Zarkon Fischer's Free Chess Programs
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Haundrix Chess 0.1

This (almost) initial version of Haundrix Chess is already very impressive. It looks and sounds great, with a well-designed modern GUI, plenty of different piece-sets, and some neat special effects. It includes three engines to play against, one of which (Crafty) can be adjusted for strength. It all adds up to a program that has some character, and gives a fun and immersive playing experience. As it's an early version, we can also look forward to further development!

WJChess 3d

Here's a program you can play straight out of the box without worrying about UCI engines! It's a 3d interface with a variety of background landscapes for the board. It has nice sounds and animation, and is possibly the only chess program with a setting for fog! The menu options and controls are well designed and easy to use. There is also a 2d GUI version with French menus, which is worth a look. (now shareware)

Mayura Chess Board 2.3

This is one of the most attractive and easiest to use programs for playing a game against a UCI engine. I particularly like the beautifully designed piece set (and interface in general) and the soothing board sounds! Improvements in Version 2.3 include a resizable board, blunder alerts, and the Easy Peasy engine. For other engines that don't have the 'limit Elo strength' option, I recommend using a low fixed depth time limit (you can experiment), as most engines are dishearteningly strong even with only 1 second a move. There's no analysis display, so you can't cheat (!) and you won't know when the engine has a big plus against you!

Rebel (for DOS)

This is a great, fully functioned chess program with many unique features I'd like to see in the current commercial programs. The Rebel engine is renowned for its human-like playing style, and is my favourite for playing against. The latest version of Rebel is now available as the free UCI engine, Pro Deo. Highly recommended if you like DOS software!

Delfi GUI

With an attractive "2.5d" board, the demo version of this program attempts to simulate a 1000 ELO player (but is often much stronger), making it ideal for beginners or those of us who want to beat the computer once in a while (although this is not guaranteed!). A nice feature is that it actually takes time to think between moves. Delfi is also available as a free UCI engine.

Neurosis-3d 2.5

The basic 3d board and set in this program are built the old-style way with polygons, but it's still usable, and will at least give your graphics card time to cool down! There are four levels from beginner to master, and a number of welcome options that make the play more human-like, such as speculative play, and a more realistic use of time (such as not playing opening moves instantaneously). Similarly, on the lower levels, there is a built-in time lag so that replies aren't played instantly. Really, I think such options should be de rigueur in all playing programs, but they are, more often than not, forgotten. So, well done, Stan! :) (dead link)

Fritz 2.51 / Chess Genius 3

If you find the latest version of Fritz a bit hard to beat, why not try the 1993 version, Fritz 2.51? Or how about the Kasparov-beating Chess Genius from 1994 (which I prefer to the latest windows version!)? Despite being old DOS programs, they both run very smoothly in windows XP!

Chessmaster 3000 (for Windows)

Although this program is from 1991, it already has many of the features that have made Chessmaster the best-selling chess software brand. First and foremost, there are a number of pre-programmed playing styles from beginnner upwards that are fun to play against. The styles can also be individually modified, and set to play one another in a tournament. There's a full range of teaching features such as English language advice, tutorials that cover the rules and basic motifs, opening practice, and chess-rater challenges. There's 150 classic games to replay. And, of course, there are some silly 3d chess sets! This is a quality program, well-worth exploring, that has aged remarkably well. (Chessmaster 4000 is also available, but doesn't work in Windows XP.) Chessmaster 3000 is abandonware rather than an authorised freeware release. 3000/?id=3626

EG Chess

This unique program is fun to play against late at night, while you finish off your whisky! With its swivelling 3d pieces and atmospheric music and sounds, it's like playing chess with something supernatural! The help file has a good (if slightly inaccurate) description of the rules of chess, how the pieces move, and chess notation, which make it a good starting place for the beginner. (The version reviewed can be found at the Internet Archive.) (different version)

Hotbabe Chess 1.2

For something a little different, how about a game against chess cyborg, "Hotbabe" ?!! You can watch her on a simulated webcam while you play , and read her humourous comments in the text console. There are different skill levels from beginner up, so it's actually quite good to play against. The only downside is she doesn't get her kit off when you mate her... ;-)

Smirf FullChess GUI

As well as traditional 8x8 chess, you can also play 8x8 and 10x8 variants in this chess GUI. Fortunately, when you come to the fairy pieces (and perhaps also for beginners of standard chess), when you select a piece, all the legal moves are clearly displayed. I quite like the scrunchy feel to this interface! (dead link)

Nagaskaki 5

One of the few programs not designed solely to humiliate you (and any other passing grandmaster) over the board! The program has a number of personalities that play in the range from hopeless beginner (who thinks he's playing giveaway chess!) to strong club player (or so) strength. The interface looks a bit rudimentary, but functions well enough.

Free Chess 1.2.0

This program has very attractive graphics for the 3d board, background music (which fortunately can be turned off!), and some rather dubious playing skills. If you find other programs hopelessly strong, then this one might be for you! However, there may be some issues with the program freezing when you try to close it...

Pragmatichess 2.5

This is a nice playing interface with both a 2D and a simple 3D board. It has its own playing engine, but also supports UCI engines, although some engines reply instantaneously regardless of the time level set. And there's a Merlin assistant who sagely loiters, if you want some company! Also supports chess 960, with a useful summary of the rules in the help file.

Crafty Chess 6.0

An interface made for a modified crafty engine, with adjustable strength.


A brute-force (beatable) engine in a simple but very clear interface.

Der Bringer 1.9

An older program with adjustable playing stength and a neat interface.

Pawn 1.76

A simple program with a level for beginners, in which the size of mistakes the computer can make can be adjusted. There are also two more versions: Pawn 2 with a large board and a couple of extra options, and Pawn 3, which unfortunately doesn't display pieces correctly on my machine. I prefer the first version, in which the piece font can be changed.