The following categorized links all deal with how
to use computer chess programs to study and improve
your game. This is a relatively new section of my
links pages and so I am still collecting and organizing
Commercial Chess Database Programs and Engines
The most popular and easy-to-use databases
and engines are quite affordable, several starting
below $50. The database programs generally start
above $100, but they come with and support a number
of engines. If you are only going to do very basic
things with databases (such as viewing, editing,
adding commentary, etc.) then an engine such as Fritz
or Shredder will probably give you everything you
need. But if you expect to do more advanced things
(such as publishing websites or creating opening
books) then the main Chessbase program is definitely
the way to go. All of these are well-supported, with
lots of online help files and information (see below),
so they are worth the investment for anyone who wants
to spend more time doing chess analysis than fiddling
with their software. For those who would rather keep
their money and develop their computer expertise,
there are a number of free programs with the same
basic capabilities (see further down the page).
Programs from Chessbase
The main page of chess programs available from Chessbase, featuring their current
9 Starter Package
A good place to start if you can afford to pay over $100. The package includes
the current Chessbase program, a good database, and Fritz 5 for analysis. You
can buy an engine alone
The current hot program.
Fritz is still pretty much the standard. See the whole set of Fritz
Programs that have grown up around this engine.
Free Database and PGN Programs
You do not need to spend a dime to get the
basic equipment you need to generate PGN database
files to store and analyze your games. All you need
is a little time and basic computer knowledge, and
you can make a file annotating your game that can
be posted onto the web or used to generate interactive
webpages. You should start by getting a Graphical
User Interface (GUI) program, which basically presents
you with a chessboard and allows you to move pieces
in order to create game files or allows you to view
existing files. A program like Fritz from Chessbase
(see above) gives you a GUI backed by a chess engine
to do analysis and some database program features.
One way of achieving the same basic abilities offered
by Fritz without spending any money is by using Winboard
or Scid combined with Crafty or Yace. The combination
gives you the same basic functionality (if not the
same quality results) as any Chessbase program but
at no cost. Of course, with Chessbase programs under
$50 and free programs requiring a bit more time commitment
to master (and sometimes generating less-than-best
analysis), it's a trade-off. But if you have more
time than money or if you want to learn more about
how these programs work, then the free GUIs and Engines
are the way to go. See Aaron Tay's still valid (if
slightly dated) article "Chess
Engines - Cutting Through the Confusion," which
explains how engines are the brains and GUIs are
the body and you can mix and match.
A useful and very user-friendly Graphical User Interface (GUI) that is compatable
with a wide range of chess engines. There are various download options, some
of which come with free engines pre-loaded. This is one of the few free programs
where you can simply download it, run the set-up wizard, and just start playing
instantly. It also seems to have a broad range of functionality and excellent
help files to get you started.
Free Database by Shane Hudson
Probably the easiest free database and Graphical
User Interface (GUI) combination program available.
More user-friendly than the classic "Winboard" (see
below) and more robust than simple programs like "Chesspad" (see
below). Check out the site for lots of other interesting stuff or pay for
a copy on CD with an excellent million-game database thrown in. Or go direct
to the English
Version Download Page and get it now (about 20 minutes to download over
a slow dial-up modem). And I recommend you read Aaron
Tay's guide to configuring SCID with Winboard Engines or the help page
Analysis Window from Scid (the latter of which also gives you links to
other free engines to download).
and Winboard by Tim Mann, et. al.
The Winboard program is an excellent resource and can serve as your interface
to play online (at the Free Internet Chess Server, for example), to create
or edit game files, to create diagrams (using an image-editor or a program
like Snag-It to get the image from the board), or to play against chess engines.
Xboard is for Unix systems and Winboard for Windows. Download the latest version
of either via Tim Mann's site. Be aware, though, that some of the help files
associated with this program are written for people with good computer knowledge.
If you have never used the command line in your computer, for example, then
you may find yourself rather limited in what you can do with Winboard. If you
enjoy using it, visit the Winboard
Forum for advice, links, and ideas (or the
An excellent little GUI program, ideal for people who just want to generate
PGN files or view a small PGN database. Download it for free from the address
above. The speedy download comes complete with an installation wizard that
makes the whole set-up process very easy. You can use it to create or view
PGN files or use it to create diagrams.
