Customer Reviews: Chess
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on February 11, 2011
I just bought the program today, and played a few games. I'm a fairly good player, but I usually just play non-serious games. It seems to take about 1 second/move on level 7, and about 3 seconds/move on level 10 on my Kindle 2 USA model. It didn't make any howlingly bad moves, so if you're a beginner you should use the lower levels. There is also a mode to play another person instead of the program, and it has a 'how to play chess' and instructions.

Here are some things to consider:

Good things:
1) If you leave a game in the middle and put your Kindle to sleep, it remembers and gives you the option to resume the game the next time you open it, which is a nice feature.
2) It doesn't seem to suck up very much battery on my K2, which I was worried about.
3) It has a good display at the bottom which shows the pieces taken by each side and the moves in standard notation.
4) You can 'take back' moves which is good if you're a beginner. (OK, I cheat sometimes too when I'm fooling around trying different tactics.)

Poor things:
1) It doesn't seem to have book openings, as other reviewers have said, which is slightly annoying.
2) It likes to exchange pieces, even when losing (which is not a good tactic, and typical of some chess programs).
3) When you advance your pawn to the 8th rank, it automatically gives you a Queen instead of giving you an option as per the rules of chess (there are certain times when you don't want a Queen, such as when it results in an instant Stalemate).

Still, in spite of some of these, I liked it. It has a nice, clean interface, runs quickly, and doesn't seem to make any big obvious blunders.

So, if you like to play chess, I think it's priced just right and worth getting for playing a game when you're bored and don't feel like reading.
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on February 13, 2011
I used to be a serious chess player, with a USCF rating of about 1850. This is better than about 75% of tournament players, but a long way from a master. This program has ten levels. Up to level 4, it is very weak and easy for beginners and I won every game.. I lost a game at level 5, and won at 6 and 7. The game at level 7 was long and hard even though I used a regular chess set, which makes it easer to see the game. Above 7, I have managed only draws ( you can't actually draw with this program. I mean I reached positions where people would have agreed to a draw). It won't replace a PC program like Fritz, but it's a great travel companion for non-masters. And it is an incredible bargain at $3!
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on February 13, 2011
This is about the most basic chess app imaginable, and has the feel of something rushed to market without enough attention to 'fit and finish', or even thought as to what a chess player might expect to see.

For example,
- when promoting a pawn, no choice is offered as to what piece to promote to: it assumes you want a Queen. According to the rules of chess, you should be able to pick Q, B, N, or R.
- it does not detect when there's insufficient material on the board to checkmate. For example, when only the Kings are left on the board, it should offer/declare a draw rather than wait for repetition of moves or applying the 50-move rule.
- the move list shows only the last 4 move pairs, and does not use a standard chess notation.
- does not seem to vary its move selection from one game to the next, at least at the levels I played.
- in the initial position, cursor is positioned on a piece that cannot even be moved (the King). At least it should default to KP or QP.
- navigation with 5way is awkward as there's no way to move diagonally. Some keyboard shortcuts could help with this (e.g. set up a navigation 'diamond' centered on 's' such that 'q' moves up-left, 'w' up, 'e' up-left, 'z' down-left, 's' selects, etc.).

That said, it is the best chess app for Kindle - but only because it is the only one right now. A little extra effort could have made it better, and I hope we see a better attempt in the future..
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on February 19, 2011
This is a very cleanly designed and attractive Chess game for the Kindle. It plays to a reasonable standard, certainly as good as the electronic chess games I have, although not as well as dedicated commercial computer versions, (as expected). For the price it represents great value, and a good challenge for those who like Chess at a casual level. I'd wanted a Chess game for my Kindle ever since active content games started to become available, and this does not disappoint. It's not perfect as others have mentioned - there are some improvements that could be made, but for the price this game fits the bill very well.
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HALL OF FAMEon June 17, 2013
I've played a couple of hundred games on my old black and white keyboard Kindle. My highest USCF rating was 2080 when I was in my twenties. (Now my rating is something like 1912.) I mention this to give you an idea of the strength of the program.

There are ten levels of playing strength. I always play at level ten and I don't use a time control. When I first bought the program I tried the lower levels and they were too weak. My score against Level Ten is about 50%. The program is clearly stronger than I am tactically but it has one main weakness: it apparently truncates lines so that it doesn't notice some mating attacks that are going to be successful or pawns that are going to queen or that a forced line is going to allow me to regain material seemingly lost. (BTW, the program does allow for under promotion, contrary to a comment I read somewhere.)

Its opening book is a bit short but it still plays openings at about a Class A level. It does not resign and I haven't yet got it to agree to a draw even when it's obvious that a draw is all but inevitable. It does of course recognize stalemates and three-fold repetition draws. It does not resign. You have to mate it.

The layout is neat and easy to see. The method of making a move is a bit awkward on the old five-way controller but not really a problem. I found no bugs but to keep the same level and your preferences as playing white or black, etc. you have to start a new game while in a game. This is only a minor problem since you can click "Resume a game" from the first screen and then go to the main menu. If you click "Play against Kindle" (in other words start a new game) from the first screen you will have to fill in your name (default is Human 1 through 10), whether you want to play white or black, difficulty level and the time limit (default is no limit). If you go to the main menu directly from one of the saved games (your last ten games are automatically saved) your name and preferences will be the same and you won't have to fill them in again.

