Winboard and Chess engines FAQ

Section B - Setting up

Section B

[B] Setting up

Forward to Section C

[B] Setting up

[B.1] How do I Install Winboard? Should I uninstall the older version when upgrading?

Just run the execute file, and the Winboard setup should do the rest. Winboard comes pre-installed with GNUChess4.0 and GNUChess 5.02.

When upgrading you can uninstall the older version using Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs or Start | Programs | WinBoard | Uninstall WinBoard. But normally there is no need to uninstall the older version, as you can just install the new one in the old place. This is because unlike other programs you don't need to worry much about messing up the Registry. See below.

Tim Mann writes "Winboard when installing adds only minimal changes to the Windows registry. It adds WinBoard to the list in Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs, so that you can easily uninstall it. If you say 'yes' when asked if you want WinBoard to be your viewer for PGN and FEN files, it registers it as such."

[B.2] How do I install more Winboard Engines ?

There are two ways to set up Winboard engines(eg Crafty) to work with Winboard. One method is run them using a command line. This is the method mentioned in the Crafty FAQ , and on Tim Mann's FAQ . A slightly better but similar method is to add a shortcut as recommended by some older sites.

Such a method would involve setting the following line as a shortcut eg.
"C:\WinBoard\winboard.exe" -cp -fcp "crafty" -fd "C:\Craftydirectory"

In this case, -cp tell Winboard to start in Chess engine mode and the "crafty" after -fcp is the name of the exe file and the words after -fd is for the directory where crafty.exe resides. If you want another Chess engine to take the other side you add similar lines except that you do -scp and -sd respectively for the exe file and directory.

Confused? Don't worry, a easier and more flexible method (which I will go into detail further down) , I believe is to alter the file Winboard.ini(which will be generated the first time you run Winboard itself). By altering the Winboard.ini file, you can select which Chess engine will run in the startup-dialog whenever you start Winboard. This will remove the need for multiple shortcuts for different programs.

Note: There is however no way to run Chess engines using zippy for ICS play via the "Winboard.ini method" as we shall soon see.

Setting up Chess engines by altering the Winboard.ini file


The instructions below are concerned with manually altering the winboard.ini file using notepad to setup with winboard with various engines. This can be confusing to people with no experience with such tasks. Tom's Simple Engine Manager provides a graphical user interface to make this task easier.

The instructions below are available with screen shots here .

Here I will guide you through the steps needed to add Ruffian , a strong free Winboard engine.First download Ruffian. Extract the files to a directory called c:\Ruffian.

Next, open the Winboard.ini file using a text editor (like wordpad or notepad). You can find Winboard.ini in the same directory you installed Winboard. (If you cannot find the file Winboard.ini in the winboard directory, you need to run Winboard.exe once, then exit for the file to be generated.) You should see this portion at the bottom of the file.

"GNUChes5 xboard"
"GNUChes5 xboard"

When you start up Winboard, you will see 2 options Gnuchess and GNUChes5 Xboard for the first dialog box, and a similar one for the second dialog box.

To add more options to the dialog box this is what you change the above to

"GNUChes5 xboard"
"ruffian" /fd="c:\ruffian"
"GNUChes5 xboard"
"ruffian" /sd="c:\ruffian"

(Added lines are in italics)

Okay what does the added lines mean? It actually consists of 2 parts, one marked in red , the other marked in blue

"ruffian" /fd="c:\ruffian"

The first part "ruffian" refers to the name of the actual executable. This is the file that ends with exe .Notice that even though the file is called ruffian.exe, I don't have to include the .exe part, though it shouldn't hurt.

Technically, the Winboard help files says that If the engine name has more than one period in it (for example, QChess1.5.exe), you must include the ".exe" extension; otherwise you can leave it out.

To make things simple though my file names are usually simple, without underscores, periods or spaces. So instead of crafty-19.1.exe , I rename it to Crafty191.exe to avoid all problems.

But how does Winboard know where the exe file is? This is set by the next part /fd="c:\ruffian" This line merely tells Winboard where the file ruffian.exe is. In the above example, it lies in the directory c:\ruffian.

Note the quotation marks are not strictly needed except in cases where the directory has a space in between like c:\program file\crafty , but it usually doesn't hurt.Also in cases where you the executable file actually lies in the same directory as Winboard, you don't need to add this second part.

