XBoard and WinBoard: Frequently Asked Questions

This document answers some frequently asked questions about the graphical chess interfaces XBoard and WinBoard.

This FAQ is in need of revision. Please contact us if you'd like to help update it.


Detailed contents

[A] Introduction and hot topics

[A.1] What are XBoard and WinBoard?

XBoard and WinBoard are graphical user interfaces for chess. XBoard runs with the X Window System on Unix systems (including GNU/Linux); see topic [B.1]. WinBoard runs on true 32-bit Microsoft Windows operating systems, such as Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, ME, XP, Vista, and should continue to work on future 32-bit Windows systems. It does not work on Windows CE (also known as Pocket PC), nor does it work on 16-bit Windows systems such as Windows 3.1. See topic [B.2].

[A.2] Where can I get chess information and chess software?

As a shortcut to most things mentioned in this FAQ, try Tim Mann's Chess web page. This page page is currently a very bad place to get the latest released versions of XBoard and WinBoard and the most up-to-date version of this FAQ, though. A better place is the WinBoard forum. Also see our Savannah project pages.

If you have other questions about XBoard/WinBoard that aren't answered in this FAQ, you can try Winboard/Aaron Tay's WinBoard and Chess Engines FAQ (archived).

For general news and information about chess, try the CCC forum or the WinBoard forum. Another possibility is the newsgroup hierarchy rec.games.chess.*, especially the groups rec.games.chess.misc and rec.games.chess.computer. Both of the latter groups have very informative FAQs maintained by Steve Pribut; look for them on the newsgroups or at Steve Pribut's Chess Page (archived).

Like other GNU software, you can get XBoard, and WinBoard from the GNU download server and its many mirror sites. Look in the subdirectories xboard, and winboard. The .tar.gz suffix on the files there indicates they were packed with tar and compressed with gzip. The .exe or .zip suffixes indicate files that were packed and compressed with zip.

For other chess software, try the Internet Chess Library. Use anonymous FTP to connect to ftp.freechess.org, or go to www.freechess.org/. You can get chess software, game collections, the FAQ file for rec.games.chess, and other chess-related material there, in the directory pub/chess. The FTP server can automatically decompress files for you as you download them, useful if you don't have gzip.

Here is a sample anonymous ftp session. Some of the FTP server's responses are abbreviated, but all the commands you must type are included.

    % ftp ftp.gnu.org
    Connected to ftp.gnu.org
    Name: anonymous
    Password: your-email-address@your-site
    ftp> binary
    200 Type set to I.
    ftp> cd /pub/gnu/xboard
    ftp> dir
    -rw-r--r-- 1 14910 wheel  1057625 May 20 00:25 xboard-4.2.7.tar.gz
    ftp> get xboard-4.2.7.tar.gz
    150 BINARY connection for xboard-4.2.7.tar.gz (1057625 bytes).
    226 Transfer complete.
    ftp> quit

[A.3] What are the current version numbers for XBoard and WinBoard?

At this writing, the current version numbers are:

  • XBoard 4.4.0
  • WinBoard 4.4.0

[A.4] Who is working on this project?

Please see our Savannah project pages at https://savannah.gnu.org/projects/xboard/ for a list of active developers. Many others occasionally contribute suggestions and snippets of code, for which we are grateful.

[A.5] How do I report bugs, offer help, etc.?

Bug reports, suggestions, and offers to help on XBoard or WinBoard should be sent to bug-xboard@gnu.org.

Beginner questions and discussion about the program may get faster answers on the WinBoard Forum at open-aurec.com. This forum also constains a section dedicated to propose and discuss new features for WinBoard / XBoard or WinBoard protocol, and reposrt bugs, and offers downloads of pre-installed packages of WinBoard bundled with other software, useful for conducting computer-computer tournaments.

If you are developing a chess engine that works with XBoard or WinBoard (or an alternative GUI that works with such engines), see the Chess Engines mailing list. For better response, join the above-mentioned WinBoard forum, or the CCC forum.

Any time you want to report a possible bug in XBoard or WinBoard, we need to know exactly what you did, and exactly what error (or other) messages you got.

If you are using Unix, run the "script" program, run XBoard with the -debug flag (if you get as far as running it), do whatever is necessary to reproduce the problem, type "exit" to the shell, and mail us the resulting typescript file. We also need to know what hardware/operating system combination you are using. The command uname -a will usually tell you this; include its output in your typescript.

If you are using MS Windows, run WinBoard with the -debug flag, and send us a copy of the WinBoard.debug file. If you aren't sure how to add command-line flags to WinBoard, you can hit Ctrl + Alt + F12 to create a WinBoard.debug file after WinBoard starts, but that is not as good, because a few messages that would have been printed at the start are lost.

Either way, please send us the exact text of the commands you typed and the output you got, not just your recollection of approximately what they were. The messages may seem meaningless to you, but they are very meaningful to us and essential for diagnosing problems.

[A.6] What are the future plans for XBoard and WinBoard?

Our plans are always in flux. As with most free software projects, the next release will happen when it happens -- or it may never happen. This has always been the policy for XBoard/WinBoard. Releases have never been promised in specific time frames.

Starting in November 2003, several new developers have joined the project, and work is now hosted at savannah.gnu.org. Lots of work is just getting underway, but nothing is far along yet.

Here is a partial list of items that have a nonzero probability of happening in finite time.

  • Small bug fixes. Occasionally someone sends us a fix, or reports a small bug very clearly so that we're able to fix it in a few minutes work.
  • Protocol version 3. The members of the chess engine authors' mailing list discussed a set of proposed features for the next version of the XBoard/WinBoard chess engine communication protocol. The WinBoard 4.3 fork has taken the protocol in a different direction, though, extending version 2 with new features as they were needed, rather than upgrading to a new protocol in a single sweep. It does not seem likely that there will be a v3 protocol in the foreseeable future.
  • Contributed features. Several people have mailed me code to add various features. Most of this code is available on the XBoard/WinBoard extensions page, but it is not in any official releases yet. We are in the process of getting folks to formally assign the copyrights on their contributions to the Free Software Foundation so that we can include it in official releases in the future.
  • Internationalization. Several people have expressed interest in internationalizing XBoard/WinBoard. Version 4.4 implements internationalization in its XBoard branch, and includes (partial) Turkish and German translations. For WinBoard a suitable way for internationalization still has to be found, as all menu strings there are not in the C code, but in a Windows resource file. In any case, we will need more translators, to update the existing translations (for version 4.2.7) to the current version, and to provide translaions for oter languages. Watch for news on the xboard-devel mailing list on our Savannah pages.

[B] XBoard and WinBoard

[B.1] What is XBoard?

XBoard is a graphical user interface for chess. It displays a chessboard on the screen, accepts moves made with the mouse, and loads and saves games in Portable Game Notation (PGN). XBoard is free software. It serves as a front-end for many different chess services, including:

Chess engines that will run on your machine and play a game against you or help you analyze, such as GNU Chess and Crafty (topic [D.3] below).

Chess servers on the Internet, where you can connect to play chess with people from all over the world, watch other users play, or just hang out and chat.

Correspondence chess played by electronic mail. The cmail program (topic [B.6] below) automates the tasks of parsing email from your opponent, playing his moves out on your board, and mailing your reply move after you've chosen it.

The web and your own saved games. You can use XBoard as a helper application to view PGN games in your web browser, or to load and save your own PGN files.

