Chess on a Mac

by C.K. Sample III Aug 11, 2004

I love playing chess.  They say it is the game of Kings and Queens and guillotines—:No, wait… That’s an Aerosmith song. Anyway, my problem:  I’m good at chess. “Why’s that a problem?” you ask.
Here’s the scenario: I’m no Bobby Fisher, mind you.  I’m very much in the intermediate range of chess player.  However, this puts me leaps and bounds ahead of most of my friends.  This in turn means that I often win when I play my friends, and it also means that they don’t like to play me as often as I would like to play, because they are tired of being beaten.  Solution to this problem?  Play chess on my Mac.  This article is going to discuss a few options for doing just that.

Panther’s Chess
You could always navigate to your Applications folder and launch OS X’s default chess program.  Besides being pretty (you can have a 3-D board made of grass, marble, metal, or wood, and pieces made of fur, marble, metal, or wood), this chess program is a powerful little chess app complete with spoken moves, optional take backs, and hints.  The problem?  Like I said, I’m no Bobby Fisher, and winning against OS X’s Chess isn’t in the cards unless you happen to be on the level of Gary Kasparov, Bobby F., and the Grand Master boys.  It’s hard. Sometimes, I think I remember beating OS X’s chess program once, but I’m not really sure if it really happened, or if it was just a dream…

Big Bang Chess
Big Bang Chess from Freeverse Software is the chess program that you wish came as part of Apple’s iLife package.  Actually, it is better that it doesn’t, because it is free.  This chess program is cooler looking than Apple’s (Chess becomes the game of the gods in Big Bang Chess, as you play as either the sun or the moon), but the computer chess engine isn’t nearly as strong.  I can be assured a regular win when I play the computer on Big Bang Chess.  Unfortunately, consistently winning can be just as annoying as consistently losing; however, due to its nice integration with OS X, Big Bang Chess is not limited by the computer.  You can invite friends to play online via iChat, the program is fully Rendevous aware; you can play Big Bang Chess via email with a long distance friend who is hard to catch online; and as an added bonus you can access your iTunes playlists from within the game, for some easy listening or search-and-destroy type music, depending upon the type of game you’re having.  The only downside to Big Bang Chess is that it doesn’t find an opponent for you, so if you, like me, are better or more enthusiastic about chess than most of your friends, then you will need something more…

Acessing the Internet Chess Club
If you want to find players online for chess, you could surf around Yahoo!Games for free (read ad-based) casual rated play via java in your browser, but if you really want some hardcore rated chess action, you need to go to the spot where the Grand Masters play: the Internet Chess Club.  At right around $50 a year for membership, joining the Internet Chess Club is a pretty good deal.  You can always find someone willing to play.  You can play rated or non-rated games, chat with opponents, and you are ranked according to your skills.  There are also numerous online tutorial sessions and tournaments that you can participate in to help improve your chess game.  My favorite feature is that you can set the preferences to automatically email yourself a transcript of your game for later examination or future reference.  There are two programs I recommend for playing on ICC once you have an account:  Chessic and Jin.  Chessic runs natively in OS X, and includes automated controls for seeking new games.  Jin runs in a window, running on Java, and is a bit prettier than Chessic, although you have to type in all your options via the chat interface to the ICC.  These commands are ICC commands and can be used in either program. To access all available commands, simply type “help commands” in the chat window.  Neither of these programs are as pretty as those previously discussed, but if you are looking for hardcore online chess action this is definitely the way to go.  If you don’t feel like investing $50 a year to enjoy the chess-action-goodness, Jin also works with FICS-The Free Internet Chess Server. Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly as many players on FICS as on ICC, and FICS isn’t .mac email friendly due to some spam problems they’ve had in the past, so you might have some difficulty signing up.  If you go with either ICC or FICS, look for me online and we’ll play a game.  My handle is cks3 on ICC and cksthree on FICS.  Let the games begin!

One final note…
If you are tired of plain old chess, you might want to check out Shogi, Japanese Chess, and MacShogi, the first Mac OS X Shogi Database Program, is the way to go.  Have fun!


  • Just spotted Ignatius today.  It’s in beta, but looks promising as a Mac OS X ICC interface.  From the site: “It has nearly every feature BlitzIn, the Chessclub’s native windows client, has! And more: premove, a rating tracker, different board styles, completely customizable console, multiple piece sets, a seek table AND graph, and a “buddy list” style notification list!”  Check it out.

    C.K. Sample III had this to say on Aug 20, 2004 Posts: 41
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    Samuel had this to say on Sep 12, 2011 Posts: 26
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