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Review: Chess Genius for iPhone

Review: Chess Genius—$9.99 Chess Genius
Released: December 6th, 2008
Developer/Distributor: Lang Software Limited
Genre: Games
Version 2.0 tested on a 16GB iPhone 3GS

Chess Genius is the first chess application for the iPhone that I purchased. I bought it, because I enjoy playing chess and trying to improve my game, and the application is the only one that will let you load PGN databases from the internet onto your iPhone so that you can study multiple games that are freely available online. You can also save your own games to your iPhone and email games to yourself as PGN files. As a portable chess database, notation system, and study aide, Chess Genius is a great chess application.

However, if you’re not interested in those features, then you’re probably better off with an application like Glaurung Chess for iPhone, which is free and which I reviewed previously here. The feature set of the two programs is very similar. Although both apps have a hint function and various levels, there is no real training built into the apps, unlike apps like Shredder Chess and HIARCS that actually will meet your playing level to help you improve over time. Chess Genius does offer a tutor mode, however, that warns you of bad moves (Glaurung does not have this feature).

Both apps are also similarly strong chess engines. Chess Genius decisively beat Caissa Pro and Glaurung put up a good show against HIARCS, which according to my matches is the strongest engine on the iPhone. I haven’t pitted Glaurung vs Chess Genius yet, but from playing both of them, I think they’d be a rather even match.

It’s not out of laziness that I’m not comparing the two directly in a match. It’s due to a frustrating bug with Chess Genius. If you happen to close the app while the computer is thinking, when you reopen Chess Genius, you will find the sides suddenly switched with the computer thinking it’s waiting on you to move.

Another unique feature of Chess Genius is its ability to offer a landscape mode of play, but, ultimately, you lose much of the extra functionality that is available in portrait mode when in landscape while maintaining a board of the same size, so it’s really not much, if any of a gain.

I find myself having to give this app two different review ratings:

Review Rating (if you’re looking for a chess database application to study multiple PGN databases): YAY!

Review Rating (if you’re looking for a well-rounded chess application): Meh.

Of course, if any of the other leading chess apps for the iPhone were to add the database import features of Chess Genius, then I wouldn’t keep this app on my iPhone. HIARCS and Shredder are both much better.

The developers of the application haven’t updated it in some time and there are some complaints on the App Store of how sorely it is in need of an upgrade.