SparkChess Review – A No-Frills Chess Game That Excels in Single-Player Mode
Is it me or is chess getting harder and harder? That’s definitely how it feels, now that the internet is preventing us from concentrating on anything for more than about 29 seconds.
SparkChess put us in our place pretty quickly. Of course, beating Cody is child’s play. He’s the weakest of the six AI opponents in the game, and he’s still “learning the basics”.
Deon, the second weakest opponent, “knows the rules but has no clear strategy”. We found our level with him. Every time we face a match with the third-worst player Claire, touted as the “best partner for a quick match,” we are brutally dismantled.
Fortunately, SparkChess is a good teacher.
The game consists of three main modes: Learn, Practice and Challenge. Practice is the mode where you can play against the various AI opponents, while Challenge lets you compete against friends locally or online (the latter requires you and your opponent to create an account.)
Go through these slideshows, which are accompanied by exercises, and you will have a solid foundation in the art of chess.
Learn, meanwhile, is a compendium of opportunities to improve your chess prowess, divided into lessons, puzzles, and epic games.
make your move
The lessons are exactly what they sound like: simple, clearly illustrated slideshows explaining everything from the basic rules to the more well-established openings, like the Sicilian Defense and the Queen’s Gambit.
Puzzles could be a game in itself. This mode offers you dozens of scenarios and challenges you to achieve checkmate in a set number of moves. There are more possible sets of chess than there are atoms in the observable universe, but these exercises are useful exercises for situations you will find yourself in from time to time.
Epic Games mode is a selection of classic chess games played in full for your viewing pleasure.
Practice is the mode you’ll probably spend the most time in, unless you have a friend who also owns SparkChess.
As we’ve established, we’re probably not qualified to rate the quality of the AI’s chess brain given the limitations of our own chess brains, but it sounds pretty compelling. It is certainly competent.
We can however comment on the range of options offered, which is complete. At any time during a game, you can view a list of moves that have been played, take a snapshot of the board, watch a replay, spin the board, and share a photo.
Additionally, there are four different chart styles to choose from, including standard, diagram, 3D, and fancy 3D.
companion in one
And that’s just superficial stuff. SparkChess also comes with its own Coach setting, which highlights possible and advised moves, as well as endangered pieces. A help option, meanwhile, explicitly recommends your next move.
If you prefer a more passive approach, you can also use the Analyze feature, which gives you an in-depth assessment of which pieces are in the best position in terms of control, mobility, and attacks.
You can even cheat. SparkChess gives you the rather unsportsmanlike ability to undo moves you don’t like, and even alter the board in your favor (or against you, for that matter).
And if none of the AI opponents are right, you can play against Alyx, a fully customizable opponent with adjustable parameters for strength, time, foresight, memory, intuition, knowledge, aggressiveness, precision, concentration and accuracy.
SparkChess isn’t the sleekest or sleekest game we’ve ever played, and if you’re looking for an online multiplayer experience, there are certainly cheaper and better options out there.
But if you’re a beginner looking to learn the ropes, or a more experienced player looking for challenging and complex AI opposition, SparkChess is a good investment.
You can find it on iOS, Android, and Desktop.