For example the default Gnuchess engines are in the Winboard directory, as such all you need to do is to type in the executable file name and leave out specifying the path to it.

You do exactly the same for the second option "ruffian" /sd="c:\ruffian"

The only difference is that instead of fd you use sd. (fd=first directory, sd=second directory.)

That is all that is needed. Save the Winboard.ini file as Winboard.ini (not Winboard.ini.txt) and rerun Winboard. The option will then appear as the second choice and you can click on it to select Ruffian to play.

A word of warning, while most Chess engines can be setup in the same way ,some engines require special command lines to be added.For example in the default GNUchess setup you see the addition of "Xboard". Typically this requires you to add things like xboard or xb to signal to the engine it is being used in Winboard/xboard mode.Some others like Phalanx requires you to add commands to configure settings like hash table size, book learning options.

Some examples

"Nejmet33 xb" /fd=c:\Nejmet33
"Bringer19 /winboard" /fd=c:/Bringer19
"Phalanx22 -l- -t110768 -r800 -o-"/fd=c:\Phalanx22

Older versions of Crafty also required you to add /xboard, but it is no longer necessary now.

For more details on what (if anything is necessary) to be added,Please go to Thomas web page and or the more updated Leo Dijksman website and select the relevant details page.

Some other useful commands to add include the following the following

/Xreuse - when added will cause Winboard to restart the Chess engine after each game, instead of reusing it from game to game. This is useful in some cases with problematic engines that do not recognise the end of a game properly.

/firstcomputerstring "" - will suppress the sending of the computer command by Winboard to the engine. See Section [D.4.6] for why you might want to do so.

/firstProtocolVersion=1 - will force Winboard to stop sending the protover command (which checks if the engine supports Protocol 2). . This is useful in a few cases (like the old version of SOS) which have problems when the protover command is sent, but normally this is not necessary even for chess engines that support only Protocol 1.

If you still have problems here are some other websites that might help

Lastly, you could download Configuration files by Federico Corigliano []-about 113kb . However, they will only work if you do the following after unzipping the file.
  1. Install Winboard in the directory c:\winboard
  2. Replace the Winboard.ini file in c:\Winboard with the unzipped one from the zip file.
  3. Copy the directories of the engines you want to use into Winboard. For example, you should have the directory c:/Winboard/Amy if you want to install Amy and the file .amy.rc in that directory
  4. Get the executable file. Go here and select the detail page of the engine you want to download the file you need. You may also need to download opening books, and put them all in the same directory. In this case c:\Winboard\Amy.
  5. Rename the executable file according to the Winboard.ini file. For example, with Amy you will see a line that says "Amy_086" /fd="c:\winboard\Amy", so rename it to Amy_086.exe

That should do it. This will configure each chess engine to use 32 mega Hash. Options are set such that resign is off, learning is off and book is on. [So for two Engine matches on the same computer you need about 128 megs of RAM]

Still Stuck?

If you read all the way down here and still have problems, you can download the following Winboard package at from Jason Kent. Extract the whole package and a couple of engines Ruffian,Delfi, Crafty etc are included in there. More importantly, Jason as modified the winboard.ini file and the package is ready to use immediately.

[B.3] How do I setup Crafty, Fritz etc to run on FICS, ICC, USCL etc?How about YahooChess?

Setting up Winboard engines to run in Internet Chess Servers like [formerly known as FICS or Free Internet Chess server], or Internet Chess Club [ICC] is possible with the use of zippy that comes with the Winboard package.Another possible and perhaps easier way is to use the new Arena , that comes with ICS support.

However it is not possible to set up Winboard Chess engines to run in YahooChess servers using normal Winboard compatible interfaces.This is because YahooChess is based on a java applet, and zippy does not work in that. In fact,this holds for most Chess servers besides FICS/ICC/Chessnet and perhaps USCL which share similar code.

There is however a project known as YICS that makes it possible to 'possible to use ICS-compatible interfaces (such as xboard, WinBoard, eboard, and Thief) on Yahoo! Chess.' .This opens the possibility of using engines that use these interfaces.

Using Winboard + Zippy

To use zippy with Winboard, you will have to alter the windows shortcut(or do it in dos mode).

