The Tarrasch Chess GUI

Frequently Asked Questions

What's happening with Tarrasch V3?

Tarrasch V3 is now released, it replaces Tarrasch V2 which is retired. Tarrasch V3 brings a fresh look and many new features to Tarrasch, including fast and easy to use database features.

What's happening with TarraschDb?

In the months leading up to the V3 release I made available Beta versions. I gave these the special name TarraschDb, to keep them separate from Tarrasch V2 and prevent them overwriting Tarrasch V2. Those days are over, TarraschDb is no longer required and Tarrasch V3 does overwrite Tarrasch V2. I still make Tarrasch V2 available to anyone who wants it for some reason.

What database is included with Tarrasch V3?

I use the reasonably compact KingBase Lite (03/2016) database compiled by Pierre Havard. Thanks to Pierre for permission to use his collection. The games are all year 2000 or more recent and all players are over Elo 2200. Note that MillionBase 2.5 (a larger database with many historic games) is also now available as a separate download on the downloads page. Many thanks to Ed Schroder for permission to distribute MillionBase, I have added him to the credits.

Do you plan to make other databases available?

For the moment I am quite happy that both databases on offer have been created by third parties. I am tempted to try to curate my own database, it's an interesting area, time will tell. Unfortunately for now Kingbase seems to have stopped at March-2016 (while Millionbase has never made future version promises). There is a promise on the Kingbase site that updates will resume soon and when that happens I will try to keep up with these updates.

I've upgraded to the latest version with new engines, but Tarrasch still uses my old engine choice. Why?

New versions of Tarrasch can be freely installed over the top of older versions. However the existing preferences are respected - so if you were using Stockfish V7 (say) before, the new installation will still use Stockfish V7. You can use the Options menu to change to a new engine. The current default engine is Stockfish V8, so one simple way to change the engine to Stockfish V8 is to use the 'Reset to factory defaults' command in the Options menu.

I've downloaded Tarrasch, run it, and made a move. Why doesn't the computer reply?

Tarrasch can be thought of as a kind of chess scratch pad. You make moves (for both sides) and add annotations. Everything else (games against the computer, kibitzing, reading and writing files) is laid over the top of the scratch pad functionality. But it's easy to play against the computer (there are buttons for that, or menu commands if you prefer).

Is Tarrasch Open Source?

Yes. Tarrasch is developed in the open on Githbub. This is the repo URL. My first attempt to use hosted repositories was on bitbucket (rather than github), but I abandoned that one several years ago (sorry bitbucket).

When I download Tarrasch why does my browser tell me that the publisher is 'unknown'?

I have not spent the time (and possibly money) involved in working out how to get Tarrasch 'signed'. There is precedent for this, some very popular Windows freeware has the same issue. However I would definitely like to resolve this soon.

Sometimes I have trouble opening files created with Tarrasch with other chess programs. Why?

The only time I've seen this happen is when the other chess program doesn't properly support comment text according to the full .pgn standard. According to this standard comment text is any text enclosed in braces or the remainder of a text line after a leading semicolon. Some chess programs don't support the semicolon style comments. As a workaround, re-edit the troublesome game in Tarrasch, so that there are no open brace, close brace or semicolon characters in the comments. Tarrasch always uses brace comments if these characters are absent from the comment text. Update From V2.03c (check in menu Help > About) Tarrasch does not write semicolon comments any more.

The full name of Tarrasch is the Tarrasch Chess GUI. What does GUI mean ?

GUI stands for graphical user interface. The world of chess computing is divided into two parts, engines and GUIs. Engines are chess 'brains'. Engines can analyze a position and choose a move. If an engine is a brain, then a GUI is a body. The GUI provides a way for the engine to interact with the outside world. The GUI draws an on-screen chessboard so that the human user can track the current position. It allows the user to ask the engine to play a game or analyze a position. The GUI also provides a way for the user to make moves, and keeps a record of those moves.

Why is Tarrasch called Tarrasch?

Siegbert Tarrasch was a world class player around the turn of the last century. I feel he has unfairly been stigmatized as a 'bad guy' in the historic battle of chess ideas that raged around that time. This has become almost an unthinking cliche. My program needed a name, by calling it Tarrasch I commemorate a great player's memory and perhaps in a tiny way try to rebalance this unjustice.

How does Tarrasch's opening book work?

Tarrasch offers an unsophisticated, but useful opening book feature. Any .pgn file can be used as the book. The default opening book shipped with Tarrasch is simply a collection of a few thousand recent :( actually now rather old - sorry ) grandmaster games. When the book is enabled, a green onscreen indication appears whenever the current position is in the book. Green is used to indicate 'book move' in Tarrasch. Hovering the mouse over the indicator shows the book move(s), and lets you easily play one of them.

The engine uses the book, so it seemed only fair to me that a human playing against the engine should also be able to use it! Note that book moves are listed in order of popularity. If multiple book moves are available, the engine will make a random pick (biased towards more popular moves), but it will avoid a move it has played before. In other words, if you play the engine as white twice, it won't play the Sicilian both times.