This is a free version of Chessbase 6 with the most important basic capabilities.
As a free utility, it makes a great learning tool and will probably meet the
basic needs of most chessplayers. If you enjoy using it, I'd recommend you
purchase one or two of the programs below, especially Fritz (or Shredder) and
Chessbase 9.0. You must register in
order to get to the download page. You can also find several useful links
to FAQs or user information (which they call "hints"). See the Support section
of the Chessbase website for other tutorials and useful information about the
more advanced versions of Chessbase (some of which applies to CB-light and
some will just tell you why you might want the current version of the program).
CB-Light unfortunately does not work with any free chess engines, so you cannot
analyze and annotate at the same time unless you shell out some bucks for the
Assistant 7 Light
The Convekta database "Chess Assistant" is
Chessbase's closest competitor and offers most
of the same abilities. Download their free
version here to try it out. See their Lessons
on Chess Assitant (also available in video format).
The database program built specifically for Macintosh computers.
Light and Free Trial
You can try Bookup free for thirty days. You can also order a free copy of Bookup
Download directly from the author. I have not tried this program myself.
The term "engine" generally refers to a program designed to play
chess or generate analysis. Some engines are integrated with a database manager
(especially the Chessbase programs) but most free engines require a GUI (see
above). See Aaron Tay's still valid (if slightly dated) article "Chess
Engines - Cutting Through the Confusion," which explains how engines
are the brains and GUIs are the body and you can mix and match. For a sense
of their relative rankings, see Lyapko George's ratings
list based on mini-tournament results.
Mann's Chess Pages by Tim Mann
One of the best places to find links to free engines and other utilities. See
especially his Crafty
Links to help you download Crafty.And be sure to read How
to Use Crafty with Winboard by Mark Yatras, which is an excellent tutorial
and help file for combining the analytic powers of Crafty with the useful interface
provided by Winboard (though you need to know something about computers to
understand it). Most people who write software for free chess engines test
it with Winboard, so you are assured broad compatability.
Chess Engines FAQ
A useful set of resources and tutorials, with a forum in case you have more
Chessbase programs allow you to add free engines to your stable, so the Chessbase
site allows you to download a number of the better ones.
A good collection of links to free programs and utilities.
Town, Homepage of Arman
A rather comprehensive if unannotated set of links to software.
Software and Databases
and Their Limitations
Before you get started analyzing with a
computer, you should be aware of some limitations
they have. While you can generally trust a computer
to solve tactical situations, you should be more
wary of trusting them in situations where long-range
planning or positional intuition are called for.
Here are some links to explore to understand
Performance Analysis with Chess Engines by
A good introduction to the fact and fiction of chess computers. Most of all,
you need to know that computers do not know everything, and they need you more
than you need them in order to successfully analyze a position.
to Beat Chess Computers by Adam Bozon
One of the best ways to learn the limitations of computers is to figure out
how to beat them. Bozon covers the basics in the opening, middlegame, and ending.
How to Annotate Your Game
One of the most valuable ways to use a chess computer
is to help you analyze and annotate your own
games, either to help improve your own understanding
of the game or to publish to help others. The
following links offer very useful advice on the
fine art of annotating with a computer.
/ Replacing / Deleting Games by (August 11,
2002) Steve Lopez
Great basic advice on how to create and edit a database -- including one containing
only your own game.
Fine Art of Annotation, Part One (ETN August
18, 2003) by Steve Lopez
Some excellent technical advice on annotating games, including how to insert
annotations, how to enter null moves and how to add annotations to the end
of a game (to show what would have happened had the game continued).
Fine Art of Annotation, Part Two (ETN August
25, 2002) by Steve Lopez
Covers how to use the annotation pallet and key shortcuts to insert annotations
and symbolic commentary.
Fine Art of Annotation, Part Three (ETN September
1, 2002) by Steve Lopez
Scroll down through the relatively long plug of the author's 2002 CD on computer
chess to find the main article. This article explores some more advanced features
for annotators, including how to place arrows on the board or highlight squares
in order to indicate important aspects of a position.
Fine Art of Annotation, Part Four (ETN September
8, 2002) by Steve Lopez
Some good general advice on writing annotations: choosing good games, writing
to your reader's level, clear writing, quality over quantity, etc.