XBoard runs under Unix or Unix-compatible systems. It requires the X Window System, version X11R4 or later. There are also ports of XBoard to 32-bit Microsoft Windows and to the Amiga. See topics [B.2] and [B.3] respectively.

[B.2] Is there an XBoard for Microsoft Windows? What is WinBoard? How do I install WinBoard?

WinBoard is a port of XBoard to 32-bit Microsoft Windows systems, such as Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, ME, and XP. It uses the same back end chess code as XBoard, but the front end graphics code is a complete rewrite. WinBoard is free software.

The WinBoard distribution includes a sample Chess engine.

The WinBoard distribution also includes the ICC timestamp and FICS timeseal programs (topic [B.12]).

cmail (topic [B.6]) has not been ported to Windows. All the other XBoard functions are included in WinBoard. The International Email Chess Group recommends ECTool for playing correspondence chess under Windows.

You install WinBoard as follows. Download the WinBoard package to your PC (see topic [A.2]). It will be a file with a name like winboard-4_0_0.exe. Double-click on this file in the Explorer or File Manager to run it. Follow the on-screen prompts.

[B.3] Is there an XBoard for the Amiga? What is AmyBoard?

AmyBoard is a port of XBoard to the Amiga, by Jochen Wiedmann. The distribution includes a port of GNU Chess. AmyBoard is free software.

The current version of AmyBoard is 330.5 (based on XBoard 3.3.0). No one is currently maintaining it.

System requirements:

  • An Amiga (obviously :-), running OS 2.04 or later, 2Mb RAM or more.
  • MUI 2.0 or later.
  • Workbench or another screen with no less than 640x400 pixels (adjustable with the MUI-Prefs); this restriction is just because we don't have bitmaps with less than 40x40 pixels per square. If someone contributes bitmaps with 20x20 or 20x25, they will work with any Hires mode.

If you would like to use an ICS, you need an Internet connection via either

  • a telnet-like program, or
  • a terminal program reading from stdin and writing to stdout.

AmyBoard is available in the Internet Chess Library (topic [A.2]).

[B.4] Is there an XBoard for the Macintosh?

Note: I am not a Mac user and have not tried this myself, so I cannot answer questions about it.

Because MacOS X has a Unix base, XBoard will compile and run on it. You do need an X11 (X Window System) server and client libraries. I'm told that these come standard with MacOS X 10.3 and later. Once you install the X11 package, XBoard is reported to compile and run without changes.

You can avoid having to compile XBoard (and GNU Chess) yourself by using the Fink sofware packaging system and its graphical user interface.

There is no version of XBoard or WinBoard that runs with the native (non-X11) Mac graphical interface, and none that runs on MacOS 9 or earlier.

[B.5] Does XBoard run on VMS?

No. This port would probably be a lot easier than the Win32 and Amiga ports were, because VMS has the X Window system (under the name DECwindows) and is now POSIX compliant. If you are working on this, send mail to bug-xboard@gnu.org to let us know.

[B.6] What is cmail?

cmail is a program that helps you play and keep track of electronic mail correspondence chess games using XBoard. It is distributed with XBoard and has its own manual page. cmail is free software. It was written by Even Welsh. cmail has not been ported to Windows; sorry.

[B.7] How do I build XBoard? Do I need gcc?

The first step to building XBoard is to get the distribution file. See topic [A.2] for places you can ftp the software from.

Next, decide what directory tree you are going to install XBoard in. The default is /usr/local, but you probably don't have write access to that directory unless you are a system administrator. If you do, type the following to install it there:

    gzip -cd xboard-*.tar.gz | tar -xvf -
    cd xboard-*/
    make install

If you want to install xboard in your personal home directory ($HOME/bin), type this:

    gzip -cd xboard-*.tar.gz | tar -xvf -
    cd xboard-*/
    ./configure --prefix=$HOME
    make install

If the first step above fails because you don't have gzip, see topic [A.2], and ask a local Unix expert if you need more help. If you have any problems with the last two steps, read the READ_ME and INSTALL files in the xboard-*/ directory. You will also find this FAQ there.

You don't need to have gcc to build XBoard. Almost any Unix C compiler should do.

[B.8] Can I use XBoard or WinBoard to play a game of chess with another human?

The only way for two humans on different machines to play chess in real time using XBoard/WinBoard is to use an Internet Chess Server as an intermediary. That is, each player runs his own copy of XBoard or WinBoard, both of them log into an ICS, and they play a game there. Two copies of XBoard/WinBoard cannot communicate with each other directly.

Instructions on how to get started with Internet chess are included with the XBoard and WinBoard distributions. The network addresses included in the distribution may not always be current. The oldest and largest ICS is the Internet Chess Club at chessclub.com, which now has a fee for registered use, but still allows free unregistered use. There are also many newer sites with no fees, using the Free Internet Chess Server implementation (FICS). The most active FICS site is freechess.org. On these and most other chess servers, the port number to use is 5000.

If you don't have network connectivity to any ICS site, you can run your own server using a version of the FICS code, but this is not easy. See tim-mann.org for advice and pointers.

The cmail program included with XBoard lets you play email postal games with another human; see topic [B.6].

Two humans can play chess on the same machine using one copy of XBoard/WinBoard in Edit Game mode, but the clocks don't run in this mode, so it's of limited usefulness.

See also topic [D.2], Winsock Chess.

[B.9] Will WinBoard run on Windows 3.1? How about Windows CE (also known as Pocket PC)?

WinBoard does not run on Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups 3.11, etc., not even with the Win32s compatibility package. The main problem is that Win32s does not have threads or real concurrent processes. A port of WinBoard to Windows 3.1 is possible in theory, but it would be difficult and messy, and no one is going to do it.

WinBoard does not run on Windows CE (also known as Pocket PC). I don't know what would be required to port it.

WinBoard does run well on full 32-bit versions of Windows, such as Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, ME, XP, and Vista, and should continue to work on future 32-bit Windows systems. To use the help files in Vista, you will need to install the WinHlp32.exe from MicroSoft on your Vista system.

[B.10] How do I use XBoard or WinBoard as an external viewer for PGN files with my web browser?

  1. On Unix systems:
    • Add the following line to the file .mime.types in your home directory. (Create the file if it doesn't exist already.)
          application/x-chess-pgn    pgn
    • Add the following line to the file .mailcap in your home directory. (Create the file if it doesn't exist already.)
          application/x-chess-pgn; xboard -ncp -lgf %s
    • Exit from your web browser and restart it.
  2. On MS Windows systems:

    The exact procedure depends on which web browser you are using. The current version of WinBoard automatically configures itself as your PGN viewer for local files, Netscape 4.x and later, and Internet Explorer. This automatic setup probably works for all other current web browsers, too.

[B.11] How do I use WinBoard as an external viewer for PGN files with the MS Windows File Manager or Explorer?

WinBoard sets this up automatically when you install it, except on old versions of Windows NT (prior to 4.0). On Windows NT 3.51 or earlier, go to the File Manager, click on the File menu, select Associate, enter "pgn" as the extension, and use the Browse button to find your copy of WinBoard and set up the association.

[B.12] How do I use ICC timestamp or FICS timeseal with XBoard?

First, get the appropriate version of timestamp or timeseal for your machine from ftp.chessclub.com or ftp.freechess.org. Second, be sure that you can connect using XBoard without timestamp/timeseal. Third, be sure that you can connect using timestamp/timeseal without XBoard. See the help files on ICC and FICS or ask people online if you have problems.

