Many people have played chess for over 1500 years, yet we are still looking for new ways to improve how we develop strategies and implement game plans.
The rise of free chess apps and global competitions on Twitch has fanned the fire of challenge; The truth is that more people are playing chess today than ever before.
Does chess scare you? Not sure what the pieces do? Do you think you can’t be better than Magnus Carlsen at play? Think again! We have compiled five of the best free chess apps that you can use to learn chess on your iPhone or Android device.
1. Learn Chess With Doctor Wolf
Learn Chess With Doctor Wolf is a great app for beginner and intermediate players. Advanced players won’t find much here besides the powerful refresher course.
For everyone looking to get advanced, or even just to develop a skill or two, the lessons page is your best friend. Here you’ll find specific areas of the game to focus on such as How to Castle and Connecting Your Rooks.
The lessons are categorized into beginner, intermediate, and advanced sections, although you can start anywhere you want and jump around as you wish (stay away from some of the advanced lessons that have prerequisites).
If you’d rather just play chess against a friendly AI, you can do that too. The game page will always allow you to play chess for free.
If you sign up for the unlimited training subscription, Doctor Wolf will analyze your movements and teach you how to improve in real time. You can try three free challenges with practice — after these three challenges, you’ll still be able to play chess against Doctor Wolf but it won’t give you useful tips while playing.
If you click on the three dots to the right of the Undo button, you will find a list of actions and options. You can adjust the level of play if you feel that things are too easy or too difficult. One of the most interesting features is Train with Dr. Wolf, where it will look at your past moves and produce specific custom scenarios for you to improve upon.
Don’t you like Doctor Wolf? throw it away. The chosen trainer allows you to replace him with three other characters who happen to be a Doctor with the last name Wolf.
If you head over to the main page and click on the three dots at the top right, you’ll be able to access your stats and achievements where you can see information like how many challenges you’ve played and won, how many moves you’ve made and how many lessons you’ve completed.
Download: Learn Chess With Doctor Wolf for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
2. Magnus Trainer
You may have heard of Magnus Carlsen, the world-renowned chess expert and world chess champion. Magnus Trainer was developed to train anyone and everyone to play like Magnus.
The course page takes you all the way from the basics of moving blocks to advanced strategies you can use to attack your friends and family.
You’ll have to complete them in order unless you sign up for a membership subscription, although you can choose whether you start with Basics, Easy, Medium, or Hard. There is advice from Carlsen at the beginning of each lesson that goes into the material you are going to learn briefly.
The Challenges page, divided into Basics, Tactics and Calculation, allows you to play mini-games that introduce you to pieces and solve chess puzzles to improve your situational awareness and overall knowledge of chess.
Lessons are a treasure trove of information about any aspect of the game that you want to review. While there is a wide range of lessons available for free, many of them are only included in a membership subscription.
Lessons are broken down into different categories of game concepts, such as opening moves and end-game strategy.
The “You” section displays a graph of your stats in each playing area. This is useful for knowing where you should improve and how far you have come over time.
Download: Magnus Trainer for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
No matter how many lessons you take, you still need to play chess to get better—lichess is a great free option to play online chess from your iPhone or Android, especially since all of the lichess features are completely free to use!
The home page dashboard can seem intimidating to new users; Don’t worry, we’ll break it down a bit. Quick pairing, title with the table with labels like 1 + 0 Bullet and 3 + 0 blitz, will put you in a multiplayer game based on the rules you choose.
Not sure what this means? Bullet, Blitz, Rapid, and Classic refer to the amount of time each player has when making their moves. Blitz is often a three-minute time limit per turn, for example. Numbers such as 1 + 0 indicate the time allowed for each cycle and the time increment added to your time when completing a cycle in a row.
So 10 + 5 means each player gets 10 minutes to complete their turn, and the five second difference is added to the time when they complete their turn (time is only added if it takes less than five seconds to make your move. If the move takes three seconds, the remaining two seconds will be added to your time.)
You can create a game, play with friends who have lichess, or play with the computer.
Scroll down a bit and you will see today’s puzzle. This is a fun way to improve aspects of the game that you might not have even thought of.
Clicking the menu button at the top left will bring up a list of other features available in lichess. Tap on puzzles to get a random scenario. Studying gives you access to a world of information; You can learn about real world strategies such as Sicilian Defense and Queen’s Gambit.
Watching lichess TV will show you live broadcasts of high-ranking players (usually Grandmasters) competing on the chessboard. Watching others play is an excellent way to learn new moves, recognize mistakes and learn how to take advantage of them, and understand how others build their own game plans.
The Analysis software and the Panel Editor allow you to create any scenario you want. This is especially useful when coming out of a losing game — you can rebuild the moves and see what mistakes you made that led to the loss. The clock is a simple chess clock to play personally.
No internet connection? Not a problem. You can play offline against the computer or set up a board to play against yourself or against a friend. Check out 25 of the best Android games to play offline.
Download: lichess for iOS | Android (Free)
Chess from Chess.com is another great app for playing chess online. You will find the usual gameplay modes like online playing, playing against the computer and puzzles to train your brain.
You will also find some valuable features unique to Chess such as the Videos page which contains a large number of videos made by highly rated chess players that focus on specific areas of the game.
Forums are a place for players to ask questions and share information regardless of skill level. Want to see expert-level game analysis or learn to solve this insurmountable puzzle? Forums are where you want to be.
The exercises page lets you choose an area of the game to work on like King and Two Pawns vs King and puts you up against a computer in that layout.
Download: Chess for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)
5. Chess Tactics Pro
Chess Tactics Pro is a simple app for those who just want to solve puzzles. Instead of a bunch of additional features and options, Chess Tactics Pro focuses on doing the basics well.
The daily tab is updated with six new puzzles (two each in easy, medium and hard) every day. The puzzles page has more than 300 puzzles for you to choose from. When playing any puzzle, you can click on Analyze on the top right for the correct moves or the question mark icon on the bottom right for a hint.
Progression generates a puzzle that matches your current skill level—wins increase your Elo rank while reducing losses.
Play puzzles and implement the solutions you find in your games! The amount you improve is only limited to the challenges you take.
Download: Chess Tactics Pro for iOS | Android (Free, in-app purchases available)
More ways to improve your chess playing
You have a list of quality mobile apps to get you started with chess, but it’s always good to look for new ways to practice and play.
Apart from mobile applications, desktop web applications offer a wealth of information and exclusive features to improve your game. You can check out the best websites for playing board games online.