How To Use A Chess Engine The Right Way

How To Use A Chess Engine The Right Way

The introduction of chess engines has greatly changed the way chess is played. Since the advent of these super chess aids, the way we view the game of kings has taken a massive leap from the old days.

Chess engines can be used for a variety of chess-related activities. They provide various functions, including game analysis, chess study, practice, and even recreational purposes.

Therefore, it is crucial to know how to use a chess engine.

What Are Chess Engines?

How To Use A Chess Engine: The Stockfish Chess Engine

Before we delve into learning the way chess engines work, it is necessary to understand what they are.

A chess engine is a computer program that uses special software to analyze chess positions and generate a move or list of moves that it considers to be the strongest. It is reliable because it is often considered to be more efficient than a team of super grandmasters.

Chess engines were not the most reliable means of analysis in the 1900s. Chess engine did not even exist for the most part. However, with the introduction of super-powered engines like Stockfish, Komodo, and Leela Chess Zero, it goes without saying that the best way to learn chess in modern times is with the aid of a chess engine.

How A Chess Engine Finds The Best Move

A chess engine has a Search Function capable of calculating millions of possible move continuations from any given position. It also possesses an evaluation function that operates as a knowledge base to estimate various positional factors.

The combination of the search function and the evaluation function allows the chess engine to find what it considers to be the best move to be played in any given position. This function works for both the white and black pieces. This means that in any given position, the engine calculates the best possible move for both sides.

Therefore, when you run your game through a chess engine, it uses the search function and the evaluation function to give you the best move suggestion.

The engine also scores positions. This means it has a way of showing which side is currently ahead in a chess game by making use of the evaluation function.

How An Engine Scores A Position

The evaluation function evaluates positions in hundredths of a pawn, called a centipawn. Chess pieces are assessed for their relative strength in potential exchanges with the following values:

  • Pawn = 1
  • Knight or bishop = 3
  • Rook = 5
  • Queen = 9

When a chess engine wants to evaluate a given position, it presents a numerical score. This numerical score assigns positive signs (+) to indicate an advantage for white and negative signs (-) to indicate an advantage for black.

To illustrate, when white has an advantage in a position, the engine may give a +0.64. This means white is up by 0.64 of a pawn or 64 centipawns. Similarly, a -0.64 means black is up 64 centipawns. When the numerical valuation is 0, this means the position is equal.

How To Interpret The Engine Score

How to use a chess engine
The Chess Engine scores the position +2.2 In favor of white

Another vital step in knowing how to use a chess engine is understanding how to interpret the engine score.

The engine score is how a chess engine tells the user which side currently has the advantage. When an engine gives a high score to a particular side, unless that side makes a mistake, they should win the game.

For example, where an engine gives white a +1.8, unless white makes a mistake, they should be able to win the game even if black plays to the end flawlessly.

In addition, while the primary evaluation of an engine’s score is based on the material advantage, a player doesn’t necessarily have to be ahead in material in order to have an advantage. The evaluation function of a chess engine also takes into consideration other components to determine whether a position is in favor of one side over the other.


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How To Use A Chess Engine: Engine Depth

In learning how to use a chess engine, one must understand the concept of Depth.

Depth simply means how far a chess engine can see into a position. It indicates how many plies ahead in the game the chess engine was able to see. A ply means a move made by one opponent, whether black or white.

Looking at the concept of depth generally, one can say the greater the depth of a chess engine, the more accurate the move suggestion it gives. However, this is not entirely true, as a lot of other factors are being taken into consideration to determine the best move in any chess position.

For example, a -0.64 score in-depth 16 means black is up 64 centipawns after calculating 16 plies ahead. However, this does not mean all possible 16-ply variations are being checked. Therefore, cases may occur, although they are not frequent, that the chess engine might overlook a better variation.

How does a Chess Engine Show Blunders, Inaccuracies, and Mistakes?

In analyzing your chess game with a chess engine, you are sure to encounter instances in games where you played wrong or sub-optimal moves. The chess engine differentiates these errors into three: Blunders, Inaccuracies, and Mistakes.


The Engine gives Qd3 to be a Blunder

A blunder is a move that is immediately detrimental to your position. By playing a blunder, a chess player is almost always going to lose the game unless their opponent makes a blunder too. The chess engine signifies that a certain move is a blunder by using the annotation: ??


The Engine gives c×d4 as an inaccuracy and prefers N×d4 to be the best move

An inaccuracy is a move a player makes that does not immediately lose the game, but it is not the best move to be made in that given position. The chess engine signifies that a move is an inaccuracy by using the annotation: ?!


The Engine gives Bb3 as a mistake

A mistake is a move that puts you at a disadvantage or makes you lose an opportunity to gain an advantage in the game.

You should note that a blunder is different from a mistake. A blunder immediately puts you in a losing position, while a mistake puts you in a disadvantaged position but not an outright lost position.

The chess engine signifies that a move is a mistake by using the annotation: ?

The engine signifies a good move by using the annotation: !

And there you have it, and now you know how to use a chess engine.

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