Xboard

Xboard is a graphical chessboard that serves as a user interface for GNU Chess, as a client for the ICS and for electronic mail correspondence chess.

  • Version: 4.2.3
  • License: GNU General Public License
  • Author(s): Tim Mann
  • Formats: RPM (binary and source) and tar.gz
  • Size: 1,562k (binary RPM), 1,040k (tar.gz)
  • Homepage: Xboard website

Author’s opinion of this review

Xboard is the most mature of the chess clients on review here, with Version 1.1 being released way back in 1991. The program was originally written by Chris and Dan Sears and has been maintained for many years by Tim Mann.

Because xboard has the largest user base out of the Linux clients under this review, it has undergone real testing and is a mature product. It has been ported to run under Windows and on the Amiga.

Learning about all of Xboard’s features does warrant investing time in reading the excellent documentation, which is available as a Info file, man file and plain ASCII text file.

The documentation runs through, in great detail, all of the options that are available to the user. Xboard has a huge number of options that can either be set at the command line or by setting them as X resources.

The latter option involves editing the .Xdefaults file. One disadvantage is that most options cannot be changed when Xboard is running. For example it is only possible to change the size of the board by restarting Xboard.

I fired up Xboard with the following command xboard -ics -icshost 64.71.131.140 -icshelper timeseal -boardSize medium -colorize. The “-ics” option makes Xboard run in ICS mode and the “-icshost 64.71.131.140″ instructs xboard to connect to this IP number (which is the IP number for freechess.org).

At the time of writing it is not possible to enter freechess.org when using xboard, presumably because of the recent relocation of the FICS server. The “-icshelper timeseal” instructs xboard to connect with the timeseal program (timeseal is a lag compensating program). The “-boardSize medium” instructs Xboard to use 64×64 pixel pieces.

There are a further 16 different sizes ranging from titanic (129×129 pixel pieces) to tiny (21×21 pixel pieces), one of which should suit just about every resolution/monitor size. The last command line option that was specified, “-colorize” instructs Xboard to color the various types of ICS messages. On a standard white xterm some of the default colors are hard to read, but they were easily changed by editing the .Xdefaults file and restarting the X server.

This leads me to my first criticism of Xboard. Although these options can be specified on the command line or by Xdefaults entries, this is rather old fashioned.

It would be much easier if all of the available options could, in addition, be set directly from the client itself, with your preferences saved to a file. This would be helpful for someone new to Xboard and/or new to Linux/UNIX. Then we would have the best of both worlds.

Xboard uses an xterm/rxvt to display the text and a separate window to display the board. To aid text chat there is the facility to use a separate Input box, although having three different windows isn’t the ideal solution.

The chess pieces are first class and the default color choices for the board are very good. Unlike eboard and Gnome Chess, Xboard does not use a fancy toolkit. The menus look very dated as X Athena Widgets are being employed, which takes away a little of the professionalism of this software. Still I would rather sacrifice a little gloss than lose the gorgeous chess board.

It is not difficult to see why this chess interface is so popular; with its wealth of options it caters for just about every taste and can be tinkered to your requirements. It is a real pleasure to play chess with Xboard.

It has to be remembered that Xboard is far more than merely an ICS client. It is also an excellent interface to play chess against your own computer and for electronic mail correspondence chess. Included with the Xboard distribution is a program that lets GNU Chess and crafty acts as a computer player on FICS. Lots of users run computer accounts on Internet Chess Servers using this Zippy program.

Leave a Comment

*