. With all these different settings, you can customize Glaurung’s gameplay level to match your own, but it takes a lot of experimentation and the changing of multiple different settings to do so.

Most of the $9.99 engines available, like Hiarcs, Chess Genius, and Shredder, will play you a game, rate your ELO, and automatically adjust their settings to match your game play, becoming more challenging as you improve your game. These other apps often have a coach mode that can be turned on to warn you of mistakes and bad strategic moves on your part. Glaurung does offer a hint feature to give you advice about your next move, but lacks these advanced training features found in the other apps.

That being said, Glaurung is still a very powerful chess engine with a lot of cool features, at a price—Free—that simply cannot be beat. I highly recommend that if you are considering getting a strong chess engine for the iPhone to improve your game that you try Glaurung before buying any others. It may be the ideal fit for your needs or it may convince you that you’re not quite ready to invest in a strong chess engine yet.

Review Rating: YAY YAY YAY!

Note: I’ll be reviewing the other chess apps mentioned in this review soon.

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