Every time I dip my head into the hardcore world of chess I feel like an idiot that has stumbled into a Mensa meeting. I'm not referring to actually playing the game of chess, but all the crazy competitions and other events which surround the game to take it to whole new levels. Today, I'm specifically speaking of the World Microcomputer Chess Championship, the World Computer Chess Championship, the World Chess Software Championship, and the World Computer Speed Chess Championship. All of these events are different flavors of the same type of event where hardcore Chess AI developers all bring their electronic chess-playing babies to compete for fame, fortune, and I assume a heck of a lot of bragging rights amongst certain circles.

Stefan Meyer-Kahlen, seen in the photo above, first brought Shredder Chess [$7.99 / Lite / HD] online in 1993, and since then has placed first at twelve of the various world chess software tournaments, doing particularly well at the speed-centric variety. The iOS version is no slouch either, with tons of functionality that will both provide some significant challenge if you're adept, as well as help you be a better player if you've got a smarmy older cousin like me who always insisted on beating you at every family gathering with a chess set nearby.

It does this through a shockingly adjustable AI engine that adjusts its strengths to yours, calculating your Elo rating along the way. If you're just starting out, you can even move the difficulty slider all the way down and Shredder will even make deliberate novice mistakes. Aside from that, there's a coaching functionality which allows you to analyze your games to see and learn from the mistakes you've made. My favorite feature is the little gauge at the bottom (seen in the screenshots) which shows what Shredder thinks the current winner will be, with some crazy accuracy, regardless of how hard I try to prove it wrong.

In addition, there are 1000 different chess puzzles, the ability to load and save games, and even export these games via the open "Portable Game Notation" format which is email-centric, and can be opened in full-fledged versions of Shredder. Also, by buying the iOS version you get a $10 off coupon which can be put towards the Mac/PC/Linux version which sells for €49.99 or €99.99 depending on whether you spring for the standard or the "Deep" variety.

Sure, there's tons of cheaper (or free-er) chess apps available on the App Store. And really, if all you want to do is play some casual games with friends, Chess With Friends [Free / $2.99] fits the bill perfectly. However, if you're a expert in need of a challenge or a novice actively looking to improve your game, Shredder Chess is where it's at, and has a shelf full of real-world trophies to prove it.

  • MisterEd

    Shredder has longtime been one if my favorite non-delete-able apps. The puzzles alone added hundreds of points to my rating.

    Thanks to Elo Hodapp for reviewing!

    • Macaroon

      Good ol' Elo ; )

    • Macaroon

      Good ol' Elo ; )

    • mrbass

      For the average joe who just wants a challenge to play vs another human player on ipad or a very decent AI then Stockfish (free universal) should suffice. I once tested Shredder vs. Fritz on iphone and Fritz won back in April 2009.
      Here is my post on these forums about that game.

      Ok game was about a 4 1/2 hour brain fest. Shredder lost and gave a me a new rating of 2800 Elo. Wow thanks for the compliment...errr directed at Fritz that is. Shredder did keep each move to 10 to 15 seconds while Fritz would go 4 mins to 10 mins and sometimes and I believe it was 15 mins near the very end. Finally Shredder resigned.

      [Event "?"]
      [Site "Shredder for iPhone / iPod touch"]
      [Date "2009.04.10"]
      [Round "?"]
      [White "Shredder"]
      [Black "Player"]
      [WhiteElo "2400"]
      [BlackElo "2800"]
      [Result "0-1"]

      1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. d3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Be6 7. Nf3 Nxc3 8. bxc3
      Be7 9. Qa4 Bd7 10. Qe4 Bd6 11. O-O Qc8 12. Be3 h6 13. Nd2 O-O 14. Rab1 f5 15. Qc4
      Kh8 16. Bd5 f4 17. Bc5 Bxc5 18. Qxc5 b6 19. Qa3 Qe8 20. Nf3 Bh3 21. Rfe1 fxg3
      22. hxg3 Rd8 23. c4 a5 24. Qc3 Nb4 25. Qxe5 Nxa2 26. Qxc7 Nc3 27. Nd4 Nxb1 28. Rxb1
      b5 29. Rxb5 a4 30. Rb6 Rd7 31. Qc5 Bg4 32. Ra6 Rd8 33. Bc6 Qf7 34. f3 Qf6 35. e3
      Rc8 36. Qa3 Bxf3 37. Nxf3 Rxc6 38. Rxc6 Qxf3 39. Qxf8 Qxf8 40. Ra6 Qf3 41. Kh2
      Qe2 42. Kh3 Qf1 43. Kg4 Qxd3 44. Ra5 Qxe3 45. Kh3 Qf3 46. Kh2 a3 47. Ra4 0-1

      • Anonymous

        Stockfish is very good, no doubt about it. Tord Romstad is a very nice guy for making it available for free. I would guess that the engine is a little stronger than tChess and maybe about the same or a little weaker than Shredder. If you don't have $7.99 to spend on Shredder or tChess, then Stockfish is a good free alternative. 

        It would be interesting to see the results of an iOS computer chess tournament featuring tChess, HIARCS, Shredder, Stockfish, and Fritz. I have a hunch that HIARCS makes the strongest chess engine in the world for portable devices, but the HIARCS iPhone app has lagged behind in terms of features and UI improvements. The "Pocket Fritz" programs by Chessbase for Pocket PC hace been using the HIARCS engine for quite some time, and they have gotten some great results in chess tournaments. I'm not sure what engine Fritz for iPhone is using, though. Possibly an engine related to the Fritz PC engine?

