How Do Chess Engines Work?

Chess engines are computer programs that let you play the game using standard interface rules. Since majority of programs do not have their own graphical user interface (GUI), chess engines will let you play computer chess within programs like XBoard for Linux and WinBoard, Arena, and Chessbase for Windows. With these programs, you can compete against human opponents as well as other engines on a computer, local area network, or online.

Eventually, the command line interface used by GNU Chess effectively made it the standard which came to be known as Chess Engine Communication Protocol. The Universal Chess Interface is the most recent protocol. A number of chess engines use both protocols. The Chess Engine Communication Protocol is the preferred one but the UCI is the more expressive one. Some GUI support both protocols while others choose only one and utilize subsidiary interpreters for translating.

It is worth noting that chess engines elevate their playing strength annually. Part of the reason is that the processing power increases which allows computations to be done in a deeper level. Aside from that, there is also a proliferation of improved programming techniques paving the way for these engines to be selective in analyzing lines as well as in securing a much improved understanding of chess positions.

Moreover, chess engines have endgame tablebases which is responsible for boosting their strength towards the latter stages of the game. These tablebases are in charge of analyzing potential endgame positions with minimal materials. They point out which is the most ideal move in every position.

The results of computer chess tournaments, like the World Computer Chess Championship, provides an idea on how strong chess engines are. However, the number of games played in a tournament is not significant enough to accurately determine their strength.

As a matter of fact, the amount of games required to be played in a relatively even match may reach up to a thousand, and thus may be impractical for using in a tournament. Since computer chess competitions are played using any kind of hardware, comparison will only be based on engine and hardware combination.

Towards the history of computerized chess programs, commercial software has been the most powerful engines. The recent World Computer Chess Championship was won by Rybka. Zappa, which was an amateur engine that fared well in 2005, was immediately commercialized.

Chess engines are no doubt one of the most powerful innovations that have made chess even more exciting.