Chess Hero 2.0.1 - can you play like a GM?


Website/download here:

NB: please note this is only an initial/preliminary review having tested the software for only a couple of hours.


I was very interested by this piece of software: be faced with a position from a game and see if you can play what the master played. Score points based on your performance.

To my knowledge such guess-the-move software is pretty thin on the ground - although have just made it a premium feature on their site - and yet playing through GM games, covering up the moves and figuring out what the player played next is something we are all told to do if we want to get much better! The immortal chess writer C.J.S. Purdy points out in his excellent Fine Art of Chess Annotation (vol.1) that all brilliant players, no matter whether or not they studied openings or endgames or books on strategy - all of them had one thing in common: they all played over lots of master games. Purdy says the proper way to do this is to cover the moves and find the best moves for yourself. How well do your moves agree with the moves the master played?

But now there is a FREE program that can help you do this and it's far less work than setting up your board and pieces.

This is where Chess Hero comes in. And the latest version has a completely redesigned and improved interface. Here's what the program looks like:

(You can modify board colour, piece type, board size, and Game and Analysis window size).

Upon loading the software, I immediately made Deep Rybka 3 the analysis engine (the software comes bundled with Toga II).

I think you'll agree the program looks nice - simple, but sharp and clean.

How it works is that you load in a PGN of your choice and the program selects random positions from games in that PGN to test how you stack up against the masters (though, of course, there's nothing to stop you loading a PGN of amateur or engine games). Being able to load your own PGN means the user has quite alot of control and can to a large extent determine what he gets tested on; so, for example, you could load a PGN only of Capablanca's games and see if you can play like him.

That's the basic philosophy behind the software. After you've made your move, the program tells you how you scored compared to the text move and you gain points or penalities accordingly. Then the analysis engine analyzes the position and comes up with its own recommended best move.

I'll leave it to the reader to decide the usefulness of such an approach, but to my mind, something that offers this kind of feature is invaluable! (Not to mention time-saving and convenient).

That the aim of the program is a worthy one can hardly be disputed. So how does Chess Hero pull it off - what's the concrete implementation like?

Well, as you can see, the visual look of the software is quite pleasing. Simple, but sharp and functional. It's possible to select from several piece types, several board colour schemes and users can resize the board as desired. It's also possible to resize the Game and Variations/analysis windows. The most important information and the Action buttons appear at the bottom left of the screen. The right-hand of the screen deals with information - game details and analysis.

From a couple of hours of testing, my overall impression is that things work pretty well. But the software is still young and a bit rough around the edges.

The following is a list of my thoughts on what can be improved for later versions. I base this list on a only a couple of hours' testing and a fairly quick scan through the enclosed Help file:


- More clarity on how the timer affects your penalty

- I'm unclear on how you score if you play the engine's recommended move rather than the master's move. Ultimately, are you aiming to play like the master or the engine?

- What if you choose a move the engine rates better than the text move but which is not what the engine actually recommends - how do you score then?

*Software issues*

- When the board is large, some of the variations text is obscured

- When I selected a new PGN file, the program didn't load it, I had to press "Next"

- No way to exit the current puzzle you are on other than by pressing "Give up"

- No way to re-open the Game and Analysis windows once you've closed them (this is a major design flaw)


- Drag-and-drop piece movement

- Option of resizing or moving the Actions toolbar (currently badly-placed at the bottom left of the screen)

- Option to input the number of puzzles you want to be tested on (at the moment you only have open-ended sessions and you can only finish by exiting the program)

- More images in the Help file, especially of the main window

- Ability to preview the changes to board/pieces you make

- Option to save your game/configuration/board preferences for next time (this one is a must-have!)

- Tooltips, or a key to the icons shown in the Variations section; e.g. what does the icon of a computer with a person sitting next to it mean? There are also persons in various colours. At the moment I have no idea what these various icons mean...

- More use of different coloured fonts, e.g. in game headers, moves lists, variations - and the option to change fonts, font colours etc.

- A way of viewing all the game moves up until the move you are being tested on

*Ideas for future improvements/expanded functionality*

- Tests several moves deep, with scoring for each move (i.e. computer makes opponent's moves) (this already exists in Convekta's "Play as Capablanca", for example)

- To load a Capablanca (or other player) games database and then have the program only to test on Capablanca's moves (i.e. and not his opponent's moves), then it can give you a percentage score of how much your moves agreed with Capa's

- A summary of your scores for that session, some way to track your progress over time (figures, graphs); maybe even estimated ELO ratings for your performances?

- A way of viewing the game list of the PGN file, perhaps even the option of selecting which game the puzzle shall come from? So you could select a famous game of your choice and test yourself on it.