  1. Right click on the Winboard shortcut on the desktop and select properties

  2. In "target" you should see something like C:\WinBoard\winboard.exe

  3. Your Path might be different depending on where you placed Winboard.

  4. Add this line c:\winboard\winboard.exe /zp /ics / /icshelper=timeseal /fcp=enginename.exe /fd=c:\enginedirectory in the target box in one line.You can ignore the colors for now.


The first part in black is to tell Winboard to start in ICS mode.Of course the path to Winboard.exe on your computer might vary. It could be c:\program files\Winboard\Winboard.exe \zp \ics instead for example.

/ /icshelper=timeseal - Add the server address after /icshost.(E.g. for ICC or for USCL). /icshelper is for the use of timeseal.

/fcp=enginename.exe /fd=c:\enginedirectory - Change enginename to the file name of your engine (the file ending in exe) and c:\enginedirectory to the directory where enginename.exe is in.

Start Winboard through the shortcut and it will run normally. You will need to enter the handle name, password, normally.

Notice that the method I advocate above to setup Chess engines to play locally, using the Winboard.ini to setup engines and then selecting them on the fly in the startup dialog box cannot be used here. This is mainly because that mode is available only in Chess engine mode, and when Chess engines run on ICS they are actually running in ICS Mode.
Remember, you have to apply for and receive a approval for a computer account with each chess servers before you can use one with a registered account. Failure to do so will result in a ban. You have being warned! If you are just testing, please log in as a guest!

The line above is only the most basic command needed to log on but you will still have to manually enter the handle,password, challenge and accept matches etc. There are other zippy and winboard commands you can add to automate the running of the computer account.

More Advanced Tips

First off, you could add the line /icslogon=ics.ini after the above lines, and then create a file ics.ini in which you input the commands that will automatically be sent. Normally you will use this to enter Handle,password, set finger notes ,filters and challenges Here's a sample you can copy and paste in your text editor and then save as ics.ini in the Winboard directory (not your engine directory)

Set 1 This account is run using Engine so and so
Set 2 This account is run on Pentium 4 , 2 Ghz
Set 3 Running using all 3-4-5 tablebases
Set 4 The Operator is TheDane
seek 5 0

The above will automatically enter the account handle and then password (but remember the warning in yellow above!), followed by setting up the fingernotes about and send a seek.However, this does not mean that it will continue to send seeks after each game.

The trick is to add the line -zippyGameEnd='say *handshake*\nseek 5 3 m\nseek 5 5 m\n'

Basically after each game is finished, zippy will send the command gameend so you can use the alias server command to change it to something else (perhaps seek more games). Another way is to add the line -zippygameend= xxxxx. My line will say *handshake* and then send out 5 3 and 5 5 manual seeks.

There are many more commands to automate the running of the account, for example limiting the number of consective games to the same opponent, noplaying some accounts , but you should refer to the zippy.readme file available with Winboard for more details.

As always chances are my explanation is not clear enough, so you might want to consult other sites which tackle the same problem. A good guide on the use of zippy can be found on Mogens Larsen's home page [Scroll to the bottom of the top most Window, and look under "related topics"] , as well as John Rivorie/ Sasha Goldstein's Crafty page.Rob Keogh has a site for setting up chess engines to run on ICC. .The batch file included will also automatically reconnect if you are disconnected.

See also other questions on zippy at Tim Mann's official Xboard/Winboard FAQ

Connecting non Winboard engines

Connecting non-Winboard engines like Fritz to online Chess Servers is more difficult and involves the use of Winboard auto232 player adaptor which allows Chessbase engines to communicate with Winboard via the auto232 protocol , and when this is done, you can then connect online with Zippy as above. You can download Eberhard Börger's auto232 player with instructions on how to setup Fritz to play in ICS [Internet Chess Servers like ICC or FICS] .If you are using Win2k or XP, you can set up Borger's auto232 player without the use of any null modems cables.(broken) Better yet refer to my articles on auto232 players. (general introduction) and specific instructions. You can also find some general discussion of auto232 at Joachim Denzler's webpage.More details on auto232 (history,problems) in german.

Alternatives to Winboard/Xboard for Winboard/Xboard and UCI engines in ICS.

The free Arena has already being mentioned earlier has a easy to use alternative to Winboard that allows you to use UCI and Winboard engines in FICS.

Other commercial programs like the Chess Partner interface, Chess Vision has built in interface that makes it easy to get chess engines to run online.

