Apps Gaming Reviews

Really Bad Chess review: is it actually really good?

If Kevin Keegan ever played chess, it would be Really Bad Chess. You can forget about the boring defenders (pawns) and set-pieces (en passant, anyone?). Really Bad Chess gives you five rooks, two queens, a handful of bishops and is all about attack. Keegan would love it, love it.

Really Bad Chess, as developer Zach Gage explains, “removes the boring restrictions and flips chess on its head”. There’s no point learning an encyclopedia’s worth of opening gambits or end-games, because every match starts with a random selection of pieces and no two games are the same. It’s chess for the short-attention-span generation. And it’s bloody good fun.

Really Bad Chess

There are a variety of game modes. Daily Board gives you (and all the other players) a new board every day to defeat. Each game starts with the regulation 16 pieces aside, but they can be almost any combination of pieces and each side will normally have different pieces, too. The only constant is that you’ll only have one king each, for obvious reasons. Weekly Challenge is the same, but with the board only changing once every seven days.

Ranked Mode is perhaps the most interesting. You start with a lowly rank, meaning you’re afforded a more powerful set of pieces than your computer opponent. As you earn victories and increase your rank, your arsenal is reduced while the computer gets more powerful pieces at its disposal. The computer’s intelligence level always remains constant, it just gets better or worse pieces as you move up and down the ranks. There’s Freeplay mode, too, in which you can manually adjust your rank.

Gameplay is tough. It’s enormously challenging to comprehend all the potential moves when there are so many strong pieces on the board and the starting positions change every game. The computer doesn’t hold back, either. Within about three moves, it’s normally bombing forward with a battery of queens and rooks, laying siege to your end of the board. Or perhaps that’s just me. I never was very good at chess.

Really Bad Chess is free to play on iOS and Android, but you can pay £2.99 to “unlock full features”, which includes changing the colour of the board, turning off the largely unobtrusive ads, a 1 vs 1 mode and a hundred undos – the option to take back your last move.

Want to play chess properly? Then read our guide to the best free chess apps on Android (many of which are also on iOS).

Really Bad Chess verdict
  • Overall


A clever spin on chess for those who don’t have the patience, intelligence or spare life to devote to playing the game properly


About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at

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