I'll say it quietly, but I've heard rumours that some of the members here at Chess.com play chess games with actual physical pieces made of wood or plastic on a real board. Sounds crazy, but hey, it might just catch on!
If you are one of these pioneers then you will already be aware of a major annoyance - you have to actually write your moves down with a pen on a piece of paper called a 'score sheet'. The ignominy!
Worse still, this piece of paper doesn't sync with anything, so when you want to replay your masterpiece in your own software of choice, you have to decipher your abysmal handwriting and manually input the moves one at a time.
One solution to this would be to buy a Monroi Personal Chess Manager, but that's basically a PDA-type device which you can only use for chess and costs a whopping 359 US Dollars! Yikes!
But wait. If, like me, you have an iPhone, surely there's an app for that? Well, I hadn't found one until now but the newly released 'Chess Score-Sheet' for the iPhone promises to fill that gap, so I gave it a try.
My first impressions were certainly good. The interface is quite intuitive and easy to use. First I created and saved a profile comprised of my name, rating, picture and email. When you start to record a new game, you can save the same details for your opponent (apart from the email). I could just imagine asking my opponent to pose for a picture before the start of the game!
Setting up a profile...
There are two methods for recording moves. The first and easiest is to drag and drop pieces in the 'Board Mode', or alternatively use the 'Pad Mode' to record the moves using three rotating wheels which is much slower. I don't really see much point in having the 'Pad Mode' at all.
Inputting moves in 'Pad Mode'
I tried playing through a few moves and recording a drawn result. Very simple, and you can edit mistakes easily and quickly. There is an option to save the game which saves a copy on the app, but the real test would be exporting the game in pgn format. I clicked the button in the top left with a envelope icon which lets you send the pgn of the game as an attachment, to the email address you entered (and you can enter other addresses as well).
I then opened the attachment from my webmail on my pc, and it worked! Hooray! The pgn file was read correctly by both the programs I use - Chessbase 10 and ChessCat.
The app also correctly recognized checkmate, en passant, and didn't let me play illegal moves. Playing through saved games was a bit slow, partly because the arrow buttons are quite small and tricky to press. I would like to see an autoplay option with variable speed setting, and/or buttons to skip 5 moves ahead/back.
There aren't any other piece or board styles to choose, which is a shame. That would be a nice addition because I can't say I'm a fan of the style currently used.
I was also confused by two input boxes when entering the details of a new game. The boxes are opposite 'Section' and 'Time Control' and are pre-filled with zeros. Only by deleting the zeros did I discover that they are for 'Board' and 'Round' respectively. Hopefully this can be fixed easily.
I would also like to see some typical time controls offered as options when you enter something in the 'Time Control' box, rather than just free-form entry of text. Adding notes would also be a nice addition, and perhaps a way of recording the time on the clocks, if possible.
The New Game screen
The developer is apparently working with official chess bodies with a view to getting the app certified for use in official games. If there is enough interest there will also be a version for Android phones.
Overall, I'm pretty impressed with this app. For a first release it's really polished and it does exactly what it says on the tin. It costs $4.99 in the US iTunes Store, £2.99 in the UK Store. Now, that's not my favourite price i.e. free, but it's a nice app and a whole lot cheaper than buying a Monroi!
Disclosure - I don't have any connection with the developer, but he was kind enough to provide me with screenshots and a free review copy of the app. You can follow him on Twitter here.
If you regularly play OTB chess games and later input and save them manually in a database on your pc, then this would be a real time-saver and I would definitely recommend it!