Shredder Chess for iPad
Strong engine in an engaging interface
The first strong chess engine to land on the iPad is Stefan Meyer-Kahlen’s Shredder. Shredder has won a dozen computer chess world titles since it’s inception in 1993, and is part of Chessbase’s range of supported engines.
The original Shredder chess engine is written in ANSI-C, that portability explains why it’s the first serious chess engine to arrive on the iPad. But Shredder is perhaps the only serious commercial chess engine that can be called cross-platform, supporting Windows, Mac and Linux. The Linux version requires Java, and the Mac OSX version seems to be native.
Shredder has made the transition to the iPad’s ARM-based A4 chip. Obviously the low-power single-core CPU isn’t conducive to deep brute-force calculation, but it still plays a very decent strong game with a customisable strength from 850 to 2600. Though it remains to be seen (through extensive testing) how accurate these rating are to real-world ratings.
Shredder keeps track of your playing performance long term and over the last 10 games, and adjusts it’s playing strength based tailored match your own. This offers an interesting game (since who wants to be demolished game after game?). Every time you lose a game, Shredder drops it’s playing strength relative to your own, and as you win, Shredder notches up it’s playing strength.
The interface is initially a little clunky, with the main configuration screen essentially being a splash page. But the meat of the application is a high-quality full-size chessboard. The touch-drag interface very natural and pleasing. The clunk of chess pieces being plonked down is satisfying. Chess software and touch screens are a dynamite combination.
I’d prefer to be able to see all the moves (or be able to scan through them), and use that to jump to a specific point. Navigation is only forward and back currently. The speedometer is a nice feature showing the evaluation of the position, though at times it is difficult to figure out which direction means the position is in your favour.
I’m hoping updates will fix some of these oddities in the interface as well as offering some serious chessplayer features, like chess databases and PGN support (perhaps combined with Dropbox, which seems to be the default way to share data with an iPad).
As an aside to just playing chess, Shredder offers a series of tactical puzzles, about 2000 of them. Every puzzle is worth 10 points, both spending too much time and making an incorrect move lose you points. The positions are interesting, although at times it’s difficult to figure out quickly who is to move and which direction they are moving. It shows off yet another facet of chess software and touch screen interfaces: their potential value as a teaching or training tool.
There’s also an analysis function which is useful for the occasional check whilst on the move. I wouldn’t be using it for serious tournament preparation, except as a form of blunder-check, but useful for lightly examining a game.
Shredder is stunning on the iPad. It feels perfectly suited to the touchscreen. At the current price of £5.49 it is a very worthwhile investment for club players or regular tournament players.