Getting The Best From Your Chess Engine

When it comes to something as crucial as improving at chess, only the best chess engines will do.

top 5 best chess engines of the world blogimage

One of the main reasons we are attracted to chess is the challenge it provides. A good chess engine is an invaluable tool in meeting this challenge.

 They can ably assist you in your growth to become a better chess player.

We are fortunate to have several excellent chess engines available to us today. Use it wisely, and your chess engine will assist you in becoming a much stronger player. 

In this video, GM Aleksandr Lenderman shows how Rybka got a great initiative with a double pawn sacrifice.

The Right Tool For The Right Job

When it comes to doing maintenance work around the house you accept your toolkit will need more than only a hammer or a screwdriver.

Yet, many people think a chess engine will take care of everything they need when it comes to chess.

No doubt this stems from our faith in the advances made in computing recently. We have indeed made great strides in technology.

Even our phones are capable of running a chess engine today. You can carry an engine stronger than the world chess champion in your pocket.

A good starting point is to decide what you want from the chess engine. What is your goal?

Then you must gain an understanding of how your chosen chess engine can help you. Unless your chess goals are extremely lofty, most chess engines and your average computer will prove sufficient.

Beyond any doubt, the greatest skill you can acquire is knowing when to set the chess engine aside.

When And How To Use The Chess Engine

There are three phases to every chess game:

  • opening
  • middlegame
  • endgame

Let’s take a look at how to get the best from your chess engine in each phase of the game.

With The Lenderman Method, you have the incredible opportunity to learn from top games played by the world’s best chess engines. All the games narrated and the concepts behind the gambits are clearly explained by GM Aleksandr Lenderman in his Master Method Course. Save 50% now!

Chess Engines In The Opening

Unless your rating is at least 2000 Elo or higher you do not need a chess engine for your opening studies.

In fact, if you are learning openings with a rating of less than 2000, using the chess engine is likely to hinder your progress more than advance it.

As a beginner, you can benefit by using the chess engine to help you if you keep repeating the same mistake.

This is because the vital part of learning any opening is understanding your opening. How much understanding do you think you will get from seeing a 0.07 evaluation difference between moves?

Looking at the diagram below, you will notice if you play 4.Bd3 black can play 4…c4 attacking your bishop. Even though it scores lower you decide 4.Be2 is better because you don’t lose a tempo.

bd3 or be2
All it takes is a quick glance to see Bd3 blocks the queen from defending the d4 pawn and you will lose a tempo if black plays …c4

Players over 2000 Elo use the computer to test new moves. They already have a deep understanding of the opening ideas and which positions they prefer.

Instead of using the computer to suggest moves, stronger players usually play the move first and see if the computer finds a response they might have overlooked.

The chess engine is consulted for a third or fourth opinion, not an only opinion.

As a beginner, you can benefit by using the chess engine to help you if you keep repeating the same mistake. Look at the moves the computer gives, write them down and then go play them at the board.

Work through it with a friend or training partner until you understand why this variation works. Make use of online forums to gain an understanding.

Here is a tough game between two of the world’s strongest chess engines.

The Middlegame And Chess Engines

GM Efstratios Grivas is a FIDE Senior Trainer and in his training course, The Grivas Method, he mentions he included a variation purely for the sake of completeness. A computer line he is adamant no human will find.

Taking all his years of playing and teaching experience into account, GM Grivas is most likely correct. There are variations where only finding several very hard-to-find moves will save the game.

Pattern recognition should be a key part of your training as a chess player.

You are not a computer so expecting to see these moves or remember them is unrealistic. Fortunately, it’s unrealistic and unlikely your human opponent will find them too.

chess players in the park
Always remember there is more to chess than just what takes place on the chessboard.

That being said, given enough time to work, computers excel in middlegame positions.

This is usually more time than a human who will frequently spot an opportunity to play a sacrifice quicker than the computer. This is because of his knowledge of piece placement.

Pattern recognition should be a key part of your training as a chess player. Using tactics from other games is something all good players do.

This is how a chess grandmaster can step up to a board and find a winning attack within seconds.

Make use of a computer to assist you after you have analyzed your game. When analyzing your game write down all the variations you can think of and test them against the computer.

If the computer finds something you missed make certain you work on understanding why you missed it and why the computer line works.

Chess Engines In The Endgame

The endgame makes the most use of the chess engine as a training partner. There is nothing better to help you brush up on your technique than playing against the engine.

Apart from being great at learning how to checkmate with two bishops against a king, you also get to work on your speed.

Can you deliver checkmate with two bishops in under a minute? How about in under thirty seconds?

chess player drained of emotion
Don’t seek to play so much like a computer you forget about the importance of emotions in chess

What makes the engine so good for practicing endgame play is it has access to tablebases. Tablebases let it know which moves will prolong the game the most in any situation with less than six pieces.

Of course, you can always learn how to defend properly in king versus king and pawn endgames by playing material down.

Thanks to recent advances, chess engines are beginning to understand positions where a side establishes a fortress in the endgame.

Which Chess Engine Should You Use?

As with everything in life, which chess engine you choose is mostly a question of taste. The chess engines of today are all exceptionally strong with ratings above 2500 Elo.

Here are some alternatives to the big names which were mentioned in this previous article on The Five Best Chess Engines. The five chess engines mentioned below should prove strong enough for most people’s needs.

The advances in chess engines have made them an invaluable tool for the aspiring chess player today

The following chess engines are all open source, free, and run on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Crafty https://sourceforge.net/projects/craftychessinterface/files/crafty_gui_10.7z/download

Fruit http://www.fruitchess.com/

Critter http://www.vlasak.biz/critter/

Gull https://sourceforge.net/projects/gullchess/

The following chess engine is commercial but does offer a free demo version so you can test the engine before buying it.

Rybka http://rybkachess.com/index.php?auswahl=Demo+version

You will need a GUI to get the most out of your free chess engine. One of the most popular is Lucas Chess.

In Conclusion

The advances in chess engines have made them an invaluable tool for the aspiring chess player today. Love them or hate them they are undoubtedly here to stay.

This means it makes sense to learn how to get the most from them. Always remembering technology is here to make our life easier not to stop us from living our own lives or thinking for ourselves.

Remember that experience is your best teacher when it comes to using a chess engine. When you first start the computer assessment might need to be quite high for you to convert the win. Later, as you become a better all-around chess player, this number will steadily decrease.

Chess is a beautiful game with a richness you can only fully appreciate by deepening your understanding of the game. Be careful not to let our silicone friends turn your wins into hollow victories.

Also, be sure to read

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