Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Humanlike Engine?

I suppose the huge majority of all chess engine research is focused at bumping the silicon monsters yet another ELO point. Why is it more interesting to buy a new version that is five points stronger than the six month old version you already own than to buy a software that plays at a very human like 1500-level?

As a DIY chess improver working full time and eager to spend time with the kids, it is hard to find time for a slow game. Playing against software when a gap suddenly appears in the overloaded time schedule is often the only alternative and it is a nice kid surprise insurance to have the pause button available.

The problem is that most engines are totally useless to mimic patzer chess. The mastermind programming to produce an Average-Joe Chess style seems to be to play at top strength and to mix it up by moving Ra1-Rb1 for no obvious reasons at random time points.

Which engines would you consider to be most humanlike when playing at lower levels?


  1. Great post, it will be interesting to see if you get any good suggestions in the comments.

    I used to like playing against the Anaconda engine on my PocketPC.

  2. For what it is worth I have a really good time playing against Hiarcs, Shredder and Junior.

    I think that all three of them have different "styles" and they all implement the limit strength feature very well. (especially Hiarcs and Shredder)

  3. Thank you, Jonas!

    I have been playing a few games vs Shredder on my iPhone and maybe Shredder is one of the better (i.e. "patzerlike") engines I have used.

  4. I would suggest you go more to the board computers like you can see at this link: .

    Offcourse you can buy them wherever you want but such board computers are best for playing against for players at lower level.

    One can not let them analyse like the chess programs Fritz, Rybka, ... but they give much pleasure to us lower rated players.

    If you choose to go for a chess program then i suggest you choose Rybka, put off the opening repertoire and set the rating at a low level.

  5. Interesting! Why do you think the board computers are better suited as sparring for us improvers?

  6. Have you looked at the ratings of those board computers? Some are so low that one can call them weak. With other words, they also have troubles coming up with good moves as we humans do. They do not come up with the best move like the chess programs.

  7. A good choice is "Delfi" (, which lets you adjust the strength. It works pretty good but there is some kind of base strength so I doubt that it will do what you expect.

    Or you try to play with knight or rook odds and leave the engine to the maximum strength. This is what they did 100+ years ago.

    On ICC, there are some weak computer engines like SlowMoe or HEYNOWww.

  8. I will check out Delfi! The playing bots at icc suffer from the "Ra1-Rb1 at random syndrome"

  9. I would suggest you to try The Tarrasch Chess GUI an extremely easy to use chess GUI with powerful training features. and his UCI engine (the Tarrasch Toy Engine) 1650 Elo max...@

    another "weak" chess engine is Nanook 1500 Elo max @

  10. Interesting! I will have a look. Thanx for sharing!

  11. I forgot ,... in Fritz (Fritz is one of the most popular chess program, developed by ChessBase) they are 2 extremely valuable mode these are "Sparring" mode and "Friend" mode.

    The first one is perfect for tactic : "Sparring" mode makes the engine work in the opposite manner that we've come to expect from chess computers. In this mode, when the computer spots your potential Knight fork two moves down the road, it will actually steer toward it rather than away from it, giving you the chance to practice your tactical knowledge. It looks for tactical ideas for you to use against it and sets these up for you.

    The second one :"In "Friend" mode, Fritz becomes an "adaptive opponent" which is a grandiose way of saying that it will attempt to match your level of play. The idea is to provide you with an opponent of slightly better playing strength, so that you're challenged instead of slaughtered. Over a series of games, Fritz will adjust its strength upward and downward to find a level at which you win about one out of three or four games against it"

    enjoy !

  12. Chess Assistant lets you play at whatever level you want, probably like Fritz/Chessbase etc

    For free though, Crafty in various guises allows lots of fine-tuning, or choose the quick way and a neat interface here

  13. A few years ago I gathered more than 64 engines that were either Winboard or UCI compatible and played them against each other. That way I found which were strongest and which weakest. The weakest playing at full strength were reasonable competition for me--I won about half of the games while I was climbing through the B Class (1600-1799). Hagrid and KillerQueen stick in my memory as the weakest UCI engines. I doubt these are still available, and if so they may play more strongly now, but if you can find an old version it might answer your call.

  14. Great Idea! The weakest engine (when playing at top strength) should probably play without the typical "dumb-me-down-moves"

  15. See more engines than you can shake a *** stick at !!! if there isn't a weak one there, it probably doesn't exist.

    I think Delfi, and also GNU ( another open source engine ) are quite weak, but the crafy interface I gave before can be weakened by % and is beatable as well.

    Rybka at 1200-1400 surprised me by playing good moves and then a typical human blunder !