Getting the most out of ChessBase 15: a step-by-step guide #6 – UCI Engines

by Nick Murphy
6/23/2020 – Chess engines like Fritz 17 and Komodo 14 can be easily used within ChessBase 15, thanks to something called UCI. It may sound complicated at first, but is actually incredibly simple. Adding UCI engines to ChessBase 15 is a straightforward process, and Nick Murphy shows you how to do it.

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What is UCI?

I’m going to start this week by getting the one and only complicated bit – the name – out of the way first. UCI stands for Universal Chess Interface, it allows you to add any “UCI” Chess Engine to ChessBase 15 (or indeed to any of the Fritz-family of playing programs). If you don’t know much about computers, then it can sound a little daunting. However, the reality is that it is an incredibly simple way of adding different chess engines to your ChessBase 15 program.

Chess Engines

If you are not familiar with the term, the chess engine is the “brain” that does all the chess calculation, either playing or analysing chess moves.

The most famous chess engine is Fritz, produced by ChessBase [the latest version is Fritz 17]. They also produce engines like Komodo 14, and Houdini 6. Historically they have also produced many more. 

Just like if you show your game to two different strong human players, they may offer different ideas about the same position; different chess engines are the same, just MUCH stronger. Of course if you missed a forced mate or material-winning combination, then multiple chess engines may just tell you the same thing, but different engines are programmed by different people, and in non-forcing positions each engine could potentially show you different ways you might have played at those points.

UCI Engines

If you install any of the current batch of “Fritz family” playing programs, then they will automatically appear in your available engine list. We saw in a previous article that after installing Komodo 14, we could automatically access several new engines in ChessBase 15 with no further effort

In addition to Deep Fritz 14 that comes with ChessBase 15, we now have several engines that come bundled with Komodo 14 (this is also the case with Houdini 6 and Fritz 17). ChessBase make adding their own engines effortless!

There are many UCI engines available on the internet, but the process to add any of them is identical. So, let’s walk through adding a UCI engine to ChessBase 15, using the aforementioned Komodo 14 as our example.

First you need to download your UCI engine. This is usually done from the programmers website. How files will download on your system will depend on what internet browser etc you are using. However, whatever the process, the important thing to note is WHERE that file is downloaded to (which folder that file now appears in). On my computer is it the “Downloads folder”

Double click the folder to see the contents.

Here are the four files. The one that we are interested in is the one that ends “.exe”. If your version of windows is set to not show the part after the “dot” in filenames, then you’re looking for “application” under type. 

[It’s worth noting that the UCI engine can be saved in any path or folder you wish. However, I like to create a separate folder somewhere safe, as the program needs to “know” where the engine files are, and they have to stay at that folder location. You may wish to create a new folder and name it “UCI Engines” or whatever, and save it somewhere memorable]

You go back into ChessBase 15, and into a board window (we looked at how to do that before).

Look in the “Home” tab of the ribbon for the “Engines” section, and click on “Create UCI Engine”.

This brings up the “Set up UCI Engine” window.

Click on the button with the three dots in the top right.

Then navigate to that folder containing the Komodo engine from the earlier step.

Click on the file, then click “Open”

The program author and name will automatically appear. I tend to check the Priority “Below normal” box, as in my experience, it reduces issues with my computer freezing, while not hindering the level of engine analysis. Then click “Ok”.

And you’re ready to go. Komodo 14 (or whatever engine you used) will now appear in your list of available engines. And you can even set it as the default engine if you wish {I showed how to do that in a previous article here]

The process is going to be exactly the same for any UCI engines you download. It can seem complicated at first glance, but as you can see, it is incredibly straightforward. You can now access a world of UCI engines. It’s like having a whole array of Grandmasters ready to give you advice at a moment’s notice!

Nick Murphy is an actor, chess enthusiast, and an acknowledged chess-software expert. Living in London; he has co-authored three DVDs for ChessBase alongside International Master Lorin D'Costa. As well as authoring hundreds of videos on how to get the most from your ChessBase software.


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