If you are in a completely ordinary situation, where your machine is directly on the Internet and you can connect to ICC or FICS without timestamp/timeseal using just the command xboard -ics or xboard -ics -icshost freechess.org, change that command to one of the following:

    xboard -ics -icshost chessclub.com -icshelper timestamp

    xboard -ics -icshost freechess.org -icshelper timeseal

If you have a firewall between your machine and the ICS, see topic [B.19].

If you normally have to use the /icscomm command line option on xboard to log into a second machine, and then telnet to ICC or FICS from there, you are going to have to run the Unix version of timestamp or timeseal on the second machine. (If the second machine is not running Unix, you are out of luck.) Get the appropriate version of timestamp or timeseal onto the shell machine via FTP; see the help files on ICC and FICS for instructions. Then simply run it when you would normally run telnet. In this configuration you are not protected against lag between your PC and the shell machine, or for lag caused by heavy load on the shell machine itself from other users.

For further information on timestamp and timeseal, see the help files on ICC and FICS.

[B.13] How do I use ICC timestamp or FICS timeseal with WinBoard?

If you select an ICS from either the WinBoard Startup dialog or the Windows Start submenu that WinBoard installs, WinBoard automatically runs timestamp or timeseal if the ICS you chose is known to support it.

If you are constructing a WinBoard command line by hand, add the option /icshelper timestamp or /icshelper timeseal to the WinBoard command line to use timestamp or timeseal. Both timestamp.exe and timeseal.exe are included in the WinBoard distribution. They both function identically to the Unix versions, as documented in help timestamp on ICC and help timeseal on FICS.

If you have a firewall between your machine and the ICS, see topic [B.19].

If you normally have to use the /icscomm command line option on WinBoard to log into a shell account, and then telnet to ICC or FICS from there, you are going to have to run the Unix version of timestamp or timeseal on the shell machine. (If the shell account is not on a Unix machine, you are out of luck.) Get the appropriate version of timestamp or timeseal onto the shell machine via FTP; see the help files on ICC and FICS for instructions. Then simply run it when you would normally run telnet. In this configuration you are not protected against lag between your PC and the shell machine, or for lag caused by heavy load on the shell machine itself from other users.

For further information on timestamp and timeseal, see the help files on ICC and FICS.

[B.14] How do I play bughouse with XBoard or WinBoard?

XBoard and WinBoard have full bughouse support. Offboard piece holdings are shown next to the board, and you drop offboard pieces by dragging them with the mouse (holding the left button down) to their drop square, or left-click the piece and the drop square, just like when you enter any ordinary move.

XBoard and WinBoard can display only one board at a time, but you can observe your partner's game by running a second copy of the program and logging in as a guest. (Unfortunately, this is not possible if you are using the /icscomm option.) To observe your partner's games automatically, use the follow or pfollow ICS command; see the ICS online help for details.

[B.16] What is Zippy? How can I interface a chess program to the Internet Chess Servers?

Zippy is an interface that lets a compatible chess engine (such as GNU Chess or Crafty) act as a computer player on an Internet Chess Server. Zippy is included in both the XBoard and WinBoard distributions. It is implemented as a small amount of additional code within XBoard or WinBoard. For documentation, see the file zippy.README, included in both distributions. You'll also find a "biography" of Zippy and pointers to the original Zippy the Pinhead comic strips on my web page. Please read zippy.README carefully before you ask me any questions about Zippy.

Using a computer to choose your moves on a chess server is considered cheating unless your account is on the computer (C) list. Read "help computer" on your favorite server for details on their policy. Most of the servers have plenty of computers running now, so they will not be excited about having you run a new one unless you have written your own chess engine. They don't really need yet another Crafty or GNU Chess clone.

[B.17] How can I interface my own chess program to XBoard or WinBoard?

This is a non-trivial task. XBoard and WinBoard were not designed with a clean interface for talking to chess programs; they were written to work with an existing version of GNU Chess that expects to be talking to a person. Your program has to emulate GNU Chess's rather idiosyncratic command structure to work with XBoard and WinBoard. We are gradually cleaning up, improving, and documenting the interface as newer versions of XBoard and WinBoard come out, however.

For documentation, see the file engine-intf.html, included in both distributions or available from Tim Mann's chess page. The version of engine-intf.html on Tim's web page might be totally obsolete, though. To know how the current WinBoard or XBoard version communicate with their engines, use the documentation in the XBoard/WinBoard distributions, or on the WinBoard forum.

[B.18] How can I recompile WinBoard from source?

The source code for WinBoard is available from the author's website.

WinBoard is currently developed using gcc under Cygwin. To build WinBoard with the free Cygwin tools, available from the Cygwin website, use the command make -f makefile.gcc from the winboard directory of the source distribution.

You can build the program from the MSVC++ GUI by opening the project file (winboard.dsp) and telling MSVC++ to build the project. You can also build it from the the command line by using the nmake program supplied with MSVC++. The makefile for MSVC is makefile.ms in the winboard directory.

WinBoard 4.2.5 was successfully compiled with the net release of Cygwin as downloaded on 20-March-2001 (cygwin1.dll 1.1.8, gcc 2.95.2-6, binutils 20001221-1, flex 2.5.4-1), but exhibits a command-line parsing bug; see item 511 in the ToDo file that comes with WinBoard. WinBoard 4.1.0 does not compile with Cygwin. WinBoard 4.0.7 is known to compile with Cygwin BL20.1.

To build WinBoard with Borland C++ 4.5, use "borland.mak", supplied with the WinBoard sources, as the Makefile. Support for Borland C++ was contributed by Don Fong and has not been tested by the author of WinBoard.

WinBoard is a Win32 application, so you definitely need a compiler and tool set that supports Win32. In particular, older versions of DJGPP can build only 32-bit MSDOS programs; that is, programs that use a DOS extender to get a 32-bit address space and do not make any Windows calls. The latest versions of DJGPP are said to be able to build Win32 programs when used with the proper extension package(s), but this is not known to work with WinBoard. Use Cygwin instead.

See also topic [C.16].

[B.19] How can I use XBoard or WinBoard to talk to an Internet Chess Server through a firewall or proxy?

There is no single answer to this question, because there are many different kinds of firewalls in use. They work in various different ways and have various different security policies. This answer can only provide hints.

Note that you can't access Internet Chess Servers through a web proxy, because they are not a web service. You talk to them through a raw TCP connection, not an HTTP connection. If you can only access the web through a proxy, there may be a firewall that stops you from making direct TCP connections, but there may also be a way through it. Read on for hints, and contact your local system administrator if you need more information about your local configuration.

A helpful user mailed me the following explanation of how to use WinBoard with WinGate:

"I have managed to setup WinBoard though my WinGate proxy. I have the Office version. What I needed to do was to setup the TCP/IP connection to add the User/Host name and my provider service name for the DNS, but I had to leave the HOST IP address blank. I have not played with all the variations, so it may be just that I have the DNS lookup enabled."

I hope this helps, though I don't find it very clear. I don't have a copy of WinGate myself and can't help if you have questions about it.