Chess Assistant (and the light version) allows you to connect Chess engines (Winboard engines only for the light version, UCI or Winboard for the paid version) to ICC only.

Linux users have alternatives to Xboard , as they can use Eboard and Knights. Still they support the same engines as Xboard so there is not much gain in using them.

Fritz 7 and above has built in support that allows you to log onto their own online playchess server but not FICS.

Chessmaster 8000/9000/10000  is interesting because the engine that powers it (The King) is actually a Winboard engine. As such it can be treated like any Winboard engine and connected to Chess servers like FICS. See Section [D.3] for more details.

<>However connecting chessmaster 8000/9000/10000 to Winboard in such a manner, will cause Chessmaster to play without a opening book because it relies on the graphical user interface to provide a opening book which Winboard does not. This problem can be solved using Bookthinker or use auto232 programs to connect Chessmaster to Winboard first (very complicated). Jason Kent has created a package to make use of  The King (all versions)  with FICS (direct link 1006K). It includes support with Bookthinker but you need to read the  instructions (direct link to text file) carefully.

Similarly you need auto232 to setup Chessmaster 8000/9000/10000 to run against another auto232 supported program like Chessbase programs. Refer to Chessmaster's FAQ. [under question "Q: I've heard of something called Auto232. What is it and does Chessmaster 8000 support it? "] Also here's a more detailed instruction by Scott Wood on CCC "How to use auto232 with Chessmaster"

Lastly there is robofics . Robofics has being ported to windows by Dann Corbit . You will need Cgwin.dll. I have no idea how it works except it is very old and doesn't seem to be very popular now that we have Winboard.NEW! [06-03-2002] - The successor of robofics is ICSdrone . I haven't tried it.

[B.4] How do I connect 2 copies of Winboard over a LAN or the internet without connecting over a internet server? Can I use this to play a game with a friend over the net?

Strictly speaking Winboard isn't really designed for 2 people (or engines) to connect directly to play a game. Something like Netchess is more suitable. Still if you want to Winboard there are options.

Try the Winboard Network adaptor . If you are on a LAN you can try this simplified RSH server for Windows".

[B.5] Help! Winboard still refuses to run.

Here are some possible reasons

  1. You have specified the wrong path, or wrong file name
  2. Remember to use // instead of /
  3. "sd" instead of "fd" must be used for the second program
  4. Default hash is set extremely large
  5. Neglecting to add a special command line, switch which is needed. E.g. you need " -xboard" for Anmon5.09 and/or Nejmet. Refer to Thomas Mayer's Winboard engines detail pages or the newer and more updated Leo Winboard page for more details.
  6. Lacking the file cygwin.dll when running engines like SOS, Gormit2.0,Cilian,Colchess,Fortress,Gaviota, and Knightcap.Awesome needs CW3215.dll
  7. Doing everything correctly but forgetting to save

[B.6] Where can I get more help?

If you are really stuck, there are some places that you can go for help. A good idea would be to run Winboard with the /debug tag and submit the Winboard.debug file.

Winboard Forum - This is a friendly forum, with many helpful gurus standing by to answer any question you might have regarding Winboard. The board is moderated by Volker Pittlik although his intervention is seldom necessary. The language of choice is generally English although sometimes German is used due to the large numbers of German speakers.

Computer Chess Club [CCC] - This is a more general forum devoted to Computer Chess. While Winboard related questions are allowed, this forum is a better venue for asking questions related to Commercial programs such as Chessmaster, Fritz, Rebel etc, as many of their authors or Service Reps hang out there. This is a moderated forum [with Moderators being selected in a yearly election] . - The unmoderated Usenet group. Due to the presence of a large number of trolling and flaming, a group of Chess program Authors and fans felt that productive discussion was no longer possible. This led to the formation of the moderated Computer Chess Club [CCC].

There are various other forums like CSS (Chessbase software dominated discussion in German) and French forums Le Forum du Fou .

Search posts about everything concerning Computer Chess

As a last resort, you can email me for help , and I will try to answer any questions to the best of my ability.

[B.7] I give up. Is there a easier way to do this?

If you still cannot get any of the programs to work with Winboard despite reading the various online guides and getting help from the forums, but still want more chess program beside GNUchess to play against, I suggest the following alternatives.

* To change go to "Ansicht" scroll down to "sprache" and choose "Englische".