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Chess Software Stack - What do you use?


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #1

    verdantlife

    I'm putting together a set of chess software for my own use/study.  Here are my opinions, though some things I haven't settled on yet.  I'd love to get some opinions from others.  In my mind, there are a few categories of software the well-equipped player needs.

    Chess Playing Software

    I have Fritz 7.  I think the interface is horrible.  As one review put it, "it looks like German shareware from the 1980s".  Still, it's a great engine.  I haven't seen anything in Fritz 10 or Fritz 11 that makes me feel I need to upgrade.  However, I also have Chessmaster XI (GM Ed) and much prefer it.  The interface is vastly better, the annotation is more understandable, and the learning tools are great.  In my experience CM also "steps down" better than Fritz - I can set CM to play at a lower level and it doesn't do stupid things, while Fritz seems to either be very strong or doing dumb things like leaving pieces hanging, making ridiculous sacrifices, etc.  I like CM's auto-annotate feature better, and it has some really good training tools.  Either Fritz or CM is 1200+ points above my level, so game strength isn't really that important to me.

    I also use the Crafty, Fruit, and Fritz 5.32 engines (see below).   I would think one of these engines + Arena Chess would be a good alternative for those looking for a free option.

     Opening Study

    I use Chess Position Trainer, which is free and very good.  Refreshingly for a free product, it has a nice .PDF manual, too.  You can plug Craft, Fruit, Fritz 5.32, etc. into it.  I haven't found a reason to look at Bookup (or "Chess Opening Wizard" as I think it's renamed now)...CPT is just so good I don't see the need.

    Chess Database Software

     I've just started playing with this.  The contenders are:

    • ChessBase: the king, though a very expensive option.
    • SCID: a free option that gets good reviews.  I wonder about the project's future, since the CD-ROM link on the SourceForge page is dead, the mailing list is dead, etc.
    • Jose: this project seems dead.  I've read some good reviews, but there's been no bug updated since 2006.  Too bad, because as a professional database administrator, I liked its MySQL back-end approach.
    • Chess Assistant: I haven't looked at this yet, but it's obviously the CB competitor.

    ChessBase offers "ChessBase Light" which is cheaper, but it is limited to 32,000 games.  Initially, I just want to store my own games and analyze them, but of course the ultimate use for a database is to have millions of games for comparison...I don't know what to do in this category.  Does anyone with more ChessBase, Chess Assistant, and/or SCID experience want to comment?

    Chess Games Collections

    Obviously, ChessBase publishes scads of this stuff.  I was going to look at the DB that comes with Jose.  Are there other free PGN collections out there?  ChessMaster comes with 800,000 and Fritz came with 1,000,000, but of course I want to get them into whatever database program I ultimately use.

    Portable Chess Playing 

    Per another thread, I've ordered a Palm Z22 and will give that a spin with Pocket Hiarcs or one of the other products.  PocketPC users have the option of Chessmaster or PocketFritz.  There are also PSP and DS offerings, plus dedicated pocket computers...but I wanted to be able to ship PGNs back and forth, so it was either a Palm or PocketPC for me, and the Palm was a cheaper choice overall.  Of course, if you have a SmartPhone, you might already have a platform.

    Chess Diagram Software

    This is for making chess diagrams you can then export as bitmaps, PNGs, etc. for use in publishing or web pages.  In my case, I'd like to setup a blog.  I found a freeware program called ChessDiagrams that isn't bad, but would like to look at more tools.  I'm sure there's some standard everyone uses, but I haven't found it yet...or perhaps one of the better database programs can do an export.  There's always screen captures, too, I suppose.

    Studying Software

    Too many choices and it depends on what you want.  I'm using some of Convekta's tactics stuff at the moment.

    If I ran tournaments, I'd have a category for that, too, but I don't ;-)

    I eagerly await comments...

     


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #2

    erik

    this is an awesome topic!

    i personally use an older version of shredder for analysis, but i'll be picking up rybka here soon :)

    as for games analysis, i'm just going to wait for chess.com to finish the games explorer and games management tool ;)

    but i'm still looking for decent chess software for the blackberry!! 


