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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chess Hero

No, this post is not about a favorite chessplayer.

It’s about a free “guess the next move program.” The program comes with the Toga engine but you can add any engine in your arsenal (either XBoard and UCI engine protocols) and it has positions from small databases consisting of the Evans Gambit, OGD Orthodox Defense, Morozevich games and Reinfeld’s 1001 Brilliant Sacirifices or you can customize the program to include pgn files of, say, master games, your own games, tactical positions from different collections or games of your favorite player. You do that by copying them to the hard drive location where the program is stored. The interface itself is highly customizable with a nice selection of pieces, etc.

Playing through GM games and covering up the moves then figuring out what was played next is an excellent way to improve. C.J.S. Purdy said in his book Fine Art of Chess Annotation that all great players played over lots of master games and the best way to do this is to cover the moves and figure out the moves yourself. As I have pointed out in previous posts, I did this many years ago using Informants and kept track of my percentages just to make it interesting. The improvement astonished me. Technically I guess you could to this with any engine as long as you avoid cheating by peeking at the engine output, but this little program makes it easy…especially the part about keeping track of your success rate.

What the program does is pick a random position from the PGN files and then asks you to guess the best move computed by the engine. On every attempt you are given a penalty, told your move is correct or, on a couple of rare occasions I was told my move was better than the initial engine evaluation. Today I played 41 positions and correctly solved 32 for a 78% score.

After you've made your move it tells you how you scored compared to the text move and you gain or lose points (based on the engine’s evaluation). Then the engine analyzes the position and comes up with its own best move. Again, I suppose you could to this with any program but the real advantage with this little program is that it keeps your statistics so you can see your improvement. Another advantage that it has over tactics servers is that, just like in a real game, you may be presented with a position where there isn’t a tactical shot so you have to realize there isn’t a brilliant sacrifice in the position and what is needed is a good positional move. Bottom line: Worth looking at.  Link to Chess Hero.


  1. Interesting. Does it pick out moves that have one "one good move" so to speak?

    Sounds fun tp try it against one of your old games

  2. Basically you are playing against the engine. If there is a choice of a better move than the one played in the game, you can choose to play either the game or the engine line. I see the real value in using it as 1) you don't know if there is a tactical line or not so you aren't given any hints as to the best move and 2) it keeps track of your correct guesses for you so you can see if you are improving...or not!

    Remember this program was designed by an amateur so it is hard to be too critical, and yes, it is fun. But studying chess should be fun...at least most of the time.