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Most of my chess preparation and studying used to revolve around Chessbase products. I stored my databases and notes in .cbh files, used computers with the Chessbase interface to study and do preparation, and used the tools that Fritz 12 gave as an aid.
Unfortunately, Chessbase doesn't seem to make these products for the OS X operating system. What software is there that lets me study chess, open .cbh files, and use chess computers on a Mac?

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In honor of the 1000th view, I'll update with what ultimately happened. I didn't like any of these programs and ended up waiting until I got back to school to get my university to install Boot Camp for me for free, and then having a friend let me borrow his copy of Chessbase. To those with similar problems, this is the best approach - I'm sorry, but it's true. Hopefully one day Chessbase will write something for OS X, or maybe someone can fix it up for Wine. But until then, we're all stuck. –  Andrew Latham Feb 1 '13 at 1:10
I've always found dual-booting for a single application to be a bit too extreme (not an OS X guy, but that's my understanding of what Boot Camp enables). Surprisingly, nobody has suggested virtual machines yet. VirtualBox should run on an OS X host, and would allow you to switch between your two operating systems without a restart. If you get a new machine, it's also easier to just take the VM image to the new one. –  Daniel B Jun 7 '13 at 11:27

7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I highly recommend Scid ("Shane's Chess Information Database"). Here's a screenshot of the Mac version (more to be found at Softpedia):

Softpedia screenshot of Scid on a Mac

It is completely free, has lots of functionality, and is fast (handles my 5.2M game database quickly and fluidly). I have only used Scid in its linux and windows versions, not the Mac. But from what I understand there are no appreciable differences in the software across these operating systems, and I've certainly never noticed any real differences between the linux and windows versions in my own use. A few notes:

1. Scid cannot open .cbh files directly, but you should be able to use the Chessbase products you've been using to export to PGN, which Scid can then import into databases in its own format.

2. This doesn't apply to you, but for those who have never owned Chessbase but do have some Chessbase files that they'd like to import into Scid, there is a way to do so without buying any Chessbase products, at least on a PC. The old Fritz 5.32 is now freeware, and can be used to convert Chessbase files to PGN. (Amazingly, I know of no other free program that can do this; maybe someone else does.)

3. Scid plays very well with chess engines for use in analyzing games. I have Houdini 1.5 (the free version before it went commercial with 2.0), some version of Stockfish (free), and some version of Crafty (free) in use with my Scid.

4. One potential drawback, but only if you're on an older OS X: you can download the Mac version here, and it is pointed out there that the executable is available only for Mac OS X 10.5 or later; if you're using an older version, you'll have to build the program from its source code. They have instructions for doing so though, so it might not be too big of an issue anyway.

5. While I'm at it, I'll point out that some other developer made a free android app called Scid on the go, which I have used on my android tablet. It's scaled down from regular Scid quite a bit, and I've really only used it in a read-only way (data entry's not really fun on a tablet anyway IMO). But I have my big games database synced across devices using dropbox, and it's nice to be able pull up games when I've only got my tablet with me.

I'll end by adding that Scid is the only database program I've ever really used, so do know that my recommendation comes without me having much experience with Chessbase or other commercial alternatives to compare it to. But that's also because I've never had any reason to; Scid really is geat, and again, all the software I've mentioned here is completely free.

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For the record, I strongly dislike SCID. Standard activities in the routine annotation and analysis of games are either extraordinarily cumbersome, unnatural and difficult or entirely impossible. –  Andrew Latham Dec 27 '13 at 5:27

I agree that installing Windows via Bootcamp is a good course of action. You may also want to consider Hiarcs' Mac Chess Explorer:


It has many of the same functions as Chessbase, and is from a developer who has an excellent history of supporting his Mac products. The program works with .pgn files, so being able to use Chessbase via Bootcamp is convenient for converting files from .cbh for .pgn format.

Having paid a lot of money for the original Mac version of Chessbase, which was total vaporware, I will never buy another Chessbase product. Frederic Friedel stole my money once. He will not get a chance to do so again.

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For native OSX databases you're pretty much limited to SCID and Exachess unless you want to go the Parallels route and use windows software from there. You might be able to rig up WINE and run it on the later versions of OSX; not sure, never tried it.

In both of these you'll be missing the high-end features of chess base, such as the opening report. I'm not aware of anything on OSX that opens the .cbh format files. Chessbase got really closed after the older (CB6 and earlier) file format was decoded and distributed. I'm not aware of anyone who has decoded their cbh format.

Chessbase, back in the day, tried to create a Mac product, but it was slow, buggy and underfeatured compared to their Windows version, and when it didn't sell well they blamed the Mac user base instead of their own lack of skill for it and vowed never to build another version for the Mac.

As for "use chess computers," I suspect you are referring to top chess-playing software. Fritz, being a CB product, will never appear for OSX. However, most of the rest of the top names already have an OSX version: HIARCS, Shredder, Stockfish; Rybka and Houdini have yet to appear on OSX.

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It's probably a lot easier to install Windows (via Bootcamp) on your Mac, which is hopefully not too old.

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"CBH to PGN 1.0.4" is an android app that works flawlessly as far as i can see. once again, the android kids are leaving us PC foggies in the dust. ;o)

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The question concerns Mac OS X and also it concerns having the "full package", not just a format converter...sure, nice to know this app is available, yet this answer seems to fit better for a "chessbase to pgn converter" question. Cheers. –  Rauan Sagit Apr 2 at 13:23

As it is related closely to this question (but please read my comment qualifying this also):-

I would like to add my post on setting up : CHESS ANALYSIS ON MAC OS X LION 10.7 USING STOCKFISH AND HIARCS ENGINE


Summary below: INSTRUCTIONS

Basically to get a strong chess computer on Mac you have to do 2 things:

1) get the engine that basically analyses the possible moves and gives you the evaluation of current position with “best play” - This engine is usually free, this can be HiARCs or Stockfish and there are probably others.

2) you need a GUI – a interface basically so you can easily drag moves and then you link this to your engine. For HiARCs and Stockfish you need what is called a UCI type of GUI.

Now if you have 30 euro spare then you might want to try Shredder which has a demo version for free and you can get this from their website. This is engine and GUI in one and simple and reasonably professional.

However – if you are a bit intrepid and stingy as I am then you could follow these instructions:

1) Get the engine first, download Stockfish – you want a binary version, as of writing this is here:

2.2.2 binary download for mac.

Now once downloaded, open up the .zip and inside go into the Mac folder. Now click Finder > Edit > copy and we will paste this file in a short while, into our GUIs engine folder. So we must get that now…

2) Now next you need your GUI app. For the GUI I recommend a free one – JOSE

Just check the link for full discussion.

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The JOSE GUI will open your databases but it doesnt compare to chessbase. The best option is really to run VirtualBox / VMWare / Parallels with Chessbase light inside, which I do also. But your engine will be constrained by this. (Or use Bootcamp as stated by Daniel above) –  boobyWomack Apr 3 at 13:01

On my MBP, I had initially bought ExaChess, but later switched to Hiarcs, which has a much better (though not perfect) UI. It gets the job done.

I've never used Chessbase. Hiarcs does not directly open .cbh files, but I believe you can find a third-party app to translate your .cbh files to PGN.

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