In our chess journey, we all need a good companion. Some are fortunate enough to have a coach or a sparring partner. But for the rest of us, Caissa -the goddess of chess- invented chess apps.
Chess apps are the best way to keep chess close to you at every moment. During breakfast, while commuting, and even for a few minutes before going to bed, you can review your analysis, follow live games, solve tactics puzzles and keep up with the latest news.
That being said, you don’t want to overload your device with more apps than you will use: too many chefs can spoil the dish. So the natural question arises, which are the best chess apps?
The answer varies depending on everybody’s needs. This article will focus on the best chess apps for beginners, as beginners have the most challenging time choosing from the wealth of options available.
But, even if you don’t fall in this category, read on. You might come across the resource you’ve been waiting for to get your kid, partner, or friend interested in chess!
Chess apps for Superbeginners
If you don’t know the rules of how the pieces move, these apps will make for a smooth start to your chess journey.
An interactive way to learn chess that can take you up to a pretty advanced level. If need be, there are introductory lessons for absolute beginners, breaking down piece movement and checkmate.
A fun feature of MagnusTrainer is the use of a wide array of minigames – learn the squares of the board, find the quickest route between two squares, call out illegal moves, etc. – to hammer down the patterns in your head. You can play multiple difficulty levels and see how you measure up against the World Champion’s high scores!
Magnus himself teaches you 250+ lessons (with more being added every week) ranging from basic chess principles to advanced openings, tactics, strategy, endgames. You can educate your step-by-step reasoning with a detailed but straightforward analysis of examples from his games. And you get to see him celebrate your achievements!
The perfect arena to try your skills after a learning session with Magnus Trainer. Play Magnus allows you to play the World Champion at different difficulty levels…determined by his age!
Start sparring with Magnus at age five and see how far you can get. Along the way, you can learn a bit of history about Magnus’s progress and tips at every age.
You can also download video lessons with Magnus to hone practical skills and play GM Judit Polgar, Wesley So, Magnus’s father, and even his first coach. So there are plenty of chances for you to find an opponent of your level.
This game is ideal for getting involved with chess in a fun and absorbing way and can be the perfect cool down after a session of training and sparring with Magnus.
The app is a chess-puzzle-themed adventure with lore of its own. As the Knight Runner, you must rescue your chess army from the mysterious forces that attacked your kingdom and then vanished into an interdimensional portal. Throughout the journey, you will visit iconic places in chess history like India -around the time chess was invented-, New York -during the first match for the chess world championship- and even the future!
Playability is built around the knight’s movement, jumping through irregular chess-boardy platforms and teleportation points to collect coins, keys, and prizes. All while avoiding getting captured by other pieces or falling down the moving screen!
There’s no entry barrier, as no knowledge of chess is required. The music is a solid asset to the experience, and as you advance in your quest, levels get more complicated and exciting, making it quite addictive!
Available only in the App Store for now.
Online chess is the primary way to enjoy chess on the internet. If you have the basics down and want to test your strength, it’s the natural next step. There is no shortage of apps allowing you to explore chess socially. But, whether you are just enjoying a friendly game or you are serious about your improvement, there’s little doubt which sites/apps offer the best experiences.
A note, though, the following is not an attempt to answer the perennial question, “which is better: Chess.com, Lichess or Chess24?”
They all offer very high-quality similar features (several time controls and chess variants, engine analysis, statistical progress, live ratings, opening explorer, joining teams or clubs, following tournaments, watching live shows, engaging with other users, blogging, and so on). They all have something to offer for beginners and chess pros alike, so the simple truth is that it depends on preference.
In all cases, the experience is vastly improved by accessing them from a large screen. But enjoying them on the go is one of the sweetest pleasures for chess players!
The Chess.com interface is simple and organized. Do you want to play a game? Take a lesson? Solve puzzles? They’re all one tap away from home.
Chess.com has tailored its content and app to be beginner-friendly, and it’s often referred to as the best option for players new to the game. For example, the drills feature allows the users to play handicapped games focused on themes like attacking, material imbalances, and endgames.
However, many of the coolest features (not online play) are limited, so you need to consider one of the three paid memberships levels available to make the best out of the chess.com app.
Lichess’s strongest asset is that it is entirely free, open-source, and ad-free. And that all its functions are stunning. It is possible to play without an account, but community and personalization are two of the best parts of Lichess.
The app interface immediately invites you to choose from several time controls and get a game in just one tap. You can also watch live streams, see the activity of users you follow, solve puzzles, jump into an ongoing tournament, and analyze games or customized positions.
Also, in offline mode, the app allows you to play an AI and analyze with an engine.
The Chess24 app greets its users with tournaments to watch and the chance to play games. It is also possible to check the latest news, watch live shows, follow tournament broadcasts, and access the video library with world top presenters on openings, middlegame, endgames, or chess psychology. It is commonly referred to as the best of the ‘big three’ to improve oneself’s chess.
Chess24 follows a freemium model with limited access to all features for free accounts and unlimited for premium members. Among the advantages of going premium is challenging world-class players during a banter blitz session and getting live lessons with top coaches.
Chess study and analysis
After a few rounds at one of the above apps, it will be evident that not preparing for your online battles puts you at disadvantage. For this reason, it is mandatory to have your openings and tactics down. So here are the main resources you need to check to complement your study regime.
