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In-Depth Review

Chess Pro for iPhone from 99Games

Chess Lite and Chess Pro from 99Games are Chess programs for the Apple iPhone. Chess Lite is for beginners who want to learn the rules and hone their skills. Chess Pro is for seasoned Chess players. Some early Chess programs for the iPhone have been criticized for various reasons, so iPO took a look at Chess Pro, the most recently introduced, full featured Chess program for the iPhone.

Both programs make use of a well tested Chess engine, GNU Chess, which is open source and available to any developers so long as they comply with the GNU Public License (GPL). On really fast hardware, GNU chess has an estimated ELO rating of 2750, but on the Apple iPhone, I wouldn't expect the program to be able to achieve that rating.

Wood Theme 9 (Chess Pro)

I selected the "Medium" strength playing level from "Easy," "Medium," and "Hard" and played a complete game -- which I won. The program was accurate and merciless at the Medium level, but my estimate, based on my previous experience is that the ELO rating is about 1700. If the Hard level could achieve an Expert Rating of 2000 on an iPhone, that would be sufficient to challenge all but the most advanced club and competitive players -- who, of course, would be developing their skills against human players and desktop Chess programs.

My game included castling on both sides, but didn't include en passant or promotions, so those functions remain untested.

I found the program to be easy to use. The player can drag pieces or, alternatively, touch the piece, then the destination square. There were no annoying UI issues or chess issues in the 30+ move game.

I did discover, however, that while a game in progress (up to five) can be saved and later resumed, the complete log of the game cannot be saved at the conclusion. The developer told iPO that the logging is disabled in order to improve performance. They are thinking about outputting a log of the game in a future version.


  • Three levels of play
  • Opening book
  • Three GNU Chess variants: Normal, Suicide and Losers
  • Undo option
  • Next move hint
  • Legal moves highlighted
  • Save, Load, Resume
  • Play against friends or against the program as White or Black

Options Screen


In this "First Look" review of version 1.1, I found Chess Pro to be an error free and fun Chess game to play. There are several levels, playing modes and themes to choose from. The developer has been very approachable in e-mails, and I sense he's working hard to keep this program free of the criticisms that have plagued others. I believe the "Hard" level will keep 99 percent of the casual wood pushers continuously challenged, and the price is very modest.

The game requires OS X iPhone 2.0 or later.

Just The Facts

Chess Pro from 99Games

MSRP US$3.99

Pros:Capable of challenging play on an iPhone for casual players, easy, intuitive interface, great looking chess boards, modest price.

Cons:Cannot save log of finished game.

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