Posted on April 2, 2019 by Wesley Surber

Review: Chess Studio for iOS

Apple likes to tout its iPad Pro and similar devices as laptop replacements. A few years ago I wouldn’t have entertained such a notion, but these days I’m doing more and more of my work and play on my iPad. In fact, my Macbook has been in a box for sale on Ebay for the past few months. My lower-budget Windows laptops tend to compliment my iPad device just as well. While Chessbase remains a staple of my chess database management, a new program has readily taken over much of my annotation and chess management work on the go: Chess Studio.

Full-Featured Chess Manager

Chess Studio proclaims itself to be the first program for iPhone and iPad to effectively manage portable game notation (PGN) files and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been using it for years and it’s hard for me to believe that I haven’t taken the time to write a review. So, here we go…

Replaying a game in Chess Studio. (Credit: Campfire Chess)

Chess Studio is obviously the brainchild of someone who loves chess and is equally as frustrated as I am with the lack of effective chess utilities on mobile devices. Once a PGN file is imported, it can be sorted, appended, and edited in an almost endless variety of ways. For me, this makes it an ideal application to use as a companion for reading electronic publications like Chess Life or the growing library of chess books available on Amazon’s Kindle.

Reading Chess Life alongside Chess Studio (Credit: US Chess/Campfire Chess)

As you can see from the image above, it works extremely well for playing through PGN games while reading the annotated publication. The ability to quickly add new variations, delete variations, add annotations, and make comments to games puts Chess Studio light years ahead of anything else currently available. The board is well designed with several color scheme options and chess fonts. There’s also an extensive settings panel that lets you show/hide coordinates, change some of the board’s basic behavior such as legal moves, and font size.

Adding annotations in Chess Studio. (Credit: Campfire Chess)

Note: My #1 issue with Chess Studio is the yellow background on the move list. I sent the developer a request to let users change that option and he assured me in a response that the option to change that color is coming in the future.

Capitalizing on New Tech

As I’ve mentioned in reviews for several new products including ChessNoteR, I love that chess tends to drive advancements in technology or unique utilizations of existing tech. Chess Studio is a nice program, but what really makes it a powerful utility is its integration with the rest of the Apple iOS ecosystem.

Accessing a PGN file from another app. (Credit: Campfire Chess)

The image above shows how Chess Studio integrates itself into the shared items menu throughout iOS. PGN files detected by the operating system are provided an option to copy themselves directly into the program. That’s how I access files from The Week in Chess and Chess Life. This makes it nearly effortless to import files into Chess Studio.

Final Verdict

Chess Studio is an excellent program for chess players and enthusiasts on the go. It’s well-supported and under continued development, unlike many of the programs rotting away on the Apple Store and Google Play. Well worth the purchase!

Posted on January 29, 2019 by Wesley Surber

The Awesomeness of lichess.org Studies

Chess has a reputation for being a game of intellgience both on and off the board. In recent years, this has manifested heavily in the realm of information technology development. Chess engines continue to get stronger by the day and programmers of all skills are constantly developing new tools to help players analyze, sort, annotate, and improve their games. One such recent development is a growing feature on the popular lichess.org website called studies.

The study system on lichess is, at its core, a highly advanced PGN creator and annotator. It allows a user to create a new study that can be public or private. New moves, annotations, and other elements are automatically synced with the lichess server and between all of the users with access to the study. This makes studies an excellent utility for chess teachers and exhibitions since users can see, follow, and even provide collaborative comment on a game or position. To use the study utility, simply select study from the Learn menu on the lichess website. A list of available public studies will appear for you to choose from.

If these public studies do not suit your tastes, there are options on the side of the page to create your own studies. This is where I found the study function to be most useful for me.

Using the study tool, I am able to create a private study where I can create an individual chapter for each part of a video series I am following or game I am studying. This way I am able to make annotations, draw arrows or circles, and then share those studies with a highly limited audience if I want. Additionally, the study tool provides the user with an option to download each chapter as an individual PGN file in the format of an annotated game. Or, you can download the entire study as a PGN database to be opened in most chess database programs.

For me, the best part of this system is the collaborative elements. It opens up a world of possibilities for digital interaction between teachers, students, and general chess enthusiasts in an intuitive and easy-to-use way. If you have not tried it out, visit lichess.org and check it out.

Posted on October 12, 2017 by Wesley Surber

lichess.org on iOS Is Mobile Chess At It’s Finest

Editor’s Note: This review focuses exclusively on the iOS (iPhone/iPad) version of lichess, but the Google Play version contains all of the same features as it’s Apple counterpart. Performance and compatibility will vary depending on the device used.

Not long ago you could find me singing praises of the Chess.com app on iOS. The app received a major update a few months before the site’s V3 design went live. But this entry is not about Chess.com or it’s mobile app. This is about an app that has emerged as a serious competitor to the largest chess website on the internet: lichess.org.

lichess.org is a 100% free and open source chess platform that offers many of the same features you would find on major competitors, but with some noteworthy differences.

  • Zero advertising! In an age where the internet seems more saturated with advertisements than meaningful content, lichess strips away the advertising model and relies on user donations to fund its operations. There are no premium or exclusive memberships although certain donation levels can get you a special identifier showing that you sup port the site.
  • Unlimited free access! In keeping with the earlier line about advertising, all of lichess’s puzzles and training aids are free to all users. This is definitely an attractive feature for players not wanting to pay for tactics and puzzles.

These are great features, but lichess really shines in its mobile offering, especially on iOS. The lichess iOS app is one of the most polished and useable chess apps out there!

The home screen displays a random Puzzle of the Day along with quick options to start a new game. Simply click the board to access the lichess puzzle repository and begin your training with access to thousands of free tactics.

Clicking the Create a Game button brings up a mobile version of the lichess game creation screen. Users can then link up with thousands of other lichess members and try their skills against more than a dozen different chess variations.

Bullet and Blitz seem to be very popular with many of lichess’ higher-rated players. Personally, I enjoy the 15+15 classical (rapid) time control because it has a nice balance of requiring chess experience while allowing for some time to conduct a deeper positional analysis. Regardless of your personal preference, the lichess app has nearly endless options for setting up the chess game of your dreams.

The lichess app also comes with an analysis board and local engine analysis for reviewing your games. I have also found this helpful for playing the game on the app with a person sitting next to me. Additionally, the Openings Explorer is a feature you will find on most chess websites, but I love how lichess’ version is almost seamlessly integrated into the analysis board. This way a user can easily switch back and forth between local Stockfish engine analysis and the Openings Explorer. This is an invaluable tool when conducting post-mortem game evaluations.

Final Verdict

These days it seems like the world of internet chess is growing faster and faster. New services crop up regularly and existing ones continue updating and refining their products. lichess is not new, but it is one of the more recent services to make a splash in the digital chess world. In my opinion, lichess is set apart from others in that it is a labor of love for its developer and those who maintain it.

Combine these small differences with the depth of features and the price (free), lichess’ mobile app is easily the gold standard for playing the royal game on the go.

Campfire Rating: ♟♟♟♟♟

Download the lichess mobile app from the App Store or Google Play.