I think the program is a fine bargain and I'm glad I bought it.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"
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on February 11, 2011
As a avid chess player, this has been the only app that I have truely been waiting for and it does not disappoint! The engine and graphics both are more than sufficient for me to enjoy my favorite game. I absolutely love the kindle and the growth of quality apps expands the useability of this ereader! What a great game and for only $3, you'll get hours of quality play! OSLS and kindle hit a home run as far as I'm concerned! Thank you!
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on February 11, 2011
I bought this program and have played a few games. Although the game are fun, the game lacks one big component-an opening book. It simply opens the game with the best move it can make. SO, if you are a better chess player, the game will not play any of the standard openings.

Even at level 10, a mid ranked chess player (say 1200 or so) can beat it every time (so long as you pay attention).

For that reason, I rated it only 2 stars.
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on February 22, 2011
This chess app reminds me of the one for apple 2e computers. Its not terribly good at chess, does not understand draw (lack of material), does not understand promotion, and apparently uses a short fixed time slice to compute its moves (meaning: the more stuff on the board, the easier it is to confuse the computer out of a couple of pieces).

If the computer lasts that long, on a simplified board (pawns and bishops for example), it can do decently.

The computer tries to use the center counter defense as black, which if not played by a master level player, is an immediate loss (its tricky to play this well, its used to cream poor players by bored experts) -- basicaly the computer loses on its third move.

If this software is fixed, so that it lets you promote properly, has a randomized move list so its not up to the human to make variety between games, learns just a few opening moves, and admits to draw by lack of material (easy: need at least 6 points of material or a pawn), it would be pretty good. It looks nice, and its not too hard to move (could use a diagonal button though).

Final verdict: not bad for the price, and its something to do when stuck out and about without an e-book, but for a chess game, its pretty weak. For all you kids, if you want to know what us old folks had, if you imagine this game on an old black and white computer monitor, this is exactly like what we had in 1985.
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on July 3, 2011
I'm compelled to take the time this morning to let potential purchasers know just how impressed I am with Oak Systems (the publisher/developer of this application).

I started using the Chess application on my 3rd generation kindle when at the completion of my game I was unable to get the kindle to sleep. In fact I had to do a hard restart, expecting it would be fine after that I tried again, and again after my game I was unable to sleep the kindle again.

I was a bit frustrated but figured something was wrong, not sure what to do I sent the developer an email via their 10pm...on a Saturday.

You can imagine my surprise when my inbox contained a personal response Sunday morning!

The team at Oak Systems helped me out (ended up being a bad install, simple re-install and I was fine), but that's not what I'm writing about. Simply put I've paid hundreds (and thousands in some cases) for personal and professional software with 1/1000th of the support this firm provided for a $2.99 game.

Some of those publishers could take a lesson or two from this firm. Treat customers with respect and show concern, it's a lost art, but not lost on these guys.

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on August 3, 2013
Oak's Kindle Chess software is a solid product, making for a nice break from reading on the Kindle. That said, there's an unstated assumption that you already have some chess experience, although features such as "How to Play Chess" and "Suggest a Move" may lead unwary beginners to believe otherwise. "How to Play Chess" is just that and no more; covering how the pieces move, how to castle and so on. While it contains some tips on chess etiquette, that's as far as it goes, with nothing in the way of tutorials for new players. Similarly, "Suggest a Move" seems to a hit or miss proposition, sometimes offering a useful suggestion, at other times making for as enigmatic an advisor as the old Magic 8-Ball (Ask again later).

But should you already have a fundamental grasp of strategy, Oak's Chess makes an entertaining sparring partner. In my experience the program plays a nice tactical game, rapidly punishing your mistakes but with some exploitable weaknesses on the first few levels. The software seems to value a material advantage, or avoids a perceived loss of material equality at the expense of protecting its King, leading to some easy and rapid checkmates by the human player. The other chink in its armor is the propensity towards exchanging material, even when this leads to an inferior endgame. As a rusty and not-so-talented former tournament player, I'm still working my way up through the levels but have no doubts that somewhere before Level 10, I will meet my match. Experts will want to look elsewhere for a challenge, but for the average player, Kindle Chess makes a worthy opponent.

Some of the things pointed out in earlier reviews such as the lack of en passant capture, no promotion options for Pawns besides the Queen and lack of opening book seem to have been corrected in the version I downloaded. While I can't say for sure how deep the opening books go, the program at least plays the initial moves correctly and will vary its responses as both Black and White. One other thing I can't understand are the reviews slamming Oak's Chess for slow play. I certainly have not found that to be the case. Yes the presentation is minimalist, but to be fair, how picky can you get about playing a $3.00 game on a small black & white screen ? The graphics are quite acceptably up to par in my view. About the worst that can be said for it is that moving the pieces with the directional pad can be fussy, no doubt frustratingly so should you find yourself in time trouble; but that is a limitation of the Kindle itself.

In sum, this is a well priced and worthwhile application for at least moderately experienced chess players.
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