If you are using some other non-SOCKS firewall, read the FIREWALLS section in your XBoard or WinBoard documentation (man page, info document, or Help file). If you can telnet to a chess server in some way, then you can almost certainly connect to it with xboard/WinBoard, though in some cases you may not be able to run timestamp or timeseal. The timestamp and timeseal protocols require a clean, 8-bit wide TCP connection from your machine to the ICS, which some firewalls do not provide.

If you have a SOCKS firewall and are using XBoard, you should be able to SOCKSify xboard and use it. See socks.nec.com/ (archived) for information about SOCKS and socksification. However, if you do this, you can't use timestamp or timeseal; what you really need is a socksified version of timestamp or timeseal. This is hard because the source code for timestamp and timeseal is proprietary; the folks running the chess servers don't give it out because that would make it too easy to cheat. On some versions of Unix, you may be able to socksify a program that you don't have the source code to by running it with an appropriate dynamic library. For others, you might be able to get a pre-built socksified version from the chess server administrators. Once you have a socksified timestamp or timeseal, simply run it with a normal, non-socksified xboard in place of the standard timestamp or timeseal.

If you have a SOCKS firewall and you are using WinBoard, we now know how to make this configuration work, complete with timestamp or timeseal!

Start by getting SocksCap32. This software is freely available. Install it on your machine, read the documentation, and learn to use it. You may find it useful with many other programs besides WinBoard.

Next, don't socksify WinBoard. Socksifying WinBoard itself doesn't let you use it with timestamp or timeseal. For some reason I don't understand -- something strange that SocksCap32 does -- the socksified WinBoard runs but does nothing, and timestamp/timeseal runs all by itself in its own window.

Instead, use the following workaround. Follow the instructions exactly; don't try to skip steps or simplify things.

First, make SocksCap32 application profiles for timestamp and timeseal. Use the following command lines in the SocksCap32 profiles. Name the first profile "timestamp" and the second "timeseal".

    "c:\program files\winboard\timestamp.exe" chessclub.com 5000 -p 5000
    "c:\program files\winboard\timeseal.exe" freechess.org 5000 -p 5000

Second, run timestamp or timeseal by itself, socksified, using its profile. This will open an unneeded, black window that will not respond to typing. Minimize it to the task bar and ignore it. It will go away when you exit from WinBoard.

Next, run WinBoard using the following command line. Make a shortcut or type this command into an MS-DOS Prompt box. Don't run WinBoard itself socksified, just run it directly.

    "c:\program files\winboard.exe" /ics /icshost=localhost /icsport=5000

After you get this working, you can try getting the timestamp window to auto-minimize by starting it from a shortcut instead of from the SocksCap32 control window. As it says in the SocksCap32 help file, put the following in the Target field of a shortcut's Properties page:

    "c:\program files\sockscap32\sc32.exe" timestamp

Then select "Run: Minimized" on the same page. Do the same for timeseal.

Another method that can work is to use a .bat file to start both timestamp and WinBoard. It would look something like this:

    REM --
    REM -- icc.bat
    REM -- Start timestamp under SocksCap32 and use WinBoard to connect to it.
    REM -- The string "timestamp" refers to a SocksCap32 profile for timestamp.
    REM --  Do not change it to the filename of the timestamp program!
    REM --
    start /minimized "c:\program files\sockscap32\sc32.exe" timestamp
    cd "c:\program files\winboard"
    winboard /ics /icshost=localhost /icsport=5000

This workaround has a problem if you want to run two copies of WinBoard at once, talking to the same chess server twice (for bughouse) or to two different chess servers. If you need to do that, you will need to run a separate copy of timestamp with a different port number for each connection. You'll need to make a second set of profile entries with a different value after the -p flag (say, 5001) and you'll need to change the WinBoard command line /icsport=5000 for the second WinBoard to match.

[B.20] How can I use XBoard or WinBoard on chess.net with accuclock?

I believe chess.net provides a Win32 command-line version of accuclock that will work with WinBoard. Please see the documentation on the chess.net server itself; don't ask the author of WinBoard.

I don't know whether chess.net provides versions of accuclock for Unix at this time. Ask them.

[B.21] Can I get Zippy to do one or more ICS commands automatically at the start or end of each game?

By default, Zippy automatically sends the command gameend to ICS at the end of each game. You can alias this command (using the ICS "alias" feature) to anything you want. On ICC, you can use the "multi" feature to alias gameend to several commands, but other servers don't have that feature. Zippy doesn't send anything at the start of the game by default.

You can get Zippy to send one or more commands of your choosing, at the start and/or end of each game, by using the -zippyGameStart and -zippyGameEnd command line options, newly added in version 4.0.3. Both xboard and WinBoard have (somewhat obscure) ways of getting newlines into this option to send several commands. Here is an example of one way to do it for each.

    xboard -ics -zp -xrm '*zippyGameStart: say hi\nsay prepare to die\n'

    WinBoard /ics /zp /zippyGameEnd='say thanks\nseek 5 0\nseek 2 12\n'

[B.22] How do I print from WinBoard?

WinBoard does not have built-in printing functionality. If you want to print a picture of the board, press Alt + PrintScrn, run the standard Windows application Paintbrush, select Paste, and print from there. If you want to print a list of moves, save your game as a PGN file, then open the PGN file with Notepad or any other plain text editor and print it from there.

WinBoard 4.4 has a menu item "Save Diagram..." in the file menu, which saves the board part of the display as a Windows .bmp file, but only if the board size is not too big.

[B.23] Can I get Zippy to automatically reconnect to ICS when its connection breaks?

There isn't a perfect solution to this problem yet, but a pretty good one is to write a shell script (for xboard) or .bat script (for WinBoard) that automatically restarts the program whenever it exits. Use the -xexit flag so that you don't get a popup dialog that must be dismissed with the OK button before the program will exit. The gap in this solution is that your connection to ICS can sometimes get into a state where the program does not notice that the connection is broken until the next time it tries to send a command. Perhaps some future version of xboard/WinBoard will have an option to send a harmless command every five minutes or so.

Anyway, here is a sample Windows .bat file that restarts WinBoard each time it exits. Thanks to Jason Williamson. It assumes that you have put your computer account's name and password in a file named logon.ini.

REM --
REM -- wbrecon.bat
REM -- Start WinBoard in Zippy mode, and restart it each time it exits.
REM -- Add or change parameters as needed for your application.
REM --
start /w winboard /zp /ics /icslogon logon.ini /xexit /xautoraise
REM -- The next line is to have a short delay setup for 139 seconds.
REM -- Leave it out if it doesn't work on the version of Windows you use.
goto loop

Here is a Unix shell script to do the same thing for xboard. It's a bit more elaborate. It is based on the script I use for the original Zippy. It logs all ICS output to a file named zippy.out, and it lets you type commands to Zippy by running cat > zippy.fifo.

#! /bin/sh
host=" -icsport 5000 -telnet -telnetProgram timestamp"
#host=" -icsport 5000 -telnet -telnetProgram timeseal"
ZIPPYGAMEEND='say Yow, that was FUN!
export DISPLAY
mv -f $out ${out}.old
rm -f $fifo
mkfifo $fifo
( while [ true ] ; do cat -u $fifo ; done ) | \
      ( while [ true ] ; do
          xboard -iconic -ics -icshost $host \
                 -zt -zp -xbell -xanimate \
                 -xautosave -xquiet -fcp "gnuchessx -h" \
                 -icslogon $zippylogon -xexit -autoflag -xautoraise $*
          sleep 600
        done ) > $out 2>&1 &

[B.24] The chess engines are too strong and always beat me. How can I adjust the difficulty level to make them weaker?

