I am looking for chess freeware that ideally has the following facilities, and I am wondering what compromises I'll need to accept. I am also requesting the results of your experiences.

List Of Needs

  1. It needs to be similar to what the old Window software called Chessbd provided. I would like the gui to allow creating a (2nd) variations window. The image below illustrates what I am looking for.enter image description here

  2. I would like to be able to paste pgn (from the clipboard), so that if I'm examining a game from another source, I don't have to save the pgn to a file and then load the file.

  3. I would prefer it if the software allows connection to a separate engine. If not, I want the software to have its own engine.

  4. I would prefer it if the software allows a connection to endgame tablebases.

  5. I would prefer it if the software allows connection to opening book. If not, I want the software to have its own book.

  6. My main PC is Fedora, with Wine, and a secondary PC runs Windows 10 (for other reasons). I use TeamViewer (freeware) for remote access to the secondary pc from the Fedora pc. I therefore would mildly prefer linux compatible or linux-wine compatible.

I appreciate any insights.

Addendum - Arena chess

First of all, thanks to djnavas for his answer re Arena chess. I just spent some time with Arena and I was very impressed with it.

Unfortunately, unless I am mistaken, it will not do what I want.

I installed and ran Arena, entered setup to enter a position, and then selected Edit in the Navigation Bar. This allowed me to turn off the engine(s) and make the moves for both sides. After entering a few moves, I selected Options : Variation Board. Unfortunately, the Variation Board did not permit me to manually add a variation. Further, the Variation Board did not provide its own pgn-list-window.

For those of you who want to experience what I am looking for:

If you google : Chessbd you will see the following link: http://www.dfong.com/chessbd/index.html

I just downloaded and started to run slic26v8.exe (i.e. the downloaded Chessbd installer) in Fedora 30, under wine. It looks like the installer was going to work. In another forum, a user responded that slic26v8.exe would not run under Windows 7.

If you can't get the installer to work, can you provide free cloud storage (or any other facility) for me to upload a zip file that looks like it will be less than 10mb? If so, I can upload the zip, you can download-unzip it, then try it.

Of particular note are the Alt-V command that will create an analysis window at any desired point in the mainline pgn, and the Alt-3 command which will append a scrollable pgn sub-window to the analysis window. This way, you can observe the pgn as you are manually trying different variations. These variations are automatically added to the mainline pgn.

When you close the Variations window, you revert back to the main window. Then you can traverse backwards or forwards to a different point in the pgn. When traversing, if you reach a position with a variation, the gui gives you the choice which move to select. At any point while traversing, you can open a new variations window, via Alt-V.

Addendum 2 - ChessPad 2 and Arena Chess

Thanks again to djnavas for the continued interest.

I tried ChessPad 2 in Fedora 30, via Wine. Invoking its [Help:Help Topics] menu option seemed to indicate that Help is not available. Anyway, experimenting, after setting up a position and manually playing a few moves for both sides, I was unable to leave the display board open and start a second display board.

Am I missing something here?

...I suggest you to start not with a position, but instead with a pgn from the start position...


  1. Does "start position" refer to the position at the start of an actual game?

  2. If not, what does "start position" refer to and how could such a strategy approach duplicating the functionality of Chessbd in Arena Chess, or something like it?

  3. If so, this would not be practical for examining (for example) a chess endgame study. Getting past that, again, how could such a strategy approach duplicating the functionality of Chessbd in Arena Chess, or something like it?

  • 1
    you could use python and its chess module to write your own
    – Drako
    Mar 20, 2020 at 7:26
  • @Drako "you could use python...". Good point. Actually, as a retired programmer, python is on my to-do list. However, obviously, if it was that straight forward, somebody would have already done it. What I am really looking for is an identification of what compromises I should accept based on which freeware(s) I adopt. Also, I am curious whether an elegant combination of freewares meets all my needs. Mar 20, 2020 at 18:06
  • slic26v8.exe is a 32-bit version. It can run under Windows 7, adjusting in properties -- compatibility -- Run this program in compatibility mode -- select Windows NT.
    – djnavas
    Apr 17, 2020 at 4:50

1 Answer 1


Seems like you are interested in a program like Arena. It does what you specified, can open pgn files with one or several games; a copied pgn game can be pasted; can generate diagrams; connect with engines via uci or xboard protocol; manage variations and administer opening books, from the interface.

Also, has versions for Linux and Windows.

  • 1
    Please see the Addendum - Arena chess portion of my query, which I just added. Apr 11, 2020 at 18:50
  • @user2661923 The variation board, serves to play through the variations calculated by the engines and if you like some variation from the list of variations analized on the engine analyze window, you can add it to the pgn score of the game. The variation windows isn't a second game window. That's the difference with Chessbd.
    – djnavas
    Apr 17, 2020 at 4:45
  • @user2661923 In Arena you can add a variation to the current pgn notation. Also I suggest you to start not with a position, but instead with a pgn from the start position. Also, you can use alternatively ChessPad 2 which you can find in WML Software, which is simpler and has a great printing function which allow to print booklets.
    – djnavas
    Apr 17, 2020 at 4:54
  • Please see the Addendum 2 - ChessPad 2 and Arena Chess portion of my query, which I just added. Apr 18, 2020 at 1:42
  • @user2661923 Neither of both softwares open a second window of the same game or position, when you enter in a game variation. If you look at your pgn window will note that the game score contains the game and its variations and subvariations. Looking that you use Linux, perhaps another alternative could be Scid, but its as complex as Arena, with the advantage that it is a database for chess games. But for what you want, any of the three programs can give support your workflow. Just don't think in a different window for a variation. It's contained in the game score.
    – djnavas
    Apr 23, 2020 at 7:50

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