It's been a while since anything really noteworthy jumped out at me from the field of iPhone (or iPad) chess apps, but the other day that changed when I discovered a new app (well.. three complementary apps, more accurately) that set a new high-water mark for mobile chess-database apps: TWICFiles - A Complete Chess Reference. This one seems like a game-changer - in several senses!
Without naming names (I've forgotten them anyway), the chess-database category has been poorly represented. A few apps have come along, but always seem plagued by issues with usability, poor search features, stability, or sparse game data. Out of the gate, TWICFiles stands apart as solid, usable and useful. What's more, there are plans to add some really great additional features very soon (more on that below). ...Oh, and it's FREE too!
The volume of game data is certainly not a problem here: With a relatively small footprint on your device, TWICFiles collectively represents over 1.2 million chess games, taken from thirteen years' worth of weekly updates published by the well known "This Week in Chess" website (TWIC). I say "collectively" there because the data is spread across three different "editions" of the TWICFiles app: Vol. 1, 1998-2004; Vol. 2, 2005-2008; and Vol. 3, 2009-2011.
And yes, just to be extra clear, all the data is stored locally; once the apps are installed you don't need any Internet connection to review games. (And searches execute very quickly.) The most recent volume is updated with new TWIC data regularly, so you always have access to the latest games & events.
The interface is quite polished. Once in, you are presented with a menu of options for finding games of interest:
- "Players" is a simple text-based search for a player's name (with a nice auto-complete feature).
- "E.C.O" currently allows a search by alphanumeric ECO code only; however, there are plans to add the ability to search for your favorite variations in the next update.
- "Events" brings up a list of recent events, along with a search field.
- "Recent Games" is self-explanatory.
- "Top Players" produces a list of the world's top-rated chess players; just click a name to see their games.
- "Favourite Games" allows you to see a list of games you've previously flagged as favorites - see below.
- "Search" brings up a more 'advanced' search form with multiple criteria:
However you find your games, once you pick a game from the results-list, you get a user-friendly interface for review:
The controls along the top show you the help screen (above left), allow you to add the current game to your favorites list (see above), or access a game information view:
This Info screen is mostly occupied by the complete move-list (it scrolls laterally as needed); clicking on a move in the list updates the smaller board at upper right. (However, in the current release anyway, it does not update the position on the main board. If you hit "Back" you will find the main display at exactly the same point in the game where you left it, regardless of where you've navigated in this list.)
You can also email a game using the envelope button - but be aware that (at time of writing anyway) the notation inserted into your email editor is not true PGN; it won't parse correctly in many chess programs. Support for PGN export is another consideration for the app's future updates.
So what else is on the horizon?…
- Searching for opening variations, as mentioned - along with a complete openings reference for each era, showing metrics/results for individual lines
- Over 1000 games with annotations
- A separate section with game data for the greatest players in chess history, including Fischer, Capablanca, Alekhine, and others.
- Other training lessons & tools - including the ability to analyze with (or play against) a built-in engine!
All in all, this is already the best chess database app I've seen. If it evolves according to the vision, it will soon offer a truly amazing multi-purpose learning resource. Check it out in the App Store. (Again, all three sections are free!)
Volume 1: 1998-2004
Volume 2: 2005-2008
Volume 3: 2009-present