The best way is to get a weaker chess engine. On the ChessWar website you will find a rating list of virtually all engines that are able to play under XBoard/WinBoard, from super-humanly strong to ridculously weak. Most of them can be downloaded for free from the internet.

A way to get that effect is to limit the time the engine can use for deciding on its move. The time-odds options or menu items in the time-control dialog) can be used to this end. This is only of limited help, as engines do not weeken that much at faster time-control, and there is a practical limit to how fast you can order the engine to go. Also feel free to use Retract Move if you make a blunder.

Many chess coaches will let you switch sides after they get a stronger position so that you can get experience playing positions where you are winning. You can try this with XBoard/WinBoard by using the Machine White or Machine Black menu command to make the machine take over your position.

The -depth command-line option to XBoard/WinBoard can also be used to weaken the engine (see the man page or Help file). It's a bit of a nuisance to set command line options in Windows, but see topic [C.7] for instructions.

Other ways of weakening engines are engine-specific. Many of them let you adjust various parameters, and if you choose bad settings, the engine will play more poorly. Consult whatever documentation came with the engine you are using.

[B.25] May I use the piece bitmaps from XBoard/WinBoard in my own program?

The piece bitmaps used in XBoard and WinBoard were designed by Elmar Bartel. He released them under the GNU General Public License. This means that if your program is also free software distributed under the GPL, you can use them freely. If your program is distributed under some other license, including commercial, shareware, or non-GPL freeware, then you cannot use the bitmaps unless you obtain special permission from Elmar. See the file README.bitmaps that comes with the XBoard and WinBoard source code for more information and an email address you can write to.

[B.26] How can I get rid of these silly logos that this new WinBoard displays above the board?

WinBoard 4.4.0 has an option /autoLogo, which makes is search for bitmap files to display as logo, in the engine directory or in the folder "logos". If you see logos without having asked for them, the settings in your winboard.ini file probably contains the line


Just change that to /autoLogo=false. You can also achieve that by starting WinBoard through the startup dialog (from the start menu), and then tick "additional options" at the bottom, and type /autoLogo=false in the edit field, before pressing OK. If you then later select "Save Settings Now" from the Option menu, or when "Save Settings on Exit" is on, and you close WinBoard, this will automatically end up in your settings field.

When /autoLogo=false, logos will only be displayed if you explicitly ask for them, by running WinBoard with the option /firstLogo=FILENAME.bmp or /secondLogo=FILENAME.bmp. (Which will not be stored in the winboard.ini, but might of course be hidden somewhere in a settings file mentioned on the command line as @SETTINGSFILE.ini.)

[B.27] How can I install logos for other engines, Internet Chess Servers or Human users?

With the option /autoLogo=true, (which is remembered in your settings file), WinBoard automatically looks into the engine folder (specified by the /fd="..." or /sd="..." option), for a file called "logo.bmp". If it is found, it is used as a logo for the engine when it plays. So all you have to do is put a logo.bmp file there. Popular logo formats are 100x50 and 130x65; many engine logos are available from David Dahlem (archived) or Graham Banks

It is possible to overrule the /autoLogo by explicitly using a /firstLogo="FILENAME.bmp" or /secondLogo="FILENAME.bmp" with the engine on the engine line in the startup dialog. This is useful for engines that run with an adapter like Polyglot, when you have only one polyglot on your system, used by many engines. E.g. for Fruit the engine line to be typed in or selected from the combo box is

"polyglot fruit.ini" /firstLogo="D:\Engines\Fruit\logo.bmp" /fd="D:\Engines\Polyglot"

This prevents WinBoard looking for the logo in the Polyglot folder.

For Internet Chess Servers and Human users the logos should be in the "logos" sub-folder of the folder where WinBoard is installed. With /autoLogo=true, WinBoard would look for a logo file in that folder with the same name as the ICS, suffixed with .bmp (e.g. freechess.org.bmp) or the Human username (specified by the /userid="..." option or taken from the system), suffixed by .bmp, e.g. administrator.bmp)

[B.28] Is there readline/history support for the input in XBoard/Winboard?

There is a special ICS input box that has history support which is the standard in Winboard and can be used in XBoard too.

Another good tip from Michel van der Bergh is to use the rlwarp program together with XBoard which gives you full readline support. Just run rlwrap xboard instead of just xboard. The rlwarp program should be available for most linux distributions or can be downloaded at utopia.knoware.nl (archived).

[C] XBoard and WinBoard, bugs and problems

[C.1] I can't build XBoard because the X11/Xaw/... include files are not found.

These are the header files for the Athena Widgets library, which XBoard uses heavily. Some versions of Unix don't supply these files, but they are part of the standard X distribution, freely available from MIT.

For general information on getting missing X sources, see the FAQ on comp.windows.x. Note that you may be missing only the header files, or you may be missing the libraries themselves too.

HP-UX users are missing only the header files. You can get them by anonymous FTP as follows. (But first check with your system administrator to see if someone else at your site has already done this.) Get the archive file /hpux9/X11R5/Core/Xaw-5.00.tar.gz (Xaw header files) via anonymous FTP from the site hpux.csc.liv.ac.uk (, or one of the other official sites---Germany: hpux.ask.uni-karlsruhe.de (, US: hpux.cae.wisc.edu (, France: hpux.cict.fr ( or Netherlands: hpux.ced.tudelft.nl ( Unpack the archive using gzip and follow the instructions in its README and/or HPUX.Install files. Thanks to Richard Lloyd for this information.

If you have the Xaw header files installed in a different place than the other X11 headers, you may need to configure XBoard with an extra flag to help it find them. For example, if yours are in /foo/bar/X11/Xaw, try this:

    rm config.cache
    (setenv CFLAGS -I/foo/bar ; configure)

Also see topic [C.2].

[C.2] Configuring or building XBoard fails due to missing header files, missing libraries, or undefined symbols.

Perhaps you have the X server and client programs installed on your machine, but not the X header files and link-time libraries. If so, you can run existing X programs, but you cannot compile a new X program from source code. In this case the XBoard configure script will fail and will tell you to look at this question in the FAQ. Many GNU/Linux distributions put the headers and libraries in a separate package, which you might not have installed. If you are using RedHat, install the XFree86-devel package. If you are using some other kind of Unix, ask your system administrator where to find the X header files and link-time libraries. If this is not your problem, read on.

The configure script for XBoard looks for X libraries and header files in some common places. Sometimes it fails: If yours are installed in an odd place, it may not find them at all. If you have more than one version of X installed on your system, it may find the "wrong" one, or occasionally it may find libraries from one version and incompatible header files from another. You can work around these problems by telling the configure script where the files are. For example:

    configure --x-includes=/odd/place/include \

The directory named in the argument to --x-includes must have a subdirectory "X11" that contains the actual .h files. That is, if your X.h file has full pathname /odd/place/X11R6/include/X11/X.h, then you must give the argument --x-includes=/odd/place/X11R6/include.

Some linkers have bugs that cause bogus error messages when you try to link X programs. The configure script includes a workaround for a bug of this kind that exists in some SunOS 4.x.x installations. See the FAQ on comp.windows.x for more information about problems of this kind.

