Most of us don't have a child chess prodigy handy when we want to practice our game. The Play Magnus iPhone app puts the champ in your pocket, but with a twist. You can play against Magnus Carlsen at various ages, from when he started out at age 5, all the way up to his current kick-butt self.
Carlsen is a grandmaster from Norway and the current No. 1 chess player in the world. The 23-year-old says he launched the app, which uses a chess engine "tuned" from actual openings and games he's played, to inspire young people to get excited about chess.
I loaded the app up and pitted my miserable chess skills against 5-year-old Magnus. It's hard to boast about beating a 5-year-old who had just started to play chess and really preferred to spend his time studying geography, but I did manage to win the game with a checkmate.
I got ambitious and took on Magnus at 10. He ended up chasing my king around until I got bored. More advanced chess players will enjoy moving up the ranks and playing the prodigy as he gets older and savvier. People like me can look into the training side of the app. There are some free training videos where Carlsen walks you through upgrading your skills, but more advanced concepts cost 99 cents per video to unlock. Players can also earn points towards qualifying to play Carlsen live at an annual event.
The app can be a bit slow, especially at higher levels when it's contemplating moves, but it's the fun concept that sets it apart from other chess games. So go ahead, try your hand against the champ. There's no shame in losing to a 12-year-old, especially when that kid is now the reigning world chess champion.