Chess Elite for iPhone Review


Chess is one of those classic games I tend to always grab for whatever new device I get, so it was surprising to me that I hadn’t added anything since grabbing the original Chess game released soon after the App Store launched. That game served the basic needs of offering me a chess game on the go, but not much more. Since then there have been a load of new chess games added to the iTunes App Store, and the latest is Chess Elite. Let’s take a look at what the game has to offer and whether it is worth your time, money and attention!

The Hype:
Following up on the success of Chess Pro and Chess Lite, 99 Games now presents Chess Elite – the best Chess App ever on iPhone.

Chess Elite is a classy chess game developed with strongest chess engine. It lets you stay connected with friends on the go, so that you never miss out on any chess action.

Out of the package Chess Elite comes with some beautifully rendered and soothing graphics that enhances the game play experience.

Download Chess Elite today and get involved in some chess action on the go

– Strongest Chess Engine with adjustable engine strength.
– Vivid themes of your choice
– Play against device, pass and play locally
– Play online against address book contacts
– Play against online strangers
– Game status option keeps you updated with all active games
– Play multiple games at the same time
– All games are auto-saved.
– Replay and watch any completed games


The Reality:
Someone saying that their game is the ‘best ever’ is like painting a target on their back. There have been many chess games released for the iPhone since the launch of the app store, and there are many facets that make a chess game great, so being the best is quite a claim.


For me, the biggest and most important question is: how is the chess engine? Fortunately, Chess Elite has an excellent engine that offers games that are anywhere from trivial to nearly impossible. There is a single slider that adjusts the AI (artificial intelligence) between ‘Quick’ and ‘Difficult’, purportedly offering between 30 – 40 discrete levels. Of course, chess isn’t just about raw difficulty but of strategy. There are certain moves you can make – especially openings – that should be properly countered. Chess Elite works perfectly in this regard, with simple responses at easier levels and more robust counter-moves as the difficulty got higher.


There are some other very good features. There are several designs for chess boards and pieces, actually nine to be precise – three colors and three styles. When you are playing you can select a new style at any time and rejoin your game. The in-game interface works very well – you tap on a piece to select it and tap on a square to move. If you have selected the option, all legal moves are shown. There is a nice hint button, which seems to be tied to the AI – in other words, if you ask for help on ‘Quick’ you will often get the same irrelevant idiot move the computer would make.

Multiplayer is pretty much as you would expect it for a turn-based strategy game – you make a move, then a notice is sent to your opponent to make a move and so on. Fortunately, in a patch released since the initial game launch, push notifications were added, so if you are doing something else you will get notified that one of your games was updated.


Yes I said ‘one of your games’! A really cool feature of Chess Elite is the ability to have multiple concurrent games, both offline and online. So you can have several friends and have games going with each of them, as well as practice games against the AI. In fact, you can use offline games as practice to understand potential outcomes for your online games. In the menu, you are notified when you start the game if there are any pending actions for your games. It is a great way of handling multiplayer chess!


Now we get to the issues. While the interface while playing works very well, everything else is rather ugly and looks like it needed more polish before release. Polish in general is an issue, as even after the first patch there is inconsistency in the sound effects which sometimes appear and other times don’t – fortunately during a game they seem to always be there. Also, the tap precision for moving pieces is somewhat touchy – it is easy to misplace your pieces, causing you to have to undo and redo moves. It isn’t a frequent problem, but it does happen.


The final question gets back to the value proposition. There are many decent chess games out for the iTunes App Store, and most of them cost less than the seemingly inexpensive $4 for Chess Elite. A good portable chess game isn’t anything new or remarkable – I currently have games going in Scott Ludwig’s PocketChess on my Psion Revo and on Deep Green for the Newton, and Deep Green has made its way to the iPhone in a sublime but expensive package.

In terms of delivering a single-player chess experience, Chess Elite does a solid job, but is not extraordinary. Indeed, it lacks some of the customization features of Deep Green, such as fully custom piece layouts to model any situation. Also, I find the ‘concentration’ setting in Deep Green better simulates human thinking than the AI speed setting in Chess Elite.


So it really comes down to your focus. If you are looking to play one game at a time of the absolute best chess you can get on the iPhone, grab Deep Green. If you are going to play on easy and play only once a month or less, get one of the free or Liet’ apps. However, if you want one of the top chess engines, paired with the best multiplayer available and push notification, Chess Elite is the way to go.

In conclusion, while it may not win the individual gold in every event, Chess Elite definitely grabs the overall medal for best chess game on the iPhone.

Where to Buy: iTunes App Store Link

Price: $3.99

What I Like:
– Nice variety of boards
– Very good chess engine
– Nice multiplayer options

What Needs Improvement:
– Too much green
– Rough interface
– Sound effects inconsistent
– Not quite up to ‘best ever’

Categories: Reviews

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13 replies

  1. Thanks a lot for the review Michael. Glad to know that you liked the variety of themes on offer. Chess Elite does have a very strong chess engine but it can be adjusted to suit the player’s level of proficiency.

    Being the first Chess app to support Push notification, it makes the players life a lot easier by alerting him if a move is made across games.

    We will definitely look into the factors that need improvement and do the needful.


  2. Thanks for the comment! As I said, I really love the game … but you guys painted a target on yourselves with the ‘best ever’ claim! 😀

    The multiple tracked games is a really cool feature, as I’ve said, and one that I continue to make use of! Thanks again for the fun game!


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