  • Jesus

    Eli Hodapp, is it true that god tells you to stop whacking it!?

    • God

      Tis true, I'm afraid...

  • soixante

    Not sure if I sound stupid, but is there an online multiplayer functionnality ? With rank filters, friendly or competitive mode, ... ?

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      No, for something like that you'll need to play Words With Friends or something similar. The focus of Shredder Chess is entirely on its wicked AI.

      • soixante

        ok, thank you :)

      • http://about.me/davidlnguyen David Nguyen

        Chess with Friends

  • Anonymous

    This is a good chess app. I play Shredder for iPhone blown up 2x on my iPad, and although the resolution is not quite as sharp as I would like it, in all other respects it seems to be exactly the same as Shredder HD. Really this app should be Universal. I already paid $7.99 and I don't want to pay another $7.99 for a little better sharpness on iPad.
    The puzzles are probably what I do the most. And you can stop any puzzle and turn on the Shredder engine to analyze the position.
    There probably needs to be a Chess-related thread here at Toucharcade. There are more and more good chess training and chess playing apps on the App Store. tChess, Chess DB, some good chess opening apps, etc.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah Chess is one of those things I've always wanted to get into but I'm never sure what Apps would be good for it. Which Apps would be good to learn the game well, not just play dumb. And the star ratings and App Store reviews are always so bizarre and hit-or-miss.

      • Anonymous

        Solve lots of chess problems and puzzles and tactical drills and mate in 2 problems, etc. because without some tactical strength you can't do anything. There are some apps available with chess tactics to solve, and Shredder contains 1000 problems, I think. That would be a great place to start.

        Beyond that, I would get some good chess books, and then use Shredder or tChess for iPad or iPhone with infinite analysis turned on to set up positions and analyze what you are studying from your books. 
        What books would be helpful depends on your playing strength. I would suggest "Winning Chess Tactics" and "Winning Chess Strategy" and "Play Winning Chess"  by Yasser Seirawan if you have never studied chess before, and if you are a little stronger you could get something from Jeremy Silman such as the new edition of "How to Reassess Your Chess" or "The Amateur's Mind." You can find used copies of the Seirawan series of "Winning Chess" books for a few bucks on Amazon.com. The newer Everyman editions are just reprints of the original Microsoft Press softcover editions.

      • john

        What would you reccomend more tchess or shredder chess?

      • Tim P

        I actually have the same question, I'm wondering which (for a beginner) would be better, tchess or shredder chess?

      • Anonymous

        Shredder and tChess are the 2 best chess-playing Apps, and they are pretty even overall and both are worth purchasing. But I would probably go with tChess first. First off, it's a universal app for both iPad and iPhone, unlike Shredder. The UI is very good, as good if not better than Shredder. There is an included tutorial app included with tChess on learning to play chess for the beginner. And there is also a 3-D chess board that I kind of like and that Shredder does not really have. Also, there is built-in support for Game Center so you can play against your friends and against other players who want to use tChess to play online on Game Center. Again, Shredder does not have any built-in online play.

        The two real advantages that Shredder has is that its chess engine is stronger, and it also comes with about 1000 tactical exercises to solve. 

        But there are other apps that provide tactical exercises, and maximum playing strength is  going to matter mostly if you are using the App to do some higher level analysis of games and positions. tChess claims that its engine is superior in terms of playing style that less strong human players can benefit from playing against, but I do not know if this is true or not.

        quote from tChess home page: 
        Beginners: Not everybody is a chess master! tChess Pro has unique algorithms to provide a fun, challenging opponent specifically for beginners. Most programs just make random mistakes at their easier levels--not fun!

        http://www.tchessgame.com/index.php

  • http://twitter.com/drelbs drelbs

    Spendy upgrade, that.

    Wishlisted.

  • Murderin Murphy

    I'm a full-fledged chess rookie.  I barely know how to move the pieces.

    Any suggestions for a helpful/starter chess app?

    • Anonymous

      tChess has an included tutorial to learn the rules. Beyond that, I would repeat a suggestion from my earlier comment to get some good chess books and use your iPad or iPhone as a chess board when studying. Play Winning Chess by Yasser Seirawan is a good first book, as are his other books in the same series, Winning Chess Tactics and Winning Chess Strategy. You can find used copies on Amazon.com for a few bucks. All of the book editions are the same, the Everyman edition and the earlier Microsoft Press editions. 

      As for a good app for tactical puzzles, you can pick up "Chess Quest" by Crazy Zebra for $2.99. Improving your tactical strength is by far the quickest and best way for any player below intermediate level to improve. And the puzzles are fun.

      I have some other chess tactics/puzzle apps, but I have not used them enough to review them.

      If you want a fun game based on the movement of the Chess King across a board, then I would recommend "Puzzle Chess" by 415 Games. It may not improve your chess strength, but it is kind of fun! I just wish that the developer had continued to improve the game. I think that it has a lot of potential to get better. It's worth $.99 for sure.

      • Murderin Murphy

        Thank you for the information and taking time to respond!

  • http://about.me/davidlnguyen David Nguyen

    I've tried every chess app during the early days and once this came out (and it was well over a year or 2 ago) it made the rest obsolete.