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
    Commented 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. Commented 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
    Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 4:50
  • use Chess forge.This is a good idea. Commented May 17 at 15:20

2 Answers 2


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.

  • @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
    Commented 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
    Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 4:54
  • @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
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 7:50
  • @user2661923 The recomendation to use a game instead of a position, to start creating variations, is that in the second option, the EPD notation (for positions) has little capacity to sotre prose in fields c0 ... c9. But the pgn notation, can store long text comments.
    – djnavas
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 7:52

Contrary to what you say, with Arena there are almost no limits to enter different variations and sub-variations (plus written comments if you want). You load a PGN / EPD file containing a list of games or positions and load what you want, or you set up a position directly. Just be sure that in the menu 'Levels' there is 'Infinite' time set. Then you make moves and go back by clicking on a move in the move list, then you can add a variation by playing it out on the chessboard (no need to use the variation board, this is only for entering a variation from an engine). If you right-click on a particular move in the list, you can chose to add a comment, delete a variation, upgrade a variation etc. Repeat all this at libitum if you want. When you are finished save the game - and your changes - back into the PGN database (chose this in the PGN menu).

if this doesn't work because there are engines loaded, then simply close or remove them with the menu Engines > Manage. Alternatively, leave the engines loaded but click on 'Edit' in the move list section, this will freeze the engines allowing you to enter moves without them starting to calculate.

ARENA has a minimum of a learning curve to follow in order to see all possibilities this GUI has to offer, also an extensive help file in English or German, and the same goes for any other chess GUI or software where you need to spend a bit of time to see all what you can do, so don't dismiss Arena too early.

In short, your points 1-6 are all easily doable with Arena, that's also nothing special, just the basics of a chess GUI. For your Point 1 if really you want 2 windows in parallel, then open 2 instances of Arena, simple enough.

  • Based on your comment, I will re-experiment with Arena. When I first received the comment, I did experiment with Arena, and I simply couldn't find a way to prevent Arena from making moves, and I couldn't find a way to simultaneously have two open windows, which is a major consideration. Also, it is unclear to me whether opening a 2nd instance of Arena will be convenient : there still has to be a way of feeding the main variation into the second window as a starting point. I also looked at this before. I wonder if Arena has been significantly upgraded since I first posted my question. Commented May 18 at 16:18
  • Further, based on your answer, there is a second difficulty. The Chessbd (Windows software) application does work in Linux, but with absolutely no engine facilities. A large part of my motivation in changing the chess interface software, is to find an interface that does what the Chessbd application does, but simultaneously provides engine analysis indicating recommended lines and the eval of each line. The idea is to have this information provided simultaneous with the Arena (or any chess interface) software making no attempt to actually make an engine move. ...see next comment Commented May 18 at 16:25
  • Looking directly at your posted answer, I question whether this is feasible with the Arena application. Commented May 18 at 16:25

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