Chess On Linux


It is widely believed that the gnuchess and xboard is all that you need to play a game of chess on a linux computer. While it's certainly enough to get you started, it's certainly not the last word. Besides, playing against the computer is just a waste of time, computers should be used only for post mortem analysis.  The Xboard user interface is rather archaic and it wouldn't even start up on one of my linux boxes (xboard: no fonts match pattern -*-helvetica-bold-r-normal--*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*).

xboard screenshot

With most non-commercial chess engines you need a separate client software to provide a GUI for the engine (sometimes you do find them bundled together you can even find packages that include all three; opening database, client and engine). Such clients are often based on the Xboard protocol (sometimes called the winboard protocol). Xboard of course is the grand daddy of all xboard (and winboard) clients. There are many xboard implementations for windows but only a few for Linux and OS X. Fortunately many of the software written for windows can be installed under wine. But first lets look at the native apps. The next one I tried though wasn't really native, it was a Java app named Decaf. It turns out that Decaf is a front end for the <a href="">free internet chess server</a> and cannot be used with an engine.

eboard screenshot

The next one I looked at was Eboard. This again is better suited as a frontend for the FICS. According to the online documentation eboard can be used to analyze a game but the documentation doesn't tell you how exactly that can be done. As with xboard, the UI is a bit archaic so I decided to look beyond.  I looked past Knights , Gnome Chess (not updated in ages) and Jin (FICS client) before taking a closer look at Slibo. It hasn't been updated since 2003 either but the screenshots looked impressive. Unfortunately I never got to install it. There are no binaries available and the source wouldn't compiled (it's looking for Qt 3 headers/libraries - the current version is Qt is 4.5.2 ).

pychess screenshot

Next option was pychess - it could be easily installed with yum and it's user interface looks decent.  That seems to pretty much exhaust the list of chess clients available for linux. I guess it's time to look at windows apps that can be installed under wine or to look for a combined engine/client.
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