If all else fails, check whether anyone else at your site has been able to compile any X programs on your system. Your X installation might be buggy. If so, the system administrator at your site might know how to fix or work around the problem.

Also see topic [C.1].

[C.3] I have problems using WinBoard on ICS with a modem. I'm not running SLIP or PPP, but just dialing in to an ordinary login account ("shell account").

Here are solutions to some common problems in this area.

Some people want to connect to ICS through HyperTerminal or some other terminal program first, then run WinBoard. This is not how it works. WinBoard wants to talk directly with your modem, acting as a terminal program itself. Start out with the modem "on hook" (not making a call).

Run WinBoard with a command line like this (adding more options if desired):

    WinBoard /ics /icscom com1

Use com2, com3, or com4 in place of com1 if your modem is connected to one of those ports.

After you start WinBoard, you may need to change some of the options in the Communications dialog (on the Options menu). The dialog has the usual options for talking to modems: bits per second, bits per byte, parity, number of stop bits. You will probably want to use Save Settings Now when you're done.

Next, type dialing commands to your modem in the text window that WinBoard creates. You may need to turn off Local Line Editing on the Options menu while you are typing commands to your modem. Turn it back on when you're done. See the WinBoard Help file for instructions if you see your typing echoed an extra time after you hit Enter.

[C.4] I have problems using WinBoard on ICS with Windows 95 and SLIP or PPP. When trying to start up, it gets the error "Address family not supported by protocol family" (or some equally strange message).

WinBoard is a 32-bit application, but some Winsock (TCP/IP) implementations support only 16-bit applications. You get a strange looking error message if you try to use a 32-bit application because there is no standard Winsock error code number for "32-bit application not supported."

Microsoft TCP/IP works with both 16-bit and 32-bit applications, supports SLIP, PPP, Ethernet, etc., and is included with Windows 95 and later Windows systems. If possible, I recommend that you uninstall whatever Winsock you are using and install Microsoft TCP/IP instead. For more information, see http://walden.mo.net/~rymabry/95winfaq.html (the Win95-L FAQ).

Trumpet Winsock 2.1 (and earlier) supports only 16-bit applications, and hence does not work with WinBoard. But there is a beta-test release available that does support 32-bit applications. I have not tried it with WinBoard, but it should work. See Trumpet's web page http://www.trumpet.com.au/wsk/winsock.htm for more information.

The 16-bit versions of America On-Line's software do not support 32-bit Winsock applications. Get the 32-bit version. At one time the 32-bit version was called "AOL for Windows 95," but I imagine that has changed. Hopefully the current versions are all 32-bit.

A few versions of Winsock may have bugs that prevent Windows timestamp/timeseal from working with them. I'm not sure if such bugs exist in any versions that actually have 32-bit support, so this point might be moot. Again, Microsoft TCP/IP is known to work.

[C.5] When I try to run WinBoard, I get the message "Failed to start chess program gnuchess on localhost: NO LANGFILE (file gnuchess.lan not found)."

This message means that WinBoard is trying to run GNU Chess, but GNU Chess cannot find a file that it needs, named gnuchess.lan. If you see it, you've probably customized WinBoard's /fcp, /fd, /scp, and/or /sd options and made a mistake in the process. Review what you did, and see the WinBoard help file.

[C.6] I want to use XBoard or WinBoard as an Internet Chess Server interface, but the ICS Client option is grayed out on the menu.

XBoard and WinBoard have three major modes that can't be changed from the menus: local chess engine mode, ICS mode, and standalone mode.

With XBoard, you have to set the mode using command-line options. Local chess engine mode is the default, -ics selects ICS mode, and -ncp ("no chess program") selects standalone mode.

With WinBoard, if you don't set the mode using command-line options, you get a dialog box asking which mode you want. To bypass the dialog box, use -cp ("chess program") for local chess engine mode, or -ics or -ncp as with XBoard. Also see topic [C.7].

[C.7] How do I give command-line options to a Windows program like WinBoard?

There are many ways; pick your favorite:

  • Type the command line into an MS-DOS Prompt box. Example: WinBoard -ics.
  • Make a Windows shortcut for WinBoard. You can do this by right-dragging WinBoard.exe to the desktop and selecting "Create Shortcut(s) Here" from the menu that appears. Right-click on the shortcut, select Properties, and click the Shortcut tab. The command-line text box is labelled "Target" instead of "Command line" just to confuse you. Edit the text in this box, adding the command line options to the end.
  • Choose Run from the Start menu, or File / Run from the Program Manager or File Manager, and type the command line into the dialog you get. You may have to give WinBoard's full drivespec and filename if it is not in a directory on your search path.
  • Make a Program Manager icon for WinBoard. You can do this by dragging WinBoard.exe from the File Manager into the Program Manager, or by using File / New in the Program Manager. Select the icon and choose File / Properties. Edit the Command Line text box to add the command-line options to the end.

[C.9] When I exit from WinBoard after using it to play against a chess program on my machine, the chess program keeps running in the background.

Be sure you have the current versions of WinBoard and the chess engine you are using. WinBoard 3.4.1 and earlier had a bug that caused this problem to occur with all chess engines. A buggy chess engine that does not respond to the quit command will also cause this.

If you still see this problem, you can stop the rogue chess engine by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del, selecting the chess engine process from the menu, and pressing the End Task button.

[C.12] Why do my ICS opponents often get extra time after they make their moves? Why do I sometimes lose time off my clock after I make my move?

If you are playing with the ICS incremental clock, both you and your opponent get a set amount of extra time after each move.

If your or your opponent has netlag, your opponent might appear to get extra time, especially if your opponent is using timestamp or timeseal. The ICS charges each player who is using timestamp or timeseal only for the time between when the player received his opponent's move and the time he sent his own move. Thus delays in network transmission do not count against either player. But WinBoard counts down the display of your opponent's clock on your screen under the assumption that there is no netlag. When his move comes in, if there was netlag, the ICS may not have really charged him for that much time, and WinBoard corrects the clock to what the ICS says it should read.

If you are not using timestamp or timeseal, you may appear to lose time off your clock at some point after you make your move. In this case, the ICS charges you for the time between when it sent you your opponent's move and the time it received your move. Thus delays in network transmission count against you. WinBoard stops counting down the display of your clock on your screen (and starts your opponent's) when you make your move. When the ICS echoes your move back to you, it may have charged you for more time than that, and WinBoard corrects the clocks to what the ICS says they should read.

See help lag and help timestamp or help timeseal on your ICS for more detailed information.

[C.13] I can't run WinBoard unless I delete the WinBoard.ini file each time!

Most people don't have this problem, but two or three people using Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3 or 4 have reported it. I have no idea what causes this problem. Contrary to what was reported in a previous version of this FAQ, reinstalling the service pack after installing WinBoard does not seem to solve the problem.

[C.15] I get errors compiling XBoard's parser.c.

The file parser.c is automatically generated from parser.l. The copy included with XBoard 4.0.2 was generated by lex on Tru64 Unix and has problems compiling and linking on current GNU/Linux versions. The copy included with XBoard 4.0.3 was generated by flex on a GNU/Linux machine, but it too won't necessarily work on other versions of Unix. If you have this problem, you can fix it by deleting parser.c and letting the Makefile re-create it from parser.l. This will work if you have either lex or flex on your system. Flex is available in all GNU/Linux distributions and can be obtained at no charge from the Free Software Foundation, www.fsf.org.