Optionally Tarrasch will even ask you to reconsider your choice of move if a book move is available, but you played something else. This is the "Suggest book move" option, turned off by default. This can be a useful training feature, especially if you have created custom training material you are trying to memorize.

What engines does Tarrasch include?

Currently standard Tarrasch includes Stockfish and free demo versions of Houdini, Komodo, and Rybka.

What is the Tarrasch Toy engine?

Actually, there is a another engine in the standard Tarrasch package, my own Tarrasch Toy Engine. This was an engine I wrote early in Tarrasch's development as a learning exercise. I still include it in the standard package, because it can be fun to play against an engine that you can actually beat! This is particularly relevant because Tarrasch has training modes where you voluntarily handicap yourself (for example; blindfold mode). Playing a strong engine in these circumstances is no fun at all. Playing and beating Tarrasch Toy engine blindfold is a realistic and satisfying challenge for a strong player.

What is the status of the Tarrasch Toy engine?

I haven't done any development on this for a long time. There are two versions, both stable and reliable. The older version is V0.905, and is included in the standard package. The newer and slightly stronger version is V0.906 and this is available as a separate download. I still use the older version in the standard package because it uses time less well, and so moves faster, making it a more fun opponent. You can find many Tarrasch Toy Engine games on Olivier Deville's excellent OpenWar website. Tarrasch Toy competes with reasonable success in the bottom division of the most recent tournaments.

What engines does Tarrasch support?

In principle Tarrasch can use any UCI (a chess computing standard) engine.

Where can I learn more about engines? Google and Wikipedia should point you in the right direction. I'll point you at just one useful link; this French language site has a nice list of free UCI engines

How do I download and use an engine?

New users should note that you don't have to perform this step to start using Tarrasch. Tarrasch installation requires nothing more than a few clicks of the mouse. These instructions are for people who want to install and use alternative engines.

Typically Tarrasch will already have installed engines at directories c:\Program Files (x86)\Tarrasch\Engines (Vista and Windows 7/8/10 64bit) or c:\Program Files\Tarrasch\Engines (Windows XP or 32 bit Vista/Windows 7/8/10). So when you download an engine from the internet to your computer, it makes sense to put the new engine in the same place. An engine file should have the extension .exe. If your download has a .zip extension, you'll need to open the .zip file and copy the .exe to the desired location manually. If these instructions make no sense google "how to unzip a file" or similar to learn more. Once you have an apparently suitable .exe file in place it is worthwhile to execute it (double click it) to check it really is a UCI engine. A UCI engine will put up a nearly empty dark window and await instructions. Press "uci" then enter and if all is well the UCI engine will respond with a lot of cryptic information. Then press "quit" then enter and the dark window will disappear. If all is well choose the new engine with Options -> Engine within Tarrasch and try it out.

An important point is that most engines today come in either 32 or 64 bit forms. New PCs tend to use 64 bit Windows. These machines can run either 32 or 64 bit engines, use 64 bit engines for best performance. Older PCs can only run 32 bit engines. If you don't know whether your PC is using 32 or 64 bit Windows you can check by clicking Start -> Control Panel -> System.

Can Tarrasch run as a portable (no install) application?

Yes. Previously I provided instructions on how to set this option up manually, but now I've put a no-install equivalent to the standard Tarrasch package on the download page. It includes exactly the same Tarrasch executable, book and engines as the standard package. Just unzip it anywhere and run it from there.

Can Tarrasch run on Linux?

Update November 2016 - This answer is very out of date, an improved Linux solution should be available soon Currently only using WINE. Lloyd Standish has posted instructions in my blog here (Search for "Lloyd")

Can Tarrasch run on Mac?

Update November 2016 - This answer is very out of date, an improved Mac solution should be available soon Currently only using WINE. Yves Catineau has posted instructions in my blog here (Search for "Yves")

I can't find a menu item to enter comments. What's going on?

To enter comments, just point your mouse where you want to enter a comment, click, and start typing and editing. You can even enter moves as a comment, then "promote" the comment to moves. And you can go the other way, "demote" moves to a comment, edit them as text, then promote them back if necessary. This is a great way to avoid re-entering all your moves if you made a small mistake early in game entry.

How do I enter move annotations?

Just right click on the move and pick from the menu. Alternatively, you can enter the annotations as comment text and then promote them.

How do I make new training material?

Create a .pgn file containing all your training material and (temporarily) set this new file as Tarrasch's book. Turn on the "Suggest book move" option, and set the book percentage to 100 (so that Tarrasch will always play a book move if it has one). You can now play games against the engine, and these games will always go down the paths established by your training material, including gentle suggestions if you deviate from the book.

