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Strong chess game for the iPhone/touch

Mel Martin

Chess goes way back in our history, maybe as far back as 100 A.D., and beautiful chess pieces were found in Scotland dating back to 1200 A.D. Tournaments started in the 15th or 16th century, so along with death and taxes, chess has been around a long time.

With the coming of powerful computers, chess was a natural to test how those 'thinking' machines could do against humans. I think the first computer vs. human chess game was in 1950 written by Alan Turing. Of course, there was Deep Blue (from IBM) which defeated world champion Gary Kasparov in 1997.

Chess-playing computers have also played some key parts in movies ... like the WOPR computer in "War Games", and of course HAL-9000 won a game in "2001-A Space Odyssey". It's said the creators of the film, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick put in a chess playing computer as a joke because they thought no computer would ever play chess well.

Well, chess is played pretty well by computers now, and a fine, fine application has just been released to the iPhone app store. It's called Deep Green [iTunes link], a tribute to Deep Blue and the 'green' I expect comes from the applications origins for the Newton. The creator of the program, Joachim Bondo wrote Deep Green for Apple's ill-fated PDA, and a few days after Deep Green appeared, the Newton was pulled off the market.

Well, Deep Green is back, and is certainly a powerful chess partner. You can play against Deep Green, and adjust the strength of the chess engine. You can play against another person, or you can watch Deep Green play against itself.

Chess mavens will like that you can set up the game board manually, and you can take back moves or watch them again. The animation is very smooth and the chess pieces are very nicely rendered. I played a few games against Deep Green and it pretty much put me out of my misery quickly. When it takes one of my pieces, it vibrates to make sure I don't miss the bad news. If you quit the game before it is completed, it nicely saves it's state and lets you resume where you left off. (Or you can always resign.) Deep Green will also play back a previous game with full animation and you can control the speed.

Features I'd like to see added are iPhone to iPhone games, either over the internet or a wireless LAN.

The game is on sale through December for 4.99 but after the holidays it goes for 7.99. Another chess game that gets good reviews at the app store is Cyber Chess Ultimate, which is an online chess application but I have not tried it.

If you're into chess, I think you'll like Deep Green. It just might be 'checkmate' for iPhone/iPod touch chess games.

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