SCID + Stockfish
I was interested in finding open-source chess tools for analysis, study and preparation. Last time I checked, I wasn't too excited, but this time I am happy to find about SCID. SCID is an open-source chess database that has a lot of the options available in commercial databases. It has also a reasonable UI and can run on Windows, Linux and Mac. Running on Linux and Mac is a big advantage in itself, as most commercial database and playing software are only for Windows. This was always a challenge for me, as I prefer Linux or Mac for most of my work, and getting chess software on them required some work-around. Let me first say that the last commercial software I had was Fritz 8 and ChessBase 8, which are quite old now (the current versions are Fritz 14 and ChessBase 12), so any comparison will be based on that.
Doing some research, I found that there's a fork from SCID, called SCID vs. PC, that was recommended as more up-to-date and better maintained. I haven't verified that myself, as I went to SCID vs. PC directly without trying the original SCID. In the downloads, they already have a Mac DMG and once I installed that, it worked directly without the need for any tweaking. I was happy with the easy installation and the UI was also reasonable, although not very intuitive initially and might take some time to get used to it. For example, to save my first game, I had to try several times, initially I got confused by the Clipbase which turned out to be only in memory and not saved to disk. Then, saving to a newly created database didn't work as expected and I had to try different ways. Also, comments and annotations required some trial to figure out.
SCID installed with a few engines that can be used for analysis and also to play against them. One thing I like in SCID compared to ChessBase, is that you can start a game against any of the engines directly. In ChessBase, you had to switch to Fritz interface in order to do that. The engines installed didn't look so strong, so I decided to search for the strongest open-source engine and here I came across Stockfish.
If you follow chess programming or computer chess competitions, Stockfish is known as one of the strongest and highest rated along with Houdini, Komodo and Rybka. After downloading Stockfish engine and its book, it required some work to get it to work with SCID. First step is to compile and build the engine, then putting the generated binary file and the book in the same directory. In my case, I used the 64-bits file as it matches with my Mac. Then from SCID, open the engine analysis window from the menu and select to add a new engine. Enter the directory where you put Stockfish binary and book then save. Now, you should be able to see Stockfish on the list of engines and if you double-click, it should start showing analysis for the position.
The combination of SCID + Stockfish so far looks like a great tool for analysis and you can also add other strong engines to it, as I will present in later posts. Next thing required for this to become a complete preparation tool, is to include a recent opening book and large database of games. This also is a topic of future investigation.