Your custom training book may include games that are simply positions. This triggers a very useful Tarrasch feature; These positions can now be immediately selected from the "Training Positions" field of Tarrasch's "Setup Position" feature. Tarrasch uses whatever text appears in the "White" field associated with the position in the book file. You can see examples of this in the standard book shipped with Tarrasch, for example the text "Beginner: Mating K+Q versus bare K" selects a position which allows a beginner to practice this fundamental skill. This is a very useful feature for chess teachers. Create practice positions for your students to play out against an engine. Tarrasch automatically saves everything to a log file, so once your students have played out the positions they can send you the log and you can see how they performed!

What is a kibitzer?

This is a Yiddish term that's found its way into chess parlance. A kibitzer is an (annoying) person who kibitzs, that is offers advice that tends to be noisy, unwanted and continual. Imagine an obnoxious older Jewish guy, probably from New York City, watching you play chess and pointing out the inadequacy of your play (in his opinion). A hint of humor is definitely implied by the use of this term in chess computing.

To start the kibitzer use the "robot" icon in the toolbar. (Or the commands menu, or the control-K key combination, or select the engine analysis tab below the board). The currently selected engine will start to display its evaluation of the position currently on the board. Usually the engine will show the best four moves it considers are available, in order, with follow up play. A score (in units of one pawn) will also be offered. Positive scores mean white is better, at least as far as the engine is concerned.

If the engine is calculating a move in a human versus computer game, it doesn't display the best four moves, instead it displays increasingly deep analysis of the best move it has currently found. This situation is distinguished on screen by using the term analysis rather than kibitzing.

When I stop the kibitzer, how come the kibitzing is still shown?

This is my attempt to fix a usability problem. Often (in other chess programs) I have seen an intriguing piece of kibitzing/analysis on screen which I'd like to look at more. Typically the engine moves on to deeper analysis and overwrites the line I'm interested in before I've even memorized it. In Tarrasch in this situation, simply stop the kibitzer by pressing the robot button again. You can then look at the analysis at your leisure, or even capture it as variations using one more button click.

What is Reptor?

Reptor was the first Triple Happy chess program. Reptor is a chess training program. It is intended to help you memorize chess knowledge, typically opening lines but also technical endgame material. Basically Reptor works by challenging the user to play down one side of a line from a database. There are other programs available that work on the same principle. I wrote Reptor because of frustrations I personally experienced with other programs. In particular I wanted a program that didn't frustrate me while I was learning the material. If I haven't yet memorized the right move, I wanted options, I don't want the training program to simply reject my guess and demand that I try again. And I particularly don't want the training program to demand I play down an arbitrarily long line, possibly into an endgame! Also, unlike the program that inspired it, Reptor is smart enough to not repeat lines I've already covered when there are lines I haven't yet played through!

I am no longer working on Reptor. Tarrasch is a more open-ended program concept, with more room to grow and improve. Nevertheless, Reptor is a complete, stable and capable program that many people may find useful. So I will continue to make it freely available here. Two versions are available, one uses Reptor's original graphics, the other uses larger, better graphics derived from Tarrasch development.

How do I run engine v engine matches with Tarrasch?

I get asked this one a lot. Unfortunately Tarrasch doesn't have this feature yet.

Is there a way to enter a null move?

Yes. Type "--" (literally, press the hyphen key twice). Then with the menu system go Edit > Promote comment to variation.

Support for "null move" when reading .pgn was added very late in V2 development as I worked out that this was what was causing Tarrasch to choke on a problematic .pgn sent to me by a tester. I wasn't even aware of the concept before then and it is after all an "unofficial" extension.

Once I added support for reading null move in this way, entering a null move was automatically possible. The theory behind this is that to enter comments in Tarrasch simply type the comment. Any comment that happens to be a valid variation (or continuation) can then be "promoted" to fully fledged move(s).

Tarrasch doesn't run on my system, the computer just complains about something called Kernel32.dll. What's going on ?

This problem can show up if you try and run Tarrasch on an older PC. Tarrasch requires Windows XP Service Pack 2 or later, unfortunately it won't run on an older version of Windows. If you ask me nicely, I may be able to provide a special version that works around this issue :-)

Why doesn't Tarrasch show board co-ordinates? [Left here for amusement value - V3 adds co-ordinates]

I must admit this is a reflection of my own prejudice. I think it is very rare for good players to need any help with the algebraic co-ordinates. They know the board intimately, every square is a friend. Tarrasch is designed for good players and people who want to become good players. If you want to be a good player it is essential to develop this intimate relationship with the squares and going without artificial aids will help that. Having said all that, many people ask me for this feature, so I will endeavour to add it, as an option, the next time I revamp Tarrasch's display code. And revamping Tarrasch's display code, to allow for example resizable graphics is a high priority.

How do I make Tarrasch the default .pgn viewer?

From Windows explorer right click a .pgn file and choose "Open with...". Navigate to Tarrasch.exe in c:\Program files (x86)\Tarrasch. Check the option that offers to "Always open files of this type with this program".

Bill Forster
Triple Happy Ltd.