Ubuntu Linux and Chess -- Front Ends

Mar 21, 2012, 6:53 PM |

So in the previous post I gave you a list of chess programs you can install.  This time I will talk briefly about a few of the front ends.


xboard is the oldest of the front ends and it's the oldest looking.  It is ugly, and scrolling is counter-intuitive (use the left mouse button to scroll down, the right mouse button to scroll up, and the middle mouse button for normal scrolling). This is because it uses a really old X widget set.

It does however have all of the features.  You can load a game (PGN) file, you can load a position (FEN, EPD or POS) file, and you can save games and positions.  You can use multiple engines and configure different engines to talk to xboard.  You can load a game and instruct an engine to do backwards or forwards analysis -- your choice.

The default engines that xboard comes with are gnuchess and fairymax.  If you're a reasonably competent player you will want something else, but that's easy to swap in later.


I picked up knights because it's a native KDE application and I use KDE.  It comes with configuration for crafty and gnuchess, but they are also easy to swap out.  There is some mention of knights being UCI compatible but that's not the case with the current release -- the knights web page says that UCI compatibility will be out in a future release.

It's a much nicer interface than xboard but it doesn't have the bells and whistles like analysis mode, etc.


eboard is a GTK application and will suit you better than knights if you prefer to use Gnome instead of KDE.

Much of what I said about knights applies to eboard. It has a nicer interface than knights with a few extra features such as loading a PGN file, playing chess against opponents using an ICS server on the internet, etc, but it doesn't have analysis mode like xboard.  However if you just want to play chess against a chess engine, this might be your best choice.


scid is actually my favourite.  It's primarily written as a game analysis program, with the ability to load games in PGN file and step through them while analysing them, but it's also possible to use it to play against an engine.  Like xboard it actually supports loading two engines and you can see the two engines' analysis to play one engine against another (although manually).  It's the only program that is UCI compliant out of the box and it has a nice, although complex, user interface.