[C.16] I get an error building WinBoard from source because "flex" is not found.

The file parser.c is automatically generated from parser.l. The Makefile included with the WinBoard source kit has a rule for generating parser.c using the program "flex", which will fail if you don't have flex. However, the source kit also includes a ready-made copy of parser.c, so you don't really need flex unless you have made changes to parser.l. Check that you still have a copy of parser.c; if you don't, unpack the WinBoard source zip file again to get one. Either set the last-modified time of parser.c to be later than that of parser.l, delete parser.l, or comment out the Makefile rule for building parser.c from parser.l, and then try building WinBoard again.

If you do want to change parser.l and rebuild parser.c, you can get flex as part of the free Cygwin kit from the Cygwin server. You can probably also get flex for Windows by itself from various other places around the Internet. It is free software distributed by the Free Software Foundation, www.fsf.org.

[C.17] XBoard hangs shortly after connecting to an ICS when used with dxterm, cmdtool, dtterm, kterm, konsole, or other substitutes for xterm.

After connecting to a chess server, XBoard 4.0.2 and later sends an escape sequence to its terminal that is meant to display your handle and the ICS host name (for example, "user@chessclub.com") in the terminal's banner and icon. It seems that several of the alternative X terminal programs have a bug that makes them hang when sent this escape sequence.

You can work around the problem by using xterm, nxterm, rxvt, aterm, xiterm, or gnome-terminal, all of which seem to work fine. In fact, current versions of kterm and konsole seem to work fine too, so if you are having problems with one of them, be sure you are not running an outdated version.

Alternatively, you can disable this feature by commenting out the body of DisplayIcsInteractionTitle in xboard.c and recompling xboard.

[C.18] The WinBoard pieces show up in the wrong colors, appear distorted, or are not visible at all.

This can happen if you have a bug in your Windows display driver. Check with the manufacturer of your display card, the manufacturer of your computer, or Microsoft to see if there is an updated driver available. You can usually download updated drivers from the web.

If you can't find an updated driver, you can try running Windows using a different number of colors and/or disabling some of the hardware acceleration features on your display card. To change the number of colors, go to Windows Start / Settings / Control Panel / Display / Settings / Color Palette. To disable hardware acceleration features, go to Windows Start / Settings / Control Panel / Display / Settings / Advanced Properties / Performance / Hardware Acceleration.

It's also possible that Windows has the right driver for your hardware already but you are not using it. It may help to reinstall your driver. Go to Windows Start / Settings / Control Panel / System and delete your display card (maybe even your monitor too), then reboot. Windows should automatically re-detect your card and monitor and re-install the drivers; if it doesn't, run Start / Settings / Control Panel / Add New Hardware to force it to.

If all else fails, try Monochrome mode. On WinBoard's menus, go to Options / Color and check Monochrome. WinBoard will display in black and white.

[C.19] XBoard or WinBoard tells me "Error: first chess program (...) exited unexpectedly."

This message means that your chess engine crashed, probably due to a bug in the engine, or because you have it configured incorrectly. You can try running XBoard or WinBoard again with the -debug flag on the command line. This will print out all the messages received from the chess engine. (With WinBoard, the messages go into a file called WinBoard.debug; with XBoard, they go to the xterm that you started XBoard from.)

If you are using GNU Chess and you see this problem as soon as it starts up, most likely GNU Chess is exiting with an error message. If you see the message "NO LANGFILE", it means that you did not install GNU Chess correctly, and it is unable to find the file gnuchess.lang. Make sure that you defined LIBDIR in the gnuchess Makefile, and that gnuchess.lang is in that directory. If gnuchess.lang is not there, you probably didn't type make install in the gnuchess src directory; you must do this to install gnuchess.lang (and the gnuchess book). If you defined LIBDIR to something that is not an absolute pathname (that is, to something that does not start with a "/"), GNU Chess will work only if you run it from the GNU Chess "src" directory where you built it.

[C.20] XBoard tells me "Warning: Cannot allocate colormap entry", or "too few colors available; trying monochrome mode", or "XPM pieces cannot be used in monochrome mode."

You are running your X server with 8-bit color depth, and you are running some program that has used up all 256 of your colors. Netscape tends to do this, or maybe you have a background image that uses up all of your colors.

If you have a modern machine, you probably have enough display memory to run your X server with 16-, 24-, or 32-bit color depth. If you're using startx to start the X server, try giving the command as startx -- -bpp 24 (or 16, or 32). On newer X servers you may have to use -depth instead of -bpp. Further details on configuring your X server are beyond the scope of this FAQ.

If you must run in 8-bit mode, try the following: Avoid background images that use up all your colors. If you run Netscape, try starting it up with the -install command-line option; this gives Netscape its own private colormap that X will switch to when Netscape has the keyboard focus.

If all else fails, another possibility is to run xboard in monochrome (black and white) mode by giving it the -mono command-line option. XBoard will try this by itself in some cases. Monochrome mode works only with bitmap pieces, not pixmap pieces, so trying to use it may give you the error "XPM pieces cannot be used in monochrome mode." To get around this, either use the -bitmapDirectory command line option to point XBoard to the directory containing the bitmap pieces included with the XBoard source code, or rebuild XBoard with pixmap support disabled, using ./configure --disable-xpm ; make clean ; make.

[C.21] When I log in to freechess.org, the Enter key doesn't work, and I have to use Ctrl + J instead. But when I use WinBoard, Ctrl + J doesn't work either, so I'm stuck.

This is a pretty rare problem. It should only arise if you have to reach freechess.org by telnetting (or connecting with WinBoard /icsport=23) from a Windows PC to a Unix box, and then telnetting from there to freechess.org. The Enter key should always work when connecting directly from your PC to freechess.org.

The best way to get around the problem is to run timeseal on the intermediate Unix box instead of telnet. Get the appropriate version of timeseal for your box from ftp.freechess.org and follow the directions in the help files on FICS.

If you can't run timeseal for some reason, there are some things you can do to make telnet stay in line mode instead of going to character mode. Then the Enter key will work. First, try telnet freechess.org 5000 instead of telnet freechess.org. If that still doesn't work, then when the Enter key stops working, type the following. Here "<" and ">" surround the names of keys.

    <Ctrl+S><Ctrl+]>mode line<Enter>

[C.22] XBoard says, "Failed to start first chess program fairymax on localhost: fairymax: No such file or directory."

XBoard is looking for the Fairy-Max chess engine. If you didn't want to use XBoard with Fairy-Max, please see topic [C.6]. If you did want to use Fairy-Max, be sure you have it installed and that it is on your $PATH. If you wanted to use GNU Chess instead, see topic [D.6].

[D] Crafty and other topics

[D.1] What is XChess?

XChess is an older chessboard program that is no longer supported. XChess was written for X version 10, and you may or may not be able to build and run it on an X11 system.

XChess has only one significant feature that is not present in XBoard: Two humans can play chess using XChess on different machines, without using the Internet Chess Server as an intermediary. This feature is of interest only if you don't have network connectivity to the Internet Chess Server.

Note: There actually have been several different programs called "XChess" in circulation at various times. The above describes one that was associated with GNU Chess.

[D.2] What is Winsock Chess?

Winsock Chess is a program that lets two people play chess across a network. It runs only under Microsoft Windows. Some of the code in Winsock Chess is derived from GNU Chess, but it is not maintained by the GNU Chess team. You can get a copy from the Internet Chess Library; see topic [A.2]. For more information, contact its author, Donald Munro, ccahdm@beluga.upe.ac.za.

