Is gnu chess what I am looking for ?

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David Wilson

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Nov 5, 2019, 8:36:03 AM11/5/19
to info-gn...@gnu.org
If this is the wrong kind of query to pose this group then I would be
grateful if you could direct me elsewhere - and, should that be the case,
please accept my apologies.

I am looking for a simple, bare-bones chess-playing program with a
graphical front end that I will be able to adapt to incorporate my own
evaluation function.

The basic functionality should include, knowledge of legal moves,
tree-searching (pruning etc.) but little else. In particular I do not wish
the program to have knowledge of openings, end games etc.

My motivation is to explore the game-playing behaviour of a specific,
simple evaluation function. By that, I mean the function that assigns as
score to a given position. This is motivated by my own curiosity. If the
experimental outcome merits it, I might make the modified program and the
results available through a web page or suchlike.

Naturally I will be happy to conform to the terms of the GPL in any work I
do.

Do you think Gnu chess might be a good starting point ?
If so, is it possible to access and modify the code under Windows or does
it require Linux ?

Thanks in advance,
David Wilson

Antonio Ceballos

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Nov 5, 2019, 10:27:14 AM11/5/19
to David Wilson, info-gnu-chess
Hi David,

This is a good place to ask about GNU Chess. I can give you some
information and hopefully answer your questions to some extent.

GNU Chess is a program to play chess against the computer, or to let the
computer play against itself. It includes a frontend for interactive
playing, or it can be used as a chess engine from third-party frontends.

Its built-in good old frontend is purely textual. It also includes an
enhanced frontend that we can call graphical or pseudo-graphical, based on
Unicode chess points. This is good for usage from a terminal.

When used as a chess engine, a typical partner is XBoard, a fully-fledged
graphical frontend, and it can be used from many others.

GNU Chess runs on GNU/Linux, Unix and Mac OS X, but not on Windows, at
least not the official version. I have heard of variants that can, but I
don't have any information about them.

Its chess engine is quite powerful, based on Fruit 2.1. The program can use
a book, especially for openings, but this is optional, so you can easily
disable it. It does not include end-game knowledge.

Of course, the chess engine includes an evaluation function. It is
recognizable, but it is not a plug-in that you can change without
rebuilding the whole program. The evaluation function, though not trivial,
is relatively simple, and it does not account only by itself for such a
strong engine, which also comes from the search algorithms.

You can modify the program as long as you can write C. Technically
speaking, it is C++, but it is "virtually" C code.

BTW, I personally started a modification of the program some years ago in a
way that could be interesting for your purposes, but unfortunately I did
not finish it: a running mode based on an "external" evaluation function
written in the Scheme programming language. If you are interested in it,
you can find a start point of this idea in the repository.

Whether GNU Chess is what you are looking for or not, I could not say it
for certain. That depends on your skills in GNU/Linux, C and chess engines
among other factors. Just let me know if I can help you more.

Cheers,
Antonio
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