The progressing technological advance changed the game of chess during the last few years.
In 1997 the IBMs supercomputer Deep Blue defeated the World Champion of those times, Garry Kasparov, in a chess match under tournament conditions.
It became obvious that artificial intelligence was on the rise!
Today, more than 20 years later, chess engines have even become a lot stronger and increase in playing strength each year. This is partly due to the increase in processing power that enables calculations to be made to even greater depths in a given time.
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In addition, programming techniques have improved enabling the engines to be more selective in the lines that they analyze and to acquire a better positional understanding. Even better than the World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. Nowadays, there is no human player who can beat one of the best chess engines.
Here’s our list of the Top 5 Best Chess Engines of the World in 2018:
1. Stockfish 9 – Elo 3438
Stockfish is the strongest free chess engine. It is easy to say that Stockfish 9 is well beyond the skill of any grandmaster.
Stockfish is an open source UCI engine available for various desktop and mobile platform. It is developed by Marco Costalba, Joona Kiiski, Gary Linscott and Tord Romstad, with many contributions from a community of open source developers.
The best thing about Stockfish is that it is completely free, open source, and cross-platform. Stockfish and Komodo are far ahead of the rest of the field!
The computer king title regularly changes hands between these two engines! Consequently, they are the two strongest in chess history until today!
At the moment, Stockfish 9 64-bit 4CPU has an ELO rating of incredible 3438 points.
You can download Stockfish here: https://stockfishchess.org/
2. Komodo 11.3.1 – Elo 3404
Komodo is a UCI chess engine developed by Don Dailey, Mark Lefler, and supported by chess author and evaluation expert, GM Larry Kaufman.
The chess engine is a commercial one, but older versions (8 and older) are free for non-commercial use.
At the moment, Komodo 11.3.1 64-bit 4CPU has an ELO rating of 3404.
You can buy the latest version of Komodo or get an older version for free here: https://komodochess.com/Komodo11.3.htm
3. Houdini 6 – Elo 3400
Houdini is a UCI chess engine developed by Belgian programmer Robert Houdart. Earlier versions are free for non-commercial use (up to version 1.5a). Later versions – 2.0 and onwards – are commercial.
At the moment, Houdini 6 64-bit 4CPU has an ELO rating of 3400.
You can purchase Houdini here: http://www.cruxis.com/chess/houdini.htm
4. Fire 7.1 – Elo 3325
Originally called Firebird, this another top chess engine that’s available for free, the engine is usually among the top 10 best chess engines in many rating lists.
It was originally started out as an open-source project, but later on, the code became closed. However, there is a fork off of fire 2.2, which has been renamed Firenzina, which is still open-sourced.
When the Fire chess engine became closed, the code was completely rewritten, in order to avoid containing any code from the chess engine Ippolit, as the original open-source version contained part of it.
You can download this engine here: https://chesslogik.wixsite.com/fire
5. Deep Shredder 13 – Elo 3286
Deep Shredder 13 is considered one of the strongest chess software on the planet. This one is not a free chess engine like Stockfish or Komodo, it actually comes with its own interface, which is also considered one of the best interfaces to practice with a chess engine.
Shredder is definitely to be considered one of the best chess engines of the world since it has already won seventeen titles as World Computer Chess Champion and is accepted as one of the best chess engines of the world.
You can download Shredder 13 from the following link: https://www.shredderchess.com/chess-software/deep-shredder13.html
Most Popular And Best Chess Engines Among Club Players
Today, many chess players spend a lot of time working with computers. Any ambitious chess player can and should download at least one strong chess engine. Chess engines evolved to one of the most vital chess training tools.
Having a chess engine gives you the possibility to have a Super-GM at home who will give you his evaluation and the best move in any position you want.
Although there is a great variety of chess engines with different styles and strong points (and weak points also), most of them play better than any human player, so there is no better advice to take! And some of them are even free!
In essence, chess engines are a great chess training tool to have. If they are used correctly, they can help any chess player to improve. If not, the extensive use of chess engines can result in the stagnation of your playing ability and you might stop improving.
Therefore, firstly, we want to caution you a little against the topic of chess engines in the following article. Subsequently, we will present you the three best and latest chess engines which are available on the market.
Don’t Abuse Chess Engines
The use of chess engines is a complicated topic. The former World Chess Championship Contender Peter Leko once said that “in our modern computer era, it’s always a delight […] to stimulate our brains.” This means that in most cases, you’ll learn more and increase your understanding of chess by doing the work yourself.
However, it becomes more and more obvious that plenty of amateur chess players don’t think by themselves about a given chess position, but immediately start to look at the machine’s evaluation. These habits turn out to be fatal, as they keep you away from training your own chess skills.
If you analyze your games, it is extremely important to use your own brain and not solely the best chess engines!
Don’t be lazy and just let the machine tell you the best moves. You don’t have the computer on your side during your real games.
Invest your chess study time into a detailed analysis of your own games, especially the games you lost as you’ll learn more from them! In the end, you can ask for hints from the computer.
Sometimes, even the best players in the world can’t convert a position a computer evaluates to a +1.5 advantage. So, don’t rely on artificial intelligence but on your own brain!
Disadvantages of Using Chess Engines
There is one major downside of using chess engines! They don’t care about winning the game but try to achieve the highest possible assessment in their merit function.
A computer isn’t really interested in subjectively dangerous counterplay that objectively doesn’t pose a threat. Hence, it is vital not only to look for the move with the highest ranking while analyzing with chess engines but also to concentrate on the easiest way to win.
When you have the choice between a complicated mate in 8 moves sacrificing material and a simple way to win the opponent’s queen with an easily won position, you should always decide for the latter.
People often have a tough time to turn objectively won positions into a full point. Thus, in winning positions it is essential to stay highly concentrated and to prevent counterplay, instead of traveling mentally to the calculation of the allegedly won ELO points and the next game in the tournament.
Moreover, it is dangerous to trust the evaluation of chess engines. A position which an engine assesses as 0.00 is not necessarily an easy draw for both sides.
It can also mean that one side has to eliminate the opponent’s strong initiative with 10 precise moves in a row. Practically speaking, this is an extremely difficult task.
Hence, it is important to understand why computers give certain evaluations. It should also be noted that chess engines are not able to detect fortresses.
You can take a look at the position on the right. Black managed to create a fortress. He can just move his rook between f6 and d6. If White gives checks with his queen, Black’s king always stays next to the pawn.
White can’t make any progress. Still, many chess engines evaluate this position with around +2.00 for White.
Conclusion – Best Chess Engines
Chess engines are a curse and a blessing at the same time. Chess players who use them intelligently greatly benefit from the rise of strong computers.
However, legitimate chess improvement requires a level of discipline that prefers to avoid shortcuts and opts for the steeper path to real knowledge and understanding.
More and more chess players become too lazy to think on their own. Instead, they almost always look at the engine’s evaluation.
This superficial approach to chess study will not only fail to improve your chess game, but it will also make you worse by enforcing bad habits.
Chess games among human beings involve a lot more subtleties than a simple computer evaluation like +0.51 can tell you.
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