Chess Software for Linux

Once there was a time when chess software for the home was slow, weak and expensive. To find human opponents, you had to go to your local chess club. Today, the situations is different.
Chess on the Internet

xboard can also be used to play chess via the Internet, which is an excellent way to find fun opponents of all skill levels.

In order to use xboard to play on an Internet chess server, first set up a SLIP/PPP connection, and then to get to the main free U.S. server, type:

xboard -ics -icshost

This will connect you to the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS) through port 5000 and open an xboard display so that you are ready to both observe and play games. You will first need to log in, of course, and for this you should choose a handle to use as a guest until you think of one especially clever. To get a list of the games in progress, type:

Then to test the interface, try typing:
obs 6
to observe game 6 (assuming it exists). Your interface should work and you should see some pieces moving hither and thither; type “unobserve” when you've seen enough. The commands are quite simple, and the online documentation is thorough, but if you need help getting started you can ask other players in channel 1. A great many chess servers exist throughout the world, including Grandmaster Dzindzichashvili's, the (commercial) Internet Chess Club, and the main European free server; I imagine any of these would be happy to have new players.


Those of us who were made to suffer at the hands of Sargon in the days of the Commodore 64, tormented by the malicious characters of BattleChess, or politely dismantled by Chessmaster, now have the pleasure of choosing a variety of master strength programs to defeat us on our modern machines (the struggle to prove a consistent match to the ever-improving Crafty is being made into a movie, apparently to be called Searching for Holes in Crafty's Opening Book). However, today's computers also provide the frustrated chess player with relief that computers did not offer when the Commodore 64 was king: Internet chess, featuring human players, complete with mistakes and oversights that computers don't make anymore.

Jason Kroll is a student of economics at the University of Washington. He likes music, computers, and chess, and thinks that Linux is the best thing to happen to computers since monitors (or at least since the Amiga). He can be reached via e-mail at



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Computer chess on vs Linux

Evildutch's picture

I used to play computer chess on using a Fritz interface (Fritz 11), which was able to load UCI engines like Rybka. I'm trying to find a way to play on using ubuntu as a platform, but wasn't able to find a satifactory solution, with Wine the Fritz application just won't start. Probably the Linux community might find a solution for this in the near future.

Rybka the best chess

greenkyd's picture

Rybka the best chess software as of now is made only for Windows based. basic versions of Rybka you can play in Linux with Arena

There seems to be no

Anonymous's picture

There seems to be no reasonable gui for chess in linux. Only xboard supports analysis. None other!!

Linux Chess Gui

Stevenaaus's picture

I just discovered Scid It is mainly a database program, but with many strong engines that can be played against too.

It has bugs, but i'm fixing up the "Play" menu item to work flawlessly. CVS has the latest fixes.


Anonymous's picture

I always use PyChess for playing offline, online or analyzing.
It has support for all the engines, and it even has its own, which isn't so hard to beat though.

Any idea of ELO strenght?

Roberto Perez-Franco's picture

Hi there! Thanks for the article. Is there any estimate of the strength (say, in ELO) of these chess softwares, for a given hardware?

Re: Chess Software for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Very nice article.

Just one mistake that can be corrected(pgn = portable game notation) and not pretty good notation :). Or maybe the author was being funny.

In any case, this article is good, there is also 1 more strong program called ruffian, but not sure if linux ruffian is available.

Ruffian Linux

Anonymous's picture

Ruffian linux is a commercial product carried by Lokasoft.