Chess Software Review

Chess Software – The Best Chess Partners You Can Have

No aspiring chess player should tackle the task of improving their skill level without help from a machine. Machines are not only the strongest players in the world (stronger than even the World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen), they also offer so many benefits and training tools. I’ll try to give plenty of examples from my own experiences. I’ve been using chess software since about the turn of the century, which was right around the time when it became obvious that humans were no longer the best players in the world.

There are three basic types of chess software: databases, engines like Fritz, and training software.

Databases

Databases are a big┬ápart of your chess development. There are a few databases out there if you search for them, but Chessbase is easily the biggest and the best. I think the latest version of the database is up to about 14 or so. Chessbase is where you want to store all of your games. I’ve been collecting my tournament games since 1992. Here is a snapshot:

It can sort by opponents, openings, tournaments, tactical motifs, and much more. In the next screen shot, I clicked on the players tab and then selected one of my opponents. It shows the date each game was played against this opponent and also the tournament in which we played each other.

The key benefit of having this information in a single location is to improve your opening knowledge, compared to opening moves you’ve already played. For example, if you want to know what Grandmasters play against certain opening moves, this database is the place to find it. In the screenshot below, this typical opening shows the top players who use this opening and the best moves to play against it. This information is invaluable to the player looking to reach Master level.

Databases such as Chessbase are expensive to buy new and older versions are hard to find. I have Chessbase 10 and I wont need to update to the latest version until my desktop computer dies on me. The newer versions have some really cool features, but at the amateur level, you don’t need them (especially at the cost).

If you want the latest version (Chessbase 14), click here.

For Chessbase 10, click here.

I also found it at a dedicated chess store here.

Engines

While databases are great for keeping information is a singular location and for improving opening play, engines are a MUST for any chess player who wants to improve.

Engines help with many aspects of chess learning, but none bigger than a) playing against it, and b) using the engine to review your games and let you know where you went wrong.

Experienced chess players know that you only get better by playing against better players. When, how about being able to play a Grandmaster in the comfort of your own house?! Don’t expect to win (ever!), but you can learn a great deal. If you get tired of losing, there are setting that weaken the software’s playing strength, giving you a chance to win.

But for me, it’s all about reviewing my games with the machine. I do a blunder check with the engine for every tournament game I play, without fail. It’s especially critical to show you where you may have missed a tactical combination.

As with the databases, engines get upgraded quite often, and there are many to choose from. The best, in my opinion is Fritz from Chessbase. It may no longer be the strongest software in terms of playing strength, but the training tools such as blunder check and analysis are second to none. The newest version is Fritz 15, but again, I use an older version (Fritz 10) because the upgrades are nice, but in my opinion, not worth the cost to upgrade. Of course, I am also one of those people who do not buy the latest and greatest phones. I prefer to be one version behind to save on cost. But that’s just me.

Other engine options are Junior (also from Chessbase), Stockfish, Houdini, Komodo, and Rybka, just to name a few of the top ones.

If you are interested, I found a copy of Fritz 15 and Fritz 10 on Amazon.com (click hyperlink).

Training Tools (CDs/DVDs)

The last of the main software for chess improvement are complimentary training DVDs. These can be for openings, tactics, chess history, or just about anything else chess related. Most times they have large video files where you listen to Grandmasters give lectures on their favorite openings and games.

Personally, I have about 3 of the Chessbase DVDs, all of various openings that I was experimenting with about a decade ago. They are not nearly as important as a big games database and a strong engine. And of course, the prices for these are much lower than those types of software. You can find Chessbase DVDs on chessbase.com or on amazon.com.