Thursday, November 08, 2012

Amazon Appstore's free app of the day for Nov. 8, 2012: Chess has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Chess.

Chess is free in Google Play. We're sure there is some difference but we couldn't find an in-app purchase in the app. It is normally priced at $0.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted before, there are sometimes differences in pricing and availability between the two marketplaces.

Chess is described as follows:
Since its origin in India more than 1,400 years ago, chess has become one of the world's favorite pastimes. This culturally transcendent game of strategy and intellectual warfare now unfolds in the palm of your hand with AI Factory's challenging Chess app.

Based on AI's innovative Treebeard gaming engine, the app allows you to play chess with a more human style. It's a trait not found on typical chess programs and represents a modern approach that pays homage to the grandmasters of this ancient board game.

Deep Roots

The chess engine that eventually evolved into Treebeard sprouted back 1976 within the chess program Merlin. In the nearly two decades that followed, its code morphed and had a notable appearance from 1997-2003 as the force behind Shotest, a world-renown Shogi program. Shogi originated 1,000 years ago after the early, Indian version of chess moved east from the Asian land mass to the Japanese islands.

In 2004 the Shotest engine was reworked for chess and renamed as Treebeard. The first appearance of its current form came with the release of the Global Star Tournament Chess II program, and it drives Microsoft's MSN Chess.

The game analysis Treebeard uses is unique and proprietary to AI Factory: unlike conventional programs, the engine does not search millions of positions to counter your moves. Instead, Treebeard uses a probability-directed search to examine fewer positions but with greater detail.

Rich features

With such a powerful engine driving AI's Chess app, your mental mettle will be tested, and, when combined with the app's well-designed user interface, you have the opportunity to hone your chess game to a sublime point.

Featuring 10 levels of difficulty, Chess is suitable for novice and expert players alike. Treebeard employs intelligent-weakening for the lower levels, which makes it perfect for beginning players, too. There's also a complete chess-move manual included for those completely unfamiliar with the game.

While there are many unique aspects of the app, one in particular proves helpful in improving your game at any level: the Show CPU Thinking option. Once activated, Chess reveals which move Treebeard is considering next by placing a blue border around the piece the computer wants to move and another around it's targeted square.

Customizable Play

If you want to try your moves against a person rather than a machine, the app also has a two-player mode. Just like when you play against the computer, the manual mode allows you to use a game clock that limits play from 5 minutes to 60 minutes and moves from 5 to 60 seconds.

Chess's user interface presents players with three chessboard layouts and three choices of chessmen to customize the feel of your game. In a game's Match Settings screen, the handicap adjustment feature offers an interesting twist, whether you're playing against the computer or a trash-talking opponent. In both modes you can choose to handicap the white chessmen by removing a pawn, knight, rook or queen. If playing the black chessmen against the computer, this option is particularly handy when testing your skills against Treebeard's higher levels.

After checkmate, you're immediately presented with the option to step back through each of your moves to see how you won, or lost, the game. Chess also stores your gaming history and generates statistics based on your level of play against Treebeard.

The app features full touchscreen and trackball capabilities. The free version of the game is supported by unobtrusive banner ads.

Whether you're playing against Treebeard or against a living opponent, Chess will help you continually push the limits of your game.
Chess is rated at 4.6 stars in Google Play, and has 4.3 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

With these ratings, we'd say "buy" this app while it is free.

We continue to be disappointed with the FAOTD program. It began promisingly enough, with Angry Birds Rio, but we've gotten tired of the endless games or niche apps, and especially apps which have no uptake in Google Play, and seem to be FAOTD as a desperation move by the developer.

We'd like to see free versions of say, Office-compatible software or useful utilities such as CalenGoo instead of niche apps or endless games (we just assume every day that it's going to be a game; it's gotten that bad). opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.

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