5 Strong Chess Engines and the Best Ways to Train With Them

5 Strong Chess Engines and the Best Ways to Train With Them

In essence, a chess engine is computer software that plays chess. We are fortunate to live in a time when the strongest chess engines are rated several hundred points higher than the world chess champion.

One of the best things about current chess engines is you can download some of the strongest chess engines for free. In fact, the strongest chess engine today is Stockfish, which is a free chess engine.

Installing a chess engine on your computer and using it to analyze your games is an excellent way to improve. However, chess engines can help us improve in many ways.

Let us begin by looking at how they can help us train. Reduce your stress levels ahead of time by accepting you are not going to win a training game against the engine if it's set at the highest playing strength.

Improve Your Opening Play With Chess Engines

If you have resumed commuting to the office, downloading Stockfish for your smartphone is an excellent way to improve your opening play. The app is known as SmallFish, and you can play a game with one color on the way to work and the other color after work.

A good time setting is 15 minutes with a 10-second increment (15/10). The idea is to practice your openings and reach a playable early middlegame position.

Although this is your primary focus, play through the rest of the game to see if you can pick up some tips from the chess engine. Maybe the chess engine's strategy suits your style of play, and you can use it in an over-the-board game.

Even though you will lose almost every game, if not all the games, you will gain confidence in your chess openings by playing a stronger opponent. The chess engine will help you learn how much you understand about the opening.

Improve Your Middlegame and Endgame Skills

Using the same time control, 15/10, practice playing positions from your games or the games of top players. Converting winning positions is regarded as extremely tough in chess.

You know the chess engine will find lots of excellent defensive resources in the position. Try different variations until you manage to win the game.

We've all had games where our opponent or we played an unsound sacrifice. There are also games of past world champions where the world champion played a speculative sacrifice.

When playing through games by these great players, make notes of these sacrifices. Then see if you can accept the sacrifice and defend the position against the engine.

Of course, if the sacrifice was accepted and the defense successful, it is fun to see how the chess engine plays the attack. The best part is you have the original game and can see when the chess engine plays something different.

You can learn a lot by looking for why the chess engine chose its move over the original.

If you cannot defend against the chess engine, see what attacking strategy and principles it used. Did it take advantage of one of your overloaded pieces or distract a piece from a crucial defensive square?

Take Your Analyzing Skills up a Notch or Two

Only use this training method when you have lots of time. Allow the chess engine two or three minutes per move and play a correspondence game.

In this training exercise, you will take your time to analyze all variations on your own without the aid of any chess engine. Keep all your analysis because if one strategy does not work, you can always return and try one of your other variations.

How many moves you play in a day is up to you, but make sure you analyze the position as deeply as possible. The training exercise aims to improve your ability to analyze a position deeply.

Once again, it pays to remember that you are not trying to win any of these games. Also, remember that you will not have the luxury of all this time when playing in tournaments.

By taking your time and practicing analyzing a position deeply, you gain experience. When playing in tournaments with shorter time control, this experience will help you select your candidate moves.

There are common pawn structures and middlegame strategies in every opening. After playing several lengthy games against the chess engine and analyzing the positions deeply, you will know which strategies are the most effective.

This slower training method works great combined with training methods using shorter time controls.

5 Excellent Chess Engines to Help you Improve

The lowest rated of these five chess engines is rated several hundred Elo higher than the current world chess champion. Considering that Magnus Carlsen set records in terms of highest Elo by a player, there is little reason to fear your engine will become outdated soon.

These five chess engines offer a good range of playing styles. Finding one that plays in a similar style to you will help you feel comfortable with the suggestions it makes.

There is no point in choosing the strongest or second strongest if you find yourself in positions you dislike playing. It is incredible that even if you chose the fortieth engine, it would have an Elo higher than any human chess player.

Stockfish Chess Engine

Stockfish is possibly the most well-known chess engine and the highest rated at a staggering 3925 Elo. You can download Stockfish for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Although it requires you to install a GUI, you can also get the Stockfish chess engine for your smartphone and tablet. The app is known as SmallFish at the iOS store.

Stockfish is an eleven-time winner of the Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC), including first place in the TCEC League Season 22, held from January 2022 until April 2022.

Komodo Dragon 3

Runner-up to Stockfish in the TCEC League Season 22. Komodo Dragon 3 offers a powerful chess engine as the default setting. You can change the personality setting from default to one that suits your playing style.

Some of the personalities available include active, positional, aggressive, defender, and human. These personalities allow you to train with a chess engine that plays in a style similar to yours.

Another way to benefit from personalities is to set the chess engine to play in a style you find challenging to meet. For example, if you are a positional player who finds it challenging to beat an aggressive player, you can play practice games against this personality.

The Elo setting matches the FIDE rating system and has been checked in games against humans. GM Lenderman helped ensure the settings compared to the FIDE system.

Houdini 6 64-bit 4CPU - Dragon by Komodo 3 64-bit 4CPU, 2022.05.02, 0-1, CCRL 40/15 Round 822.1.80


Fat Fritz 2

The Fat Fritz 2 chess engine brings Ai technology to regular computers without needing expensive graphics cards. This chess engine learns using the well-known AlphaZero algorithms.

Learning is one of the main selling points of this chess engine. Whether it is a new opening repertoire or to improve your all-round chess game, Fat Fritz 2 will certainly help you get better. A lot of the features included were designed to help you learn.

The ease of use and tools for improvement make using this chess engine easier. However, this chess engine does not sacrifice playing strength as it is the third highest-rated chess engine behind Stockfish 15 and Komodo Dragon 3.

Revenge 3.0 Chess Engine

This unheralded chess engine still has an impressive Elo rating of over 3700!

The latest release, Revenge 3.0, brings a more balanced approach to chess. The two earlier versions were more attacking orientated.

When running the chess engine, you will need a GUI, and free options include Winboard, Arena, and Banksia.

There are many excellent features to the chess engine. Included is "reverse futility pruning," which prunes moves that do not significantly improve the position.

Revenge 3.0 64-bit 4CPU - Stockfish 15 64-bit 4CPU, 2022.07.12, ½ - ½, CCRL 40/15 Round 832.3.642


Houdini 6.0 Chess Engine

Houdini is a commercial chess engine that is designed o run on Windows. You will need to use Wine if your operating system is Linux and a virtual machine if you own a Mac.

There is no significant decrease in playing strength with either of these options.

Houdini 6 is a significant upgrade over the previous version and makes better use of multiple threads. Included in the upgrade are better evaluation, search, and time management.

There are two options to choose Houdini 6.0 Standard is suitable for most users, and the Pro version, which is better if you have a high-end computer.

Cruxis is the business behind Houdini 6.0 and offers an online user guide for you to get the most out of your chess engine.

In Conclusion

There is no doubt chess engines can prove a valuable aid in getting better at chess. Like all good tools, you must not become reliant on them to do your thinking.

Turning down the assistance of a chess engine would be as much an error as becoming over-reliant on one. Analyze your games on your own or with a training partner, then turn on the chess engine and compare your results.

Using the chess engine wisely can undoubtedly take your game to the next level. Keep in mind that with its excellent calculating ability, a chess engine might suggest positions you are not comfortable playing.

Do not be afraid to play the second or third best line the chess engine suggests if you are more comfortable playing the position.

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