App version: 3.0
Device: Nexus 7
Operating system: 5.1.1
A fun and addictive app with a good and broad range of chess problems, with scope to develop your own.
Chess Diags is a free app (thankfully unsupported by advertising) developed by Olivier Levitt. The app is simple – there is no chess engine to play against – just a large repository of chess problems for the user to solve. Studying and solving chess problems is a great way to improve chess ability particularly for example in developing concentration and recognising patterns and themes.
The app includes 3 separate folders or repositories of problems – in total there are over 1,800 different problems. Each individual problem is identified as a mate in x moves, so it is clear what you are looking for.
Once an invidiual problem is selected, a chessboard with the relevant position is shown and the user is invited to make a move. The user can then play out the position, and will then be told of their success or failure. It is easy to keep track of which problems have been solved – these are marked with a gold star and be removed from the list if so wished.
So what of the problems? There is a good mix to suit all levels of ability. These include a specific repository (folder) for beginners which are all mate in 1. A separate repository includes over 1,400 problems ranging from mate in 2, all the way up to mate in 10 for expert players. This graduated approach to difficulty is also very good for assessing progress.
Sample problem – White to mate in 2 – what’s the move?* (answer at the bottom)
A nice touch is that the problems in the main repository folder (called Wtharvey) are all taken from actual games and so do not feel contrived or otherwise artifical, which can sometimes be the case with certain problem sets. However, this does highlight a gap in that there is no ability to copy the position to the clipboard, or extract the full game to review and use or study in another application.
Sample extract – Wtharvey repository
Individual respositories can be updated from within the app (ie further problems downloaded from various websites) though it is not clear how often (if at all) these are refreshed.
The app has a limited feature set – the main one being the ability to create your own problems (there is a specific repository for your creations – this is empty to start with). Disappointingly, the advertised ability to upload and share your problems with other app users no longer seems to work. Users are also told that self created problem respositories is a feature still being developed).
(extract – Settings menu)
Practical useability and presentation
It is important to note that the app includes no instructions or guidance on usage. However, the app is very easy to navigate and use. Repositiories are changed with a simple left or right swipe. The Settings menu is largely self explanatory though some guidance on how to add material from other sources (Add a source) is needed to be able to use this particular option. Setting up and saving your own problems is similarly not difficult with individual pieces removed or added by touch.
The board and piece options are a little disappointing. There are two choices, though neither make for easy use, especially for extended periods. The options are:
- light chessboard (where there is insufficient contrast between the light and dark squares); or
- standard chessboard (where the dark brown squares clash with visually the black pieces (see picture above)
Sadly the app hasn’t been regularly updated and the current version dates from January 2003. This might explain why certain features such as uploading user creation no longer seem to work. But equally certain aspects of the app seem unfinished (for example a message says that self created problem respositories is still being developed).
- Free and ad-free
- Large number of interesting and fun chess problems
- Ability to self-generate problems
- Simple and easy to use
- No recent updates
- Upload and user sharing option no longer working
- Inability to copy and paste positions to clipboard
- Board and piece options available
- No instructions
These are my thoughts; if you have used this app what do you think…..?
(* Answer to the chess problem: 1 Rf6 Bxf6 2 Nxf6++ )