If you’re looking for a list of all the top Chess engines in the world, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we go over all the most popular and successful Chess engines, most of which are available to the public for free.
Last Updated: Aug 19th, 2021
Chess Engine Basics
First, let’s go over a couple of basics on the engine itself and how it runs.
What Is Open Source?
Open source is a “philosophy” of software development that emphasizes the importance of transparency, sharing, and collaborative modification. The general idea is that people should be able to see and make changes to a program’s source code so that they can make their own custom versions; the code would be written in such a way as to enable this. Stockfish is open source because the source code is freely available to everyone.
What Is UCI?
The Universal Chess Interface (UCI) is a protocol for communicating between chess software and chess engines. UCI was released by FICS in 2003. Stockfish works with UCI engines, and other programs like Arena, Gaviota, Junior and Shredder can work with it too.
Stockfish is the most popular Chess engines used to analyze games. It’s open source, it’s Free, and it’s easy to use.
For more information, you can read the complete guide on the Stockfish Chess engine.
AlphaZero is another one of the strongest Chess engines in existence. Developed by Google’s DeepMind, would you expect anything less? AlphaZero has been Stockfish’s top competitor for a while now.
For more information, you can read the complete guide on the AlphaZero Chess engine.
IBM’s Deep Blue Chess engine made history in 1996 and 1997 when it faced Garry Kasparov and became the first Chess computer to beat the best human Chess player in the world.
For more information, you can read the complete guide on the Deep Blue Chess engine.
Leela Chess Zero
Leela has been a strong engine in recent times, only getting stronger. Leela is also free to download and use to analyze Chess games. Leela has been competing against the strongest engines like Stockfish, putting their CPU to the test.
For more information, you can read the complete guide on the Leela Chess Zero Chess engine.
Houdini is a Chess engine that’s become more popular over the years.
For more information, you can read the complete guide on the Houdini Chess engine.
Komodo is one of the leading engines available, right up there with Stockfish and Leela Chess Zero.
For more information, you can read the complete guide on the Komodo Chess engine.
Rybka is a free, as well as a premium Chess engine. Rybka is recommended to be used in combination with a Chess Graphical User Interface (GUI). Doing so will provide you with intuitive graphical interaction with Rybka.
You can use Rybka 2.3.2a for free. If you want the most updated version, you can purchase Rybka 4.
To learn more, you can go to the Rybka homepage. Rybka also has an entire forum that is a goldmine of information.
Shredder has won a whopping 19 titles as World Computer Chess Champion—making it the most successful Chess program ever created. Having been created by actual Chess enthusiasts, would you expect anything less?
Available on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Also available on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
To learn more, you can go to the Shredder homepage.
Mentioned as the world’s strongest Pascal Chess engine, Booot is worth checking out.
Available for Win32 and Win64 with a linux version in the works, this thread on testing the Booot engine.
To learn more, you can go to the Booot download page. and the Booot homepage.
Looking for a state-of-the-art freeware UCI Chess engine? Fire is optimized to the fullest with continuous development dating back since January 2010.
Available to download for Windows and Linux computers.
To learn more, you can go to the Fire homepage.
Crafty is a an engine developed by Dr. Robert M. Hyatt, a retired professor of computer science at the University of Alabama. It’s a open-source (free) computer Chess program.
Crafty dates all the way back to 1989 and you have free access to the source code including all of the old versions of the engine as well.
Available on Macs, Windows, as well as Linux.
To learn more, you can go to the Crafty homepage.
Were Chess games only able to be analyzed by a machine only in the last few years? What was there before Stockfish and AlphaZero? Before all of this advanced AI and robot technology run by massive teams, there was Fritz.
To learn more, you can go to the Fritz homepage.
You can download the Fritz app on Android here.
Also, you can download Fritz for PC here.
HIARCS is a Chess software that is not only a Chess engine, but a Chess database as well. Hiarcs is also a multiple World Championship winning program. Also, a three time World Chess Software Champion and a World Computer Chess Champion.
One of the top Grandmasters in the game of Chess, Vishy Anand himself is known to use HIARCS on a regular basis.
To learn more, you can go to the Hiarcs homepage.
To learn more about Boris, go to the homepage that tells all the details of one of the first Chess Engines ever built dating back in 1976.
Read this old newspaper article about Boris.
The Downside of Using Chess Engines
There is a downside to using Chess engines, and it’s a big one. The engines aren’t able to tell you why the move is the best move, there’s no context. So even though you’re getting the best move, you have no idea why it’s the best move.
There is another potential downside to using engines to point out, using them too much. Hikaru himself points this out when referring to younger Chess players as they tend to use them more since Chess engines have been available to the public for nearly their entire lives.
I hope this guide on Chess Engines helped you. If you liked this post, you may also be interested in reading other Chess guides.