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For reasons I'd rather not get into, what chess programs work well on the console (ie. does not require X Windows)? Something with an ASCII visualization of the board would be incredibly helpful (I'm still a chess newbie).

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After installing GNU Chess run the command gnuchess from the terminal, it would look something like this:

~$ gnuchess
GNU Chess 5.07
Adjusting HashSize to 1024 slots
Transposition table:  Entries=1K Size=48K
Pawn hash table: Entries=0K Size=32K
White (1) : e4
1. e4

black  KQkq  e3
r n b q k b n r 
p p p p p p p p 
. . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . 
. . . . P . . . 
. . . . . . . . 
P P P P . P P P 
R N B Q K B N R 

Thinking...
Looking for opening book in book.dat...
Looking for opening book in /usr/share/games/gnuchess/book.dat...
Read opening book (/usr/share/games/gnuchess/book.dat)...
Loading book from /usr/share/games/gnuchess/book.dat.
40304 hash collisions...  Opening database: 265053 book positions. 
In this position, there are 11 book moves:
 Nc6(71/77/22/32)  Nf6(54/113/88/113)  a6(75/3/1/0)  b6(67/11/3/9) 
 c6(52/451/376/743)  d6(52/178/153/229)  e6(52/651/582/970)        g6(59/155/88/117) 
 c5(56/2535/1691/2912)  d5(54/47/38/35)  e5(54/2518/1938/3369)  

 c5(1322)  e5(1312)  e6(376)  c6(277)  d6(141)  g6(136)  Nf6(109)  Nc6(108) 
 a6(76)  d5(76)  b6(70)  


white  KQkq  c6
r n b q k b n r 
p p . p p p p p 
. . . . . . . . 
. . p . . . . . 
. . . . P . . . 
. . . . . . . . 
P P P P . P P P 
R N B Q K B N R 


My move is : c5
White (2) : 
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I guess you could output the moves over the board for better visualization, having lower case and upper case to keep track of might be difficult. – Helio Dec 5 '12 at 20:25

What about GNU Chess? It has a plain terminal interface but supports visual interfaces such as XBoard.

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Sunfish has a simple terminal interface, if you just want to play a bit for fun:

> python3 sunfish.py

  8 ♖ ♘ ♗ ♕ ♔ ♗ ♘ ♖
  7 ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙
  6 . . . . . . . .
  5 . . . . . . . .
  4 . . . . . . . .
  3 . . . . . . . .
  2 ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟
  1 ♜ ♞ ♝ ♛ ♚ ♝ ♞ ♜
    a b c d e f g h


Your move: e2e4

  8 ♖ ♘ ♗ ♕ ♔ ♗ ♘ ♖
  7 ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙
  6 . . . . . . . .
  5 . . . . . . . .
  4 . . . . ♟ . . .
  3 . . . . . . . .
  2 ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ . ♟ ♟ ♟
  1 ♜ ♞ ♝ ♛ ♚ ♝ ♞ ♜
    a b c d e f g h


My move: g8f6

  8 ♖ ♘ ♗ ♕ ♔ ♗ . ♖
  7 ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙ ♙
  6 . . . . . ♘ . .
  5 . . . . . . . .
  4 . . . . ♟ . . .
  3 . . . . . . . .
  2 ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ . ♟ ♟ ♟
  1 ♜ ♞ ♝ ♛ ♚ ♝ ♞ ♜
    a b c d e f g h


Your move: 
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Follow my commands. Play Stockfish on the terminal.

wget https://stockfish.s3.amazonaws.com/stockfish-6-linux.zip
unzip stockfish-6-linux.zip
cd stockfish-6-linux/Linux
./stockfish_6_x64

Stockfish 6 64 by Tord Romstad, Marco Costalba and Joona Kiiski
d

 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | r | n | b | q | k | b | n | r |
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | p | p | p | p | p | p | p | p |
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | P | P | P | P | P | P | P | P |
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 | R | N | B | Q | K | B | N | R |
 +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

Fen: rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1
Key: B4D30CD15A43432D
Checkers: 
e2e4
Unknown command: e2e4
go movetime 1000
info depth 1 seldepth 1 multipv 1 score cp 84 nodes 21 nps 90 tbhits 0 time 232 pv e2e4
info depth 2 seldepth 2 multipv 1 score cp 82 nodes 62 nps 266 tbhits 0 time 233 pv e2e4 b7b6
info depth 3 seldepth 3 multipv 1 score cp 75 nodes 162 nps 695 tbhits 0 time 233 pv b1c3 d7d6 e2e3
info depth 4 seldepth 4 multipv 1 score cp 60 nodes 417 nps 1789 tbhits 0 time 233 pv g1f3 e7e6 e2e3 d7d6
info depth 5 seldepth 5 multipv 1 score cp 136 nodes 1546 nps 6578 tbhits 0 time 235 pv g1f3 c7c5 e2e4 d7d6 d2d4
info depth 6 seldepth 6 multipv 1 score cp 21 nodes 4562 nps 19087 tbhits 0 time 239 pv g1f3 g8f6 d2d4 d7d5 b1c3 e7e6
info depth 7 seldepth 7 multipv 1 score cp 51 nodes 5949 nps 24787 tbhits 0 time 240 pv g1f3 g8f6 d2d4 d7d5 b1c3 e7e6 e2e3
info depth 8 seldepth 8 multipv 1 score cp 39 nodes 9124 nps 37547 tbhits 0 time 243 pv g1f3 e7e6 b1c3 d7d5 d2d4 g8f6 e2e3 a7a6
info depth 9 seldepth 9 multipv 1 score cp 39 nodes 13735 nps 55607 tbhits 0 time 247 pv g1f3 d7d5 d2d4 b8c6 b1c3 g8f6 c1f4 e7e6 e2e3
info depth 10 seldepth 13 multipv 1 score cp 28 nodes 25801 nps 101180 tbhits 0 time 255 pv g1f3 d7d5 d2d4 b8c6 b1c3 g8f6 e2e3 a8b8 h2h3 e7e6
info depth 11 seldepth 13 multipv 1 score cp 26 nodes 56118 nps 206316 tbhits 0 time 272 pv e2e4 d7d5 e4d5 g8f6 b1c3 f6d5 g1f3 e7e6 a2a3 b8c6 d2d4 h7h6
info depth 12 seldepth 16 multipv 1 score cp 25 nodes 194110 nps 549886 tbhits 0 time 353 pv e2e4 e7e5 b1c3 g8f6 g1f3 b8c6 f1b5 f8b4 e1g1 b4c3 d2c3 e8g8 d1e2 d7d5
info depth 13 seldepth 19 multipv 1 score cp 28 nodes 336964 nps 764090 tbhits 0 time 441 pv e2e4 e7e5 b1c3 g8f6 g1f3 b8c6 f1b5 f8b4 e1g1 e8g8 c3d5 f6d5 e4d5
info depth 14 seldepth 19 multipv 1 score cp 31 nodes 457658 nps 886934 tbhits 0 time 516 pv g1f3 g8f6 b1c3 d7d5 e2e3 e7e6 d2d4 b8c6 f1d3 f8d6 e1g1 e8g8 c1d2 e6e5 a2a3
info depth 15 seldepth 19 multipv 1 score cp 29 nodes 638239 nps 1022818 tbhits 0 time 624 pv g1f3 g8f6 b1c3 d7d5 d2d4 e7e6 e2e3 b8c6 f1e2 f6e4 e1g1 f8b4 c3e4 d5e4 f3e5 e8g8
info nodes 1246584 time 1003
bestmove g1f3 ponder g8f6
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