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #3

    Deruku

    Really nice. Currently I have Shredder Classic 3. Pretty good. Chess master Challenge, soon to get fritz 11. I havent been playing ChessMaster Challenge so I might unstall that. As well of the chess mentor(the other chessmentor not the one here) program as well, bought as well. I mostly use shredder Classic 3 for analysis, and playing against it as well. Opening I learn from chessmaster challange that is on my phone. I mostly have chess everywhere except on my body.
  • 6 years ago · Quote · #4

    lochness88

    thankyou so much verdantlife! I had a look at chess position trainer and it looks awesome.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #5

    Toddious

    I prefer the Bookup/Chess Opening Wizard (COW) to Chess Position Trainer but when you throw in the cost -free vs. $$ it's hard to justify. 

    I also use "Open Chess" on my palm to practice openings.  I can take the books I create in the Chess Opening Wizard and put them on my palm which is an added bonus.  You can add middle and end game training books to the COW as well but I still prefer Chessimo for training.  Not that Chessimo is that awsome, I just have not found anything I like to use more.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #6

    Zenchess

    I have used just about every chess software out there.  I'd be interested in writing reviews on them sometime, but actually right now I am alot more interested in competing with them =)

    Something is very clear to me, however.  If you wish to be a competetive tournament player who reaches Master level or above, you absolutely need to utilize a wide range of chess software.

    You need opening trainers to make sure you can play through or remember opening variations in the key lines of your opening repetoire.

    You need database software (like Chessbase or Chess Assistant) to research new and old games played in your favorite opening lines.  This resource is invaluable and gives you the competetive advantage:  Imagine how much more you'd understand your favorite opening if you saw 1000 games played in it. 

    You need tactics training software (like chess.com's tactics trainer) in order to sharpen your tactical game which is *very* important, and perhaps the most important part of your chess training. 

    You need a chess engine (like Rybka or Fritz) to analyze the games you have played so you can spot the mistakes you have made.  Think of these programs like having your own personal GM, except you don't have to pay $40+ an hour.  But keep in mind computers can only explain tactical postions to you, and a human can offer more relevant and instructive advice.

    You need to play often (like chess.com).  If you don't play, you don't improve.  You don't get good by reading a lot of books.  You get good by learning how to play chess and that means you have to play.  If you only play for a few minutes a day, that is the reason you are not improving. 

    And you need instructional materials.  Software can offer a huge advantage in this area.  Everything from books in chessbase format, to chess mentor lessons can give you invaluabe learning material.  Chess mentor is recommended by me due to the huge value of it.  It is like getting a personal chess lesson, becuase you can try any move you can think of and most of them will be explained to you.  Don't worry about your rating in chess mentor and just try to understand the lessons.

    This may sound like a huge sink of time, but it doesn't have to be.  You can do some opening research for a while, but after a while you won't need to spend much more time on it.  You can train tactics for 10-15 minutes a day, play games for an hour or more, and whenever you play a slow game you can use your engine software to analyze it.

    In my opinion, using these training methods will lead to an exponentially greater learning curve.  Why?  Because if you make a mistake, chess mentor or the engine will explain to you why it's a mistake.  You will not have to magically guess why the move does not work.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #7

    Baseballfan

    For DB stuff, I use ChessDB, which is based off of SCID, but has some other really cool features added, and has built in access to a few high quality, multi-million game databases. Highly recommended.

    I bought Chess Openings Wizard not long after it came out, I had not heard Chess Position Trainer at the time. I like COW, but as has been mentioned, I find it hard to recommend in light of a good free alternative.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #8

    Sharukin

    I use an antiquated Mac so my choices are somewhat limited. I use Sigma for database and playing. The interface can accept UCI engine so I ahve access to HIARCS, Fruit, Shredder and a couple of others. For analysis I tend to use HIARCS 12.1 but for playing I use the built in Sigma engine because I can beat it occasionally.

    Sigma has useful database functionality but is not quite as well specced as Chessbase. Scid is available for Mac but involves mucking about with porting stuff from Linux and X11. I have neot so far managed to get Scid to run on my Mac but I shall persevere.

    Although I use Sigma for playing I prefer playing a Radio Shack 2200X standalone machine. I have replaced the plastic pieces with nice wooden ones and the machine can give me a reasonable game.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #9

    robustyoungsoul

    What is a good analysis package for someone just starting out with these tools? Chess.com is the only place I currently visit for chess resources, but I would love to have something that could analyze my games offline.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #10

    stwils

    I downloaded Chess Positional Trainer. I then clicked on the shortcut to start it. The game interface appeared, but there was nothing there that I could do. :(  It said "New" and "Load."

