By John Gruber
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Joachim Bondo’s Deep Green chess game for the iPhone is out. What’s cool about Deep Green isn’t just that it’s the best chess game yet for the iPhone, but that Bondo’s original Deep Green was the best chess game for the Newton. To be clear, this is not a port but a complete rewrite, with the same attention to detail, graphics, simplicity, and fun that marked the Newton version. For example, Deep Green for iPhone lets you move pieces either by drag-and-drop or by tapping a piece, then tapping the square you wish to move it to. (The tapped piece jiggles while waiting for you to tap the destination square.)
Deep Green is the one indie Newton app that I was most hoping would make the jump to the iPhone. When I met Joachim at WWDC this year and he told me he was working on it, I was delighted. I’ve been beta testing Deep Green for the last few weeks, and I’m not sure what to say about it other than that it looks and feels exactly how an iPhone chess game should. (I can’t speak to its strength as a serious chess engine; it kicks my ass even when taking no more than one second to move. I don’t recall ever beating Deep Green on the Newton either, but it seems stronger now, if only because my brain hasn’t kept pace with the increase in CPU speeds over the past decade.)
Deep Green exemplifies my fundamental rule for iPhone UI designers: Figure out the absolute least you need to do to implement the idea, do just that, and then polish the hell out of the experience. Configuration is kept to a minimum but everything essential is there. It even launches fast. Via email, Bondo told me:
When I compare the various iPhone chess apps (I bought them all), Deep Green offers pretty much the same functionality as the rest, and sometimes more, but with a fraction of the UI. Achieving this is why I’m 4 months later than the rest.
It takes more time and more effort to make software with a simpler UI, but it’s worth it.
On his web site, Bondo writes:
I first released Deep Green 10 years ago, in April 1998, for Apple’s Newton. In a matter of days hereafter, Steve Jobs terminated the Newton altogether.
Somehow I don’t think he’ll have that problem with the iPhone.
Deep Green is available in the App Store for an introductory price of $4.99 through the end of December; after that, it goes to $7.99.