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Arasan - Oldie Goldie

If I were to name one of the oldest and most famous and respected chess engines with terminology straight out of Howard Phillips Lovecraft's prose, I would write that Arasan is the one of the Great Old Ones.

Although Arasan is not as old as Cthulhu (one of the heroes of the books of the above-mentioned writer), it takes his rightful and deserved place in the history of chess engines.

Arasan means "king" in Tamil, a language spoken in South India and Sri Lanka.

One of the first published versions was the 16-bit Arasan from 1994, which ran on Windows 3.1.

At the time, there was not so readily available extensive knowledge of chess engine programming. One had to really make an effort to find anything about it on the Internet; assuming there was Internet access at all (in most parts of the world there just wasn't it yet).

What could be sourced were a few mostly academic publications and articles, most of which lacked practical details. Plus there were sources for Crafty, GNU Chess and a few other engines, most of them not very powerful.

And it was in such times that Arasan was created; at a time when the author of the chess engine was literally blazing a programming trail and through his imagination, creativity and determination developed his engine.

Arasan was and is the engine that set the way forward showed how powerful a free, open-source chess engine can be.

It was the availability of Arasan, which I was able to run on a variety of systems and computers (Windows, Linux and Mac) that caused that to this day, Arasan is the chess engine I use frequently.

The author, Mr. Jon Dart, has accomplished a remarkable feat over several decades. Arasan has changed, evolved, used better and better techniques and algorithms.

Whenever another version of it came out, I was sure that I would get an even more powerful and offering more capabilities Arasan. And this was indeed the case.

Arasan is a chess engine that has repeatedly held high positions in various competitions.

Among its many successes, it is worth mentioning:

  • The winning of the 2012 Americas Computer Chess Championship tournament.

Source: CPW

  • The winning the World Computer Rapid Chess Championship in 2013.

Source: CPW

Nowadays, Arasan is a very powerful and sophisticated chess engine, using a neural network and rating among the top chess engines.

It is gratifying to see that Mr. Jon Dart is still working on the Arasan chess engine, which is being developed and participating in various competitions, e.g. TCEC, CCRL, MCERL as well as on chess servers, with new versions appearing every year.

Source: CCRL

Below are two examples showing Arasan playing.


White: Deep Shredder 13, an award-winning, multiple-time chess engine world champion. Shredder is a computer player who for years when he participated in any competition, it was said jokingly and affectionately that no matter what happened in the tournament, Shredder would most likely win.

Black: Arasan 23.4-dev.

A position of sorts: secure the white king and move forward on the Queen's wing.


Shredder intends to drive away the intrusive Knight.


Arasan will be so close to the white King is not going to let go.


Shredder accepted the sacrifice of a black Knight. Attacked, the black Knight does not intend to make a retreat, on the contrary, it boldly breaks into the ranks of the white King.


White is trying to do everything to protect his King. After this move by White Bishop, can Arasan exert even more pressure ?


A monstrously powerful black Rook strike! Shredder must accept this sacrifice.