- Ability to save positions/puzzles you find especially interesting/instructive for later, separate study


I hope you found this brief review useful. Overall I think this software is an excellent idea and it is already very promising. It can only get better :-)

Many thanks and big kudos to the developer for making it!



The author kindly responded to some of my comments:

- What if you choose a move the engine rates better than the text move but which is not what the engine actually recommends - how do you score then?
= You get a negative penalty, called "Bonus". Of course this yields a
better average penalty.

- No way to re-open the Game and Analysis windows once you've closed them (this is a major design flaw)
= Actually, you can re-open the windows by right-clicking on some empty space such as the actions toolbar or the menu bar (this is the default behaviour of the library I am using)

- To load a Capablanca (or other player) games database and then have the program only to test on Capablanca's moves (i.e. and not his
opponent's moves), then it can give you a percentage score of how much your moves agreed with Capa's

= You can filter the games to be picked by player's name (see "side to
move" in the PGN configuration window)

- Option to save your game/configuration/board preferences for next time (this one is a *must-have*!)
= These settings should already be saved... I am puzzled why it doesn't
work for you (?)


*worth a bump*



Thanks for sharing all these freeware software.

If you liked this one, you will efinetly like the one i reviewd today in my blog, called chess position trainer.

I reviewd it here and shared it as i think its a must ( t least as an aditional tool) for chess coaches/teachers. From a repertoire builder, trainer, positions trainer, etc etc etc...Its just amazing, speciall being a freeware.

Just thought if let you know, means you  are into it !

Thanks once again


Ras B


*bumping this*


Thanks for the bump.  I intend to check this program out.


I don't know if this thread is dead, but I'd like to say I really like chess hero.  I think that there are other very common sense features that could be added to the program.  For example a very good feature of chessbase is that in its tactical training mode it has a feature where you must identify each piece that is threatened on the board, each piece on your side which does not have at least one defender, and each piece which can move to any square and provide a king with check.  Each piece in this list has its square highlighted by a specific color when selected.  If this analysis mode were present in chess hero before any moves could be made it would serve as an excelent feature to both amateur and intermediate player for increasing positional awareness.


I might give this a try. Last update was Jan 2012, which is encouraging.


I really like this software.  I am a patzer, so I can only judge it from a patzer's point of view, but I find it very engaging.  I can easily play with it for an hour or two and completely lose track of time.

So far I have plugged in my mega database of 3 million games, and I just let the program choose a position at random (at random after move 10).  It beats going through those "guess-the-move" books by a mile.

Sure, sometimes you come up against a simple recapture, but so what?  You need to spot those situations.  Besides, what you might think is a simple recapture can sometimes turn out to be something else entirely.

I highly recommend this chess trainer.



Thanks for pointing out this software Amy!  An easy-to-use, efficient, functional software to test your choices in different positions against an engine.


Just tried the software.  So far, so good!  Thanks for the heads up!


This software is fantastic! And, even better, it works perfectly fine running under Wineskin on my Mac.


As an alternative, please try my program "GuessTheMove".  It takes the view that playing over an entire game is more productive than looking at random positions since you get a glimmer of the GM's entire plan. It tracks your progress across games and saves positions you erred in.  I am still looking for suggestions to improve the program and have incorporated some that have been offered.


For Guess-the-move I prefer Lucas Chess's "Play Like a Grandmaster" mode.  Lucas Chess is kind of a hidden gem of a software suite.  Most people don't realize how great it is.


This is really good software.  I tried to find a way to contact the author on the website, but nothing was there.  I had some suggestions...




I've been playing through games with these programs, and then I'll watch an IM or GM analyze the same game on YouTube. I feel like it's one of the best learning methods I've come up with, almost like having a strong coach there to explain and investigate this specific 'chess situation' to you that you've already spent some time with.


I've been using Fred Mellender's (fredm73 @ #14) GuessTheMove from (Scroll to thebottom of the page for download links. Click the little blue arrow at the extreme right to download.) I find it very useful.

Chess Hero has a better-looking chess board view than GuessTheMove and doesn't require .NET, which I appreciate, but I find the random features are pointless. I want to play through a single game straight through, not quiz myself on random positions from possibly random games. Those features are easy to program but provide little value. If I want to look at isolated positions, I'll do tactic trainers and puzzle books.

A chess game is a story. Perhaps the biggest weakness of class players is failing to appreciate the shape of a whole game.

Another advantage of the Fred's GuessTheMove is that you can save the game with your choices and the engine's choices embedded in the PGN as comments.

ipcress12 wrote:

 I want to play through a single game straight through

You can do this now in Chess Hero using the "sequential" option.


Is anyone out there using Chess Hero? It looks great but I'm having a hard time understanding the concept behind it. For example, if you *don't* play the book moves, how does the game ever progress? Or progress according to the text? And you won't then be playing the same moves as your "chess hero".