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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Go Play: Really Bad Chess

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

I have been playing chess since I was a kid. But I’m terrible at it, so I rarely play anymore. This past week, though, I’ve been really enjoying Zach Gage’s Really Bad Chess, an iOS game that puts a clever spin on Chess by seeding the board with a totally random collection of pieces.

What if you had three queens and four knights? What if you had eight bishops? All of these crazy scenarios can occur in Really Bad Chess. And it makes the game different. If you know how to play chess, your knowledge will come in handy—but you will find yourself confronting problems radically different from the ones you’d find in a normal game.

Really Bad Chess comes with a few different ways to play. There’s a Ranked mode that lets you play increasingly difficult boards—you start with a huge power advantage over your computer opponent, and the advantage slowly shifts until you’re trying to defend while underpowered. There are daily and weekly challenges, where you compete with other players to perform the best on a single board configuration.

This is a surprisingly fun game that’s worth a download and the $2.99 in-app purchase to turn off ads and unlock the full game. (If you become addicted, Gage sells packs of 100 move undos for 99 cents each. It’s nickel-and-diming, App Store style, but of the gentlest variety.)

Whether you’re a veteran chess player or just a frustrated fraud like me, Really Bad Chess will rekindle the fun of the game.

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