Chess computer buyer's guide

by Albert Silver
11/18/2019 – So you decided you want to upgrade your computer but don’t know where to start? In the following article you will get precise choices for a variety of budgets to help guide you through the maze of choices with precise setups designed to help you get the best bang for your buck. With Black Friday looming around the corner, or even Christmas or Hanukkah to decide on some end-of-the year purchases, this is the one you want to bookmark!

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How can I build the best Fat Fritz computer?

In all cases I have tried to balance a setup that fits within a specific budget as well as fulfil modern usage for both a conventional engine such as Fritz 17 or Stockfish as well as a neural network such as Fat Fritz and Leela. (I do not include an exterior case as that will be very much up to the buyer.) Models and parts were researched for the most part, and a link to their page in NewEgg is given, not to promote the store so much as to make sure the exact suggested item is clear. By all means feel free to tweak as you see fit as this is merely a guide, not stone tablets of what must be chosen.

Please bear in mind that none of the configurations include tax as this can vary from place to place.

Configuration for $850

It is quite possible to put together an attractive machine with eight cores and a fast GPU to boot with very few compromises. The suggested machine will use a second generation AMD Ryzen processor with eight cores and 16 threads, which is found at nearly half the price of the newest third generation processor, paired with a very nice RTX 2070 for an all-round excellent computer. 

Component
Part
Price
Processor AMD RYZEN 7 2700 8-Core 3.2 GHz
$170
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty B450 GAMING K4
$85
Memory G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3200
$60
Storage Team Group MS30 M.2 2280 1TB
$100
Graphics card GIGABYTE RTX 2070 WINDFORCE 8G (Rev 3.0)
$400
Power supply EVGA 500 BT 100-BT-0500-K1 500W
$49

Total: $864

If your budget can extend a bit more, consider first upgrading the GPU to an RTX 2070 Super, which is a good 15-20% faster, and if a tad beyond, then doubling that memory from 16GB to 32GB

Configuration for $1400

Option 1: All out Fat Fritz

At this price point you certainly have some more interesting choices, and a lot depends on your particular preference. One configuration would be to maintain the 8-core CPU in the first budget, and go all out for a maximum neural network experience, meaning you would be acquiring not one, but two good GPUs. This will give you top-notch results with either Fat Fritz or Leela, while still giving you a very capable processor able to push Stockfish at a good 13 million NPS.

Component
Part
Price
Processor AMD RYZEN 7 2700 8-Core 3.2 GHz
$170
Motherboard MSI Performance Gaming X470 Pro Carbon
$170
Memory G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3200
$60
Storage Team Group MS30 M.2 2280 1TB
$100
1st Graphics card GIGABYTE RTX 2070 WINDFORCE 8G (Rev 3.0)
$400
2nd Graphics card GIGABYTE RTX 2070 WINDFORCE 8G (Rev 3.0)
$400
Power supply EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G+, 80 Plus Gold 850W
$129

Total: $1429

To make this configuration work, the motherboard was upgraded to a better choice with good support (and space) for two good-sized GPUs, and a larger 850W power supply. You can upgrade the power supply if you wish, but a similar machine with two faster GPUs, and a more power-hungry CPU only uses 600W at full load, so this should be plenty for a less demanding system. 

As to performance, you can expect Fat Fritz to reach 40knps (benchmarked at start position) with this dual-GPU setup.

Option 2: Balanced build

However, one can also choose to go for a more balanced build with a far stronger processor, but sacrificing one GPU. There is no right or wrong here, and you will need to decide where your preference or priority lies.

Component
Part
Price
Processor AMD RYZEN 9 3900X 12-Core 3.8 GHz
$529
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty B450 GAMING K4
$85
Memory G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4 3200
$120
Storage Team Group MS30 M.2 2280 1TB
$100
Graphics card MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER VENTUS OC 8GB
$490
Power supply CORSAIR CX-M Series CX550M
$70

Total: $1394

With this configuration you are looking at a less specialized machine, increasing your expected performance of SF to over 22-24 million NPS, but dropping the Fat Fritz performance to 25 knps.

If you want to build this machine with an option to add a second GPU in the future, you will need to spend an extra $150 to make that really viable (dropping the RAM from 32GB to 16GB can help absorb that): as in the first 'All out Fat Fritz' configuration above, you will want to change the motherboard for the X470 chipset suggested, and add a more powerful power supply that can handle that extra GPU, You can even consider opting for a full 1000W such as the EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 G2 80+ GOLD.

Configuration for $2000

Finally, if you are looking at a more generous budget of up to $2000, there is very little to compromise, and you can choose a powerful 12-core processor while pushing the envelope with two top-notch GPUs. This new AMD Ryzen 12-core is so fast it performs similarly to the 16-core processors of a couple of years ago.

Component
Part
Price
Processor AMD RYZEN 9 3900X 12-Core 3.8 GHz
$529
Motherboard MSI Performance Gaming X470 Pro Carbon
$170
Memory G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4 3200
$120
Storage Team Group MS30 M.2 2280 1TB
$100
1st Graphics card MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER VENTUS OC 8GB
$490
2nd Graphics card MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER VENTUS OC 8GB
$490
Power supply EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 G2 80+ GOLD
$149

Total: $2048

This is a computer that has no compromises really. You are getting an excellent very fast CPU to run Fritz 17, Stockfish, or whatever engine tickles your fancy, while getting nearly 50 thousand NPS for Fat Fritz for a stellar performance. If you are in the mood for splurging a bit more, then consider upgrading the GPUs to a 2080 or even a 2080 Super.

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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.

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