Chess Builds Better Brains: 18 of the Best iOS Chess Apps to Improve Your Game (And Your Mind)


I love chess. I love what the game does for the brain. Chess isn’t a game for smart people… chess makes you smart. The cerebral battle over the checkered board develops mental acuity and whole-brain thinking. It just takes a little bit of study and a whole lot of practice.

Only a chess player knows the bone-deep thrill of coming up with an astonishing move after a long, deep analysis. Only a wood-pusher understands the deep compliment of having a commentator annotate a move with an exclamation mark. (Oh joy! Oh wonder!) An exceptional move is always a deeply innovative solution to a complex problem.

Chess encourages both logical deduction and creativity, both narrow analysis and the synthesis of multiple variables into an elegant solution. Chess players are intentional and reflective thinkers – capable of startling those in the know with innovative and unusual combinations. No wonder then that it has been touted for so long as an educational tool.

There are numerous studies that show the strong correlation between mental agility and chess. For my money, the correlation is strong enough to prove at least a partial causal relationship. I am so convinced of this that I began a chess program at my school two years ago. I am still in the process of evaluating the long-term effects of exposing students to chess in an academic context, but so far the results look promising.

battle black blur board game
Photo by Pixabay on


The idevices love education. And the idevices love chess. For reasons I mentioned in a previous post, touching a screen by-passes the usual user-interface devices and provides for a more immediate experience. With chess, tablet devices and touch screen technology provide the closest simulation of the experience of playing a living opponent. This means that the benefits are also more immediately tangible.

The apps which follow can each assist everyone from novices to aspiring masters in honing and developing their chess-playing abilities. Chess is not something to be afraid of – anyone can learn, at any age. Whoever you are, the following iOS apps will go a long way towards improving your game… and improving your mind.

Click on the hyperlink in each title for more.



Learn to Play: Dinosaur Chess

01 Dinosaur Chess

  • A gentle introduction to the complexities of the game for younger players.
  • Kids (of all ages) can play mini-games and puzzles.


How Do They Move: BC Take

02 BC Take

  • Learn how the pieces move by solving puzzles.


Solve Problems: Chess Tutor

03 Chess Tutor

  • Learn the basic moves by solving puzzles.
  • Unlock mini-games.
  • Track your progress on the achievements board.


Play Games: Chess Invaders

04 Chess Invaders

  • Learn how the pieces move in a series of fun games.


Learn to Checkmate: Mate Puzzles Free

05 Mate Puzzles Free

  • Very basic puzzles. (More are available for purchase.)


Battle it Out! Morph Chess 3D

06 Morph Chess

  • Fun interface
  • Pieces have animated battle moves when taking.
  • Set custom difficulty level: Beginner > Clever > Intelligent > Gifted > Genius > Ridiculous
  • Switch top and oblique views.


Watch and Learn: Grand Masterpiece

07 Chess Masterpiece

  • Watch the 100 greatest games step-by-step at your own pace.
  • Rate your favorites.
  • Learn notation as you watch the moves unfold.


Learn by Doing: Mastersoft Chess

08 Mastersoft Chess

  • Set playing strength
  • Show the AI’s thought processes
  • Let a coach warn you of errors
  • Get hints



Are You Ready Grasshopper?: Shredder (SEAN’S CHOICE!)

09 Shredder

  • This is my favorite chess app – thoroughly worth downloading.
  • See a ‘power meter’ showing who is winning.
  • Auto-adjust AI strength after each game.
  • Change playing style: Aggressive to Passive.
  • Show legal moves and target squares.
  • Compare your moves against opening and end-game database.
  • Switch coach on or off.
  • Collect and view progress statistics.
  • Perform analysis of games.
  • Get rated.
  • Get hints.
  • Solve puzzles for points.
  • As a free alternative, try: Chess-wise


ChessBox App

10 Chess Box

  • Use while you are playing on a real board.
  • Notate digitally.
  • Analyze positions.
  • Learn to use a chess clock.


Hone Your Tactics: TacticTrainer

11 TacticTrainer

  • Improve your chess by tackling 20 000 chess problems.
  • Record and track your progress.


Join the Community:

12 Chess dot com

  • Highly recommended!
  • Link up with other players and play live opponents.
  • Discuss moves and tactics.
  • (So much better than ‘Chess With Friends’!)


Golden Oldies: Chess Books

13 Chess Books  Chess Master Classics

  • A range of evergreen puzzles and chess problems.


Memphis Chess Club: Chess Problems by World Champions

14 World Champs

  • 645 chess problems to solve.


Free Chess Puzzles

15 Free Chess Puzzles

  • Solve chess puzzles.
  • Optional upgrade.
  • It also has links to other apps – including a compendium of games by grandmasters Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, and Jose Capablanca.


Daily Chess

16 Daily Chess Problem

  • Choose a problem from an actual historical game and try to solve it…


Chess Masters

17 Chess Masters

  • Play against customizable AI strength.
  • Master moves across 5 levels – Puzzles and problems.


Take Your Chess to the Next Dimension: Esfera ???

18 Esfera

  • Let’s see you take up the challenge.

Did I miss any? Please add suggestions in the ‘comments’ box below…


Browse through these links for more on the relationship between chess and intellectual development:

Don’t forget to look me up on Twitter

Update (November 2014):

Try these apps and let me know what you think:

Chess Wizard


  1. Have you played Bishook.? It is a new iPhone app that combines Chess with Tic Tac Toe. Easy to play but not so easy to win! The chess pieces go on the board like Tic Tac Toe but then take on chess piece properties. Very fun and challenging!


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