Those of you who read my blog know I’m a big fan of Linux and all things open source. That’s one of the reasons I like Android. As I mentioned in a previous post, I contacted Stefan Meyer-Kahlen (the author of the Shredder chess engine) to see if he’d port Shedder to Android. Shredder has been released on far more platforms than any other successful engine, so I figured there was a good chance. Upon the initial release of Android, all apps had to be coded in Java. This is fine for most stuff, but it’s terrible for chess engines for two reasons. 1) 90% of chess engines have already been coded in C (or C++) and porting to Java would not be financially worthwhile, and 2) Java, as many of you know is not a native language. In runs in a virtual machine, and cannot possibly perform as well as native code. Obviously when writing something as computationally expensive as a chess engine, you’d never even consider coding in Java (unless your performance wasn’t a priority).
So, a little while after the launch of Android, Google made an alternate Native Development Kit (NDK) available allowing applications to be coded natively. This is obviously the perfect choice for any high performance program. I emailed Stefan asking if he’d consider porting to Android and, as you can read in my prior post, Stefan wasn’t too impressed with Android so far, and had spent the time developing an iPhone version instead.
Well, good news today, as Stefan was kind enough to remember our email exchange and wrote to me personally to inform me that he has released an Android version of Shredder into the Android Market. For those of you who are interested, here is the email.
Hello Mr. Williams,
Shredder is now also available for Android mobile devices. You can play against Shredder, analyse with him and solve chess puzzles. It offers the usual Shredder standard for your pocket.
Finally a professional chess program for Android.
Shredder for Android is only available in the Google Android Market. Simply search for „Shredder Chess“ in the Android Market on your Android mobile device to find Shredder.
I was quick to reply with a few questions about the port, and here is that reply. Yes, he misspelt my name yet again, but…
yes, it is the complete and native Shredder 12 engine written in C. The same engine is also in the iPhone version, so they will be equal in strength.
I have used Shredder on Android (and on Windows Mobile, iPhone, iPad, Linux and Windows), and while it is a great engine, the Android/iPhone ports (which are nearly identical) is clearly aimed more toward the casual chess player, unlike other versions of Shredder that are aimed at the Chess enthusiast and professional. This is in part because potential customers are iPhone and Android owners, and are probably looking for a casual, cheap, graphically pleasing chess program. Most probably don’t care that the chess engine is 2800 ELO strong. Professional chess programs for Windows Mobile, however, (Shredder, Fritz, Hiarcs etc..) have traditionally been aimed squarely at the chess enthusiast and even IM/GM level. They have lots of extras like opening books, tactics, puzzles, endgame and some even allow you to switch out the opening book and even the engine. Granted, these programs generally cost $50. Knowing that the App Store market already had numerous chess programs, Stefan rightly knew that the sweet-spot for apps in the App Store is under $10. Shredder is priced very competitively at $5.99. I highly recommend Shredder for Android. I hope it sells well and warrants the effort Stefan spent porting it.