    When I clicked on each one of those, it went to "My documents" and wanted me to save one of the files.

    What have I missed? Is the Trainer not complete within itself? Is it waiting for me to load something into it, and if so what and how?

    Can someone advise me on how to use this?

    Thanks.

    stwils

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #11

    Sharukin

    robustyoungsoul wrote:

    What is a good analysis package for someone just starting out with these tools? Chess.com is the only place I currently visit for chess resources, but I would love to have something that could analyze my games offline.


    Arena and the free version of Rybka (2.2?) would be a good place to start. Arena is an interface for chess engines and Rybka is a very good engine. One or two other engines might also be a good idea, Fruit would probably be a good complement to Rybka.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #12

    fleiman

    A great Article.  I use Chessmaster and ChessBase Light.

    For me it's enough.

    What about tournament management software ?

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #13

    Sharukin

    fleiman wrote:

    A great Article.  I use Chessmaster and ChessBase Light.

    For me it's enough.

    What about tournament management software ?


    Sevilla is good for tournament management and it is free!

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #14

    ericmittens

    I use fritz 11 for analysis of my OTB games, and also for storing my OTB games. The free year's subscription to playchess is a nice perk too but when it runs out I'll probably subscribe at the ICC.

    For database stuff I usually just use the base here at chess.com, it's a hell of a lot easier to use than the database that comes with fritz.

    I use fritz for chessbase DVDs as well, and chess.emrald.net for tactics training.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #15

    TalFan

    I have an older copy of deep fritz 8, a free rybka engine and a few other freeware UCI engines that I use for fun mainly. That's about it. Oh and for the database I go to the chessgames website.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #16

    Toddious

    stwils wrote:

    I downloaded Chess Positional Trainer. I then clicked on the shortcut to start it. The game interface appeared, but there was nothing there that I could do. :( It said "New" and "Load."

    When I clicked on each one of those, it went to "My documents" and wanted me to save one of the files.

    What have I missed? Is the Trainer not complete within itself? Is it waiting for me to load something into it, and if so what and how?

    Can someone advise me on how to use this?

    Thanks.

    stwils


    You just installed the program but you still need to download a few databases that have "opening books".  Follow this link:

    http://www.chesspositiontrainer.com/English/Downloads/FreeChessRepertoires.aspx

    And pick one or two books to download such as Standard-Repertoire by Chess Position Trainer

    Save the file to your computer.  Once you have saved it, double click on it.  Take the folder inside the zip file and put it some where on your hard drive i.e. C:\Opening Books

    Then open up the program, select load and use the load address to bar to point to C:\Opening Books\ECO   (ECO or what ever book you downloaded).

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #17

    Ziryab

    Your comparison of Fritz and Chessmaster shows that you and I have opposite views that mirror each other. Chessmaster strikes me as amateurish and dated, its engine makes appalling un-humanlike errors playing in weaker modes, and its auto-annotation cannot compare to that of Fritz. Fritz, on the other hand, plays a decent weakened game in sparring mode, has a state of the art interface that is sensible and intuitive, and sets the standard for automated annotations.

    As for Chessmaster's interfacer, why should one ever need to leave "the room" to access another feature of software? Yahoo has been doing such things since its beginning, but most software developers abandoned this nonsense before CM wrecked the decent interface they had in CM 2000-CM 9000 with the 10th edition changes.

    See more detailed comparisons at "Chessmaster vs. Fritz"

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #18

    Skwerly

    Since I switched over to the far superior Linux, I use Shredder 12 with a Java platform - LOVE it.  LOVE LOVE LOVE IT.  Fritz 10 was what I used with Windows, with the Shredder 11 package. 

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #19

    Ziryab

    Skwerly wrote:

    Since I switched over to the far superior Linux, I use Shredder 12 with a Java platform - LOVE it.  LOVE LOVE LOVE IT.  Fritz 10 was what I used with Windows, with the Shredder 11 package. 


    Can I run all my chess software if I switch to Linux? Most runs fine on XP, but I'm running into incompatibility issues in Windows 7.

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #20

    Puroi

    Begone! Foul necromancer.


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