Analysis Using Chessbase Engines by Steve Lopez
This article at ChessCentral discusses how to set up your engine to do a lot
of analysis work for you. My recommendation, though, is to use the engines
only as a supplement and an extension of your own work.
Games and Diagrams Using Chessbase by Steve
Basic FAQs on building a book or just printing a diagram.
Study with Computers
Computers are especially good for seeking new ideas
in the opening and checking analysis and recent
games for problems. The links below offer advice
on using computers to hone your opening repertoire.
Alchemy by Tim McGrew
Discusses the "fine art" of using
computer chess programs to discover opening
novelties and new ideas.
Creating a Chessbase Opening Key, Part
Two, and Part
Three by Steve Lopez
This is probably a larger task than most average players will want to engage
with, but many serious players use the Opening Key feature to help them manage
the tree of variations they play.
Databases: The Basics of Managing PGN Files
Database Basics, Part
Eight by Steve Lopez
Basic information on what game databases are and how to use them. These instructions
are mostly written for people who want to use programs like Chessbase or Fritz
to look at an existing database, not for people who want to create their own
databases. But you will find some useful information and advice here, covering
all the basics of searching for positions, openings, players, and other information.
See especially Part
Five on searching for a specific position.
Format in Fritz 6 (ETN May 7, 2000) by Steve
Format in Chessbase 7 (ETN October 17, 1999)
by Steve Lopez
An excellent resource page devoted to news on the PGN standard with excellent
links (scroll down the page) to PGN utilities to help you manage and edit your
Little Tutorial on PGN by Tim Harding
A useful article from the ChessCafe author describes the Portable Game Notation
standard and gives some advice on managing your files.
User's Guide to Fritz 6 - Saving your games (ETN
March 5, 2000) by Steve Lopez
Database Functions I (ETN February 6, 200)
by Steve Lopez
Game Notation (PGN) by Mark Weeks of About.com
A good beginner's introduction to the most useful and common form for chess
Publishing Links by Michael Goeller
A useful collection of links, which I have not reproduced here.
Chessbase 7 Web Publishing Tools (ETN April
11, 1999) by Steve Lopez
How to use the Chessbase program to generate java-enabled games.
Output: Publishing with Fritz and Friends by
Mig Greengard (ChessBase Cafe)
An excellent article on using Fritz (and other ChessBase software) to create
Offers lots of free help and programs to create a chess web site using the
excellent Palamede program (free). I especially recommend that you look at
the Demo Pages (which show you a wide range of layouts and designs) and that
you download the Palmate program (which makes creating playable Java games
from PGN files a snap). A fantastic free resource that every chess webmaster
needs to know about.
Help Files and
An index to support and help files associated with the Chessbase programs.
T-Notes (1997-2002) by Steve Lopez
A weekly newsletter of Chessbase software tips written by Steve Lopez.
Pages - Free Chess
An inconsistent but sincere effort to help others with computers and chess.
to Install a Chess CD by Steve Lopez
The basics of how to get your new chess CD up and running, complete with useful
Computer Chess Books
Chess Software by Kevin Bidner
Reviews "How to Use Computers to Improve Your Chess" and "Chess
Software User's Guide."
Links to Links on Computer Chess
Kessler's Chess and Computer Chess Links by
A good collection of links with useful annotations.
IM Jovan Petronic by Petronic
A useful site that recently began software reviews.
Computer Chess Portal by Shep
A good collection of resources for those interested in testing their computers.
Mallett's Computer Chess Page by Jeff Mallett
An interesting set of links, but mostly for those interested in writing computer
Software from Chess Corner
A rather dated looking collection of links to software by category.
Chess and Software from Chessville
A good list of links related to chess computers.
Chess History by Bill Wall
A basic chronology.
Can a Bayesian spam filter play chess? by Laird A. Breyer
A fascinating article that propopses a model by which chess computers might be programmed to learn.
Chess Programming from Game Devby Francois-Dominic Laramee
Chess Programming Theory by Colin Frayn
Computer Chess Programming Blog, designed by Michael Heilemann
An interesting communal blog with lots of content.
Chess programming links
More promising than the one below.
Chess Programming Tutorials from Chessopolis
Lots of broken links.