How can we not mention our own app? Chessable is the number 1 site for chess study and improvement, and the experience of learning on the go is as fun and effective as it’s always been!
The Chessable app allows you to review your opening prep on your way to a tournament game, do your daily study session no matter what, and keep your streak even if you are not at home. Despite the smaller screen size, reviewing or learning new lines, watching videos, tracking your progress, and managing your settings is as comfortable as ever.
Aimchess is a revolutionary tool for players on the road to improvement, and its users are already seeing their ratings improve 40% faster than their peers.
The app analyses your games from lichess or chess.com and gives you statistical data about your strengths and weaknesses. The main fields that aimchess analyzes are opening accuracy, advantage capitalization, time management, resourcefulness, endgame play, and blunder prevention. It also offers you insights into how well players in your same rating group fare in each category and how much you progress over time.
With all that info, Aimchess recommends which fields of chess you should be looking into more deeply and provides you personalized lessons to work on.
Chessify is an app for study and improvement with a lot of original and interesting features.
The chess scanner allows you to take photos of real-life boards or book diagrams and turn them into positions you can play and analyze in the Chessify app. Combined with a PDF reader, you can solve any question that may pop up during your study at the moment!
It also has access to the Lichess opening explorer, which, combined with a video finder function to search for YouTube videos on your current opening position, gives an exciting twist to opening study.
But perhaps more notably, Chessify provides powerful cloud engine analysis endorsed by strong GMs.
You can also set the app as a clock and use it to play an OTB game, import and export positions in FEN format to share them with other apps, and many more features that are well worth a try.
Chess Fellow takes some successful formulas from social media apps like Facebook to offer all chess lovers a platform to share their passion with like-minded people.
The app allows you to find chess players -other users- near your location (whether in your hometown or your travel destination) to meet and maybe train and play together, or to collaborate online. Of course, you can adjust your search according to strength to secure a suitable match. Interestingly, the app considers personal interests too, even outside of chess!
It is also possible to get a coach, play games within the app, and store them in its game base. Users can also post their games and opinions, and discuss any chess-related topic.
Although the app is available in English, for the moment, its user base is primarily Dutch, so most of the posts are written in Dutch. However, Chess Fellow aspires to connect chess lovers from around the globe, so you should check it out!
Bonus track! The following are not-really-chess apps. These are designed to be a mood setter for chess beginners or a cool way to solve chess-themed puzzles in a relaxed manner. However, they close the gap between amateurs and Grandmasters as the new rules mean that chess expertise is not advantageous.
Chessplode is almost like chess. With the exception that any capture produces an ‘explosion’ that eliminates all pieces in the same row and line. Except if there’s a king in one of those lines, then the move will be a regular chess capture. This feature allows for new starting positions and game strategies, although calculation and evaluation are still things and checkmate wins the game. The idea is to make the game faster-paced than chess, and allow you to “Checkmate even if you are bad”, as the app’s motto goes.
Really bad chess
If you are really bad at chess, you can still succeed at Really Bad Chess! The rules are the same as regular chess, but starting positions are changed for random piece distributions. That means you can have four queens, six bishops, a rook, three pawns, and two knights, while the AI has an entirely different setup. As a result, it can help you tap into a new understanding of piece coordination and appreciation for your pieces’ capacity while delivering light entertainment.
Chess apps we need ASAP
The following chess websites are accessible on mobile through an internet browser, but we can’t wait to see them land natively on iOS and Android!
If you want to get kids into chess, Chessmatec will be a great tool to do so. “Learn and play chess in a new and fun way” is its premise. Created by GM Boris Alterman, Chessmatec focuses on game-based learning with almost no text, and graphics that remind us of Mario World.
Decode Chess intends to translate engine analysis into rich and intuitive explanations instead of cold numeric evaluations. A valuable tool for beginners, club players, and coaches to improve their analytical work.
What is the best chess app?
It depends on your goals and personal taste. There are excellent chess apps to play, study, follow live games, analyze, socialize, and have fun. You need to try them all and discover your favorite.
What is the best free chess app?
Lichess. It offers almost everything that other apps offer, has an incredible sense of community, and it’s constantly evolving and adding new features.
Is Lichess the best chess app?
Again, it all depends on taste. Lichess is of top-notch quality. However, the rest of its functions are not completely available on mobile, so it’s best to use it in a desktop browser.
Which is the toughest chess app?
Chess.com is known to have the toughest player poll for online play, with an entry rating of 1200 and general rating inflation about 100 points under the Lichess ratings. However, since the pandemic outburst, Lichess has been growing at a fast pace, and it’s foreseeable that soon its player poll will be as challenging as chess.com’s. Most people have active accounts on both sites.
Which is better: Lichess or chess.com?
The choice would usually depend on design, user experience. But they are too similar and optimized, so it’s difficult to say which is best. These days, people tend to choose according to their values. Chess.com is a for-profit company, and many users like to give back for the service they receive. Others find the Lichess mission worthy of support and believe in free code, no ads, no tracking, and a site built around and for the community. Again, the best use could be a mix of both, as some features, Lichess is missing, are free in Chess.com, such as the news feed.
Does Chessable have both an Android and an iOS app?