Chess Database, released on June 30, allows one to search from a database of 500,000 games by chess notables and then play out the game on the iPhone/iPod touch. One can search by individual player, by two players against each other, by ECO openings, and more.
This program is intended for serious chess fans who are familiar with the game, its players, and nomenclature, such as the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO). Once you have a goal in mind, such as studying the games of, say, Alexander Alekhine, or the games he played against specific other players, say, Max Euwe, then you can start to dig in and use the play of the game as a tutorial.
The play of the games is without annotations (expert notes on the game) or a corresponding listing of the game. It's up to the user to glean what's instructive about each game by stepping through it.
The Chess Database gets off on the right foot by having a handsome, classic chess look for the board and pieces, and is well marked according to the players and geo location. One can step through the game or jump to the end position. The board can be flipped to show the black perspective.
Sample Game (Ending)
Faisal Saeed, Director of Marketing, told this reviewer that the number 500,000 was chosen to keep the data size manageable for the iPhone while preserving the older games and then adding as many new ones as possible. In the future, separate applications or separate databases will be used to expand the collection.
While this is a good app, it could be improved in several ways. Currently, the user must type a few definitive characters of the player name, then conduct a search. I'd prefer to see a real-time winnowing of all the names that start with the characters the user has typed in.
I think the advanced search function could be more intuitive. Right now, it's not clear why, after specifying the white and black players why one must designate them as opponents -- unless one just wants a really big list of white and black players by name. [UPDATE: that's because one can pair, say, the white player with, say, and ECO search. That's not obvious at first.]
Also, it's not intuitive how to clear the Selected Filters. That's when, for example, one wants to find all the games Bobby Fischer played as white against Boris Spassky as black. There no Clear button, so that requires the user to exit the advanced search and reenter the player names. I'd rather have the advanced filter remain persistent across launches until a Clear button is pressed. [UPDATE: the developer has pointed out that one can swipe a name, left to right, to clear it.]
Finally, when one does complete a search for a pair of white and black opponents, there are some data, such as the ECO entry, final score and number of moves that could be better explained in callouts on the info page.
Search Results: Two opponents
I enjoyed working with this app. It's clean, fairly fast, and has lots of appropriate search options. However, it could benefit from a more fine-tuned approach to ease of use in Search, built-in explanations, and intuitiveness. Once that's accomplished and annotations are added for featured games, any serious chess player will want to have this app on the iPhone. Quick look reviews don't have an associated rating, but this looks like 3.5 out of 5 right now, with plenty of room for UI improvements.
Chess Database for iPhone and iPod touch requires iPhone OS 2.2 or later and is 3.0 compatible. It's priced at US$4.99.