[D.3] What is Crafty?

Crafty is a freely-available chess program written by Bob Hyatt. Bob is the main author of the well-known chess program Cray Blitz. Crafty is a very strong program, its code is available, commented and fairly readable, and its author is actively working on improvements.

You can download this program from the Crafty website.

There is a Crafty mailing list. To subscribe, send email to majordomo@cis.uab.edu, with "subscribe crafty-list" in the body.

[D.4] How do I use Crafty with XBoard?

First, you need to get Crafty and install it as a command-line application on your machine. See topic [D.3].

To use Crafty with XBoard, give the -fcp parameter like this:

    xboard -fcp "./crafty" -fd crafty_directory

Here crafty_directory is the directory where you installed Crafty. You can add more xboard options at the end of the command line.

Crafty 15.14 or later is required to work properly with XBoard 4.0.0 or later. We generally recommend using the latest versions of both XBoard and Crafty.

[D.5] How do I use Crafty with WinBoard?

First, you need to get Crafty and install it as a command-line application on your machine. See topic [D.3]. It is best to use the latest version of Crafty with the latest version of WinBoard to make sure all features are compatible and function correctly. You can install Crafty in any directory you like.

You also need to get WinBoard and install it in the normal way using its built-in installer. You can do that either before or after you install Crafty.

After both Crafty and WinBoard are installed separately, follow the directions in the WinBoard Help file (included with WinBoard) for connecting new chess engines to WinBoard.

If you want to have Crafty act as an automated computer player on a chess server, see topic [B.16]. Before you try to get that working, be sure you can play against Crafty locally, first without WinBoard, then with it. Also be sure you can use WinBoard to play on the chess server yourself, without having Crafty connected to it. You have to crawl before you can walk!

[D.6] How do I use GNU Chess with XBoard?

By default, XBoard tries to use Fairy-Max by running the command fairymax. That's why if you don't have Fairy-Max, you get the error message "Failed to start first chess program fairymax on localhost: fairymax: No such file or directory."

If you have GNU Chess 5, the command should be gnuchess xboard instead. To make XBoard use this command, give the -fcp parameter like this:

    xboard -fcp "gnuchess xboard"
If you instaled GNU Chess as a package, the operating system usually knows where to find it, and GNU Chess knwos where to find its data files, such as the opening book. If GNU Chess is installed in a non-compliant way, e.g. together with its book file in a user directory, you must use:
    xboard -fd gnuchess_directory -fcp "./gnuchess xboard"

Here gnuchess_directory is the directory where you installed GNU Chess 5 and its book. In all cases you can add more xboard options at the end of the command line.

If you want to use GNU Chess 4, the command should be gnuchessx instead. To make XBoard use this command, give the -fcp parameter like this:

    xboard -fcp "gnuchessx"

The same applies for non-compliant installs as for GNU Chess 5: the install directory has to be given with the -fd argument.

[D.7] How do I use GNU Chess with WinBoard?

Well, why would you want to? If you want a strong free engine, use Crafty, Glaurung, Fruit or Toga. If you wnt an engine that plays many variants, use Fairy-Max, Pulsar or Sjeng. But the procedure to install and run those is not any different than for GNU Chess.

If you want to use a WinBoard-compatible chess engine that is not automatically installed with the download, you will have to download it yourself. Most chess engines are downloaded as a compressed archive (e.g. a .zip file), and on downloading it, the decompression software on your Windows system is automatically invoked when you selected "Open" in the download dialog. You can then click "extract all files", and you are prompted for a place to put the unpacked stuff. The place it proposes is usually no good, so browse to the folder in which you installed the winBoard download (where you see the Fairy-Max and WinBoard folders).

When the archive contained a single folder, (with files in it), unpack it there. If the archive contained a lot of small files, first create a folder, and browse there, before you unpack. (To get all the files in a single place, not mixed with others, so you can easily delete it again.) Say you unpacked in a folder named "NewEngine", which now sits next to your "WinBoard" folder amongst the chess files on your system. Say there is a file "Engine.exe" in this "NewEngine" folder.

Then to run the engine with WinBoard, you have to enter the command:

        winboard /fcp="Engine.exe" /fd="..\NewEngine"

Sometimes engines need parameters on their command line, e.g. to set the hash-table size, or tell them they have to deal with WinBoard. These should then go within the quotes around the Engine.exe file name, directly behind it, and separated from it (and each other) by spaces. See any README files that come with the engine to learn how exactly the engine has to be invoked.

[D.8] What is Fairy-Max?

Fairy-Max is a chess engine that plays chess at a level where you don't need to be a super GM to still have a chance to beat it. Apart from normal chess it plays many variants as well, such as Capablanca or Gothic Chess, Knightmate, etc. Dedicated versions of it are available to play Shatranj and Xiangqi (Chinese Chess).

[D.9] What is UCI? What is Polyglot?

UCI, or Universal Chess Interface, is a standard for communication between chess engines and its Graphical User Interface, that was created as an alternative to the way XBoard / WinBoard does it. (The latter way having become known as "WinBoard protocol"). XBoard / WinBoard do not understand a word of UCI, so UCI engines cannnot be run directly as engine under them.

Polyglot is an adapter that translates WB protocol to UCI. It bhaves like it is a WB engine, but, without XBoard / WinBoard knowing about this, it consults an UCI engine for getting the moves. With the aid of Polyglot, any UCI engine can be run under WinBoard. Polyglot is available as a Debian package for Linux, and is included in the WinBoard installation. Polyglot is open source software released under the GPL.

[D.10] How can I run a UCI engine under XBoard / WinBoard?

First you have to download and install the UCI engine. This is similar to installing WinBoard engines, see D.7. Furthermore, you have to make sure that Polyglot is nstalled on your system, in a place where XBoard / WinBoard can find it. There are then two ways to run the UCI engine:

In the first method, the only thing you have to do is add an extra option to the command that invokes XBoard / WinBoard, to tell it that the engine is UCI:

        xboard -fcp "fruit" -fUCI

        winboard /fcp="Fruit_21.exe" /fd="..\Fruit" /fUCI

The second method is more complicated, but also more versatile. UCI engines accept many settings from their GUI than XBoard / WinBoard usually send to a WB engine. Polyglot can provide such settings from a file dedicated to that engine, usully referred to as a "polyglot.ini" file (although the actual name can be different.) If the engine you downloaded comes with a polyglot.ini file for it, you can force Polyglot to use this file with engine settings by invoking it explicitly from XBoard / WinBoard:

        xboard -fcp "polyglot INIFILE"

        winboard /fcp="polyglot INIFILE" /fd="POLYGLOTDIR"

INIFILE is the name of the polyglot.ini file (possibly a path name, such as "PG\fruit.ini", while POLYGLOTDIR should be the directory (path) name were the Polyglot executable is located. The directory and name of the actual engine are described in the polygot.ini file, and XBoard / WinBoard need not be aware of them.

If you don't have a polyglot.ini file for the engine, you would have to make one. How to do that is beyond the scope of this FAQ. Refer to the Polyglot documentation for this, or use method 1.

If you don't have a polyglot.ini file for the engine, you would have to make one. How to do that is beyond the scope of this FAQ. Refer to the Polyglot documentation for this, or use method 1.