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Crafty - Oldie Goldie

I'm not a Crafty fan...

I have been out of the way with it for more than 20 years. There is always something that makes me sigh deeply when chess engine Crafty and I have something to do together.

  • I cannot use the latest Crafty via UCI, a convenient protocol used by the vast majority of chess engines.

  • As a result, I can't easily use Crafty in my favorite chess GUI to take advantage of its capabilities.

  • Compiling Crafty for modern computers is not easy, fast or fun. On the contrary.

  • And once you manage to compile or obtain a working version, Crafty having winning positions can lose few games in a row to weaker opponents.

Crafty has always gone its own way...

I fell in love with computer chess about 25 years ago. I follow the struggles of chess engines on the website of Mr. Valentin Albillo with blazing eyes. Those were technologically very different times; it didn't bother me that connecting to the Internet sometimes takes several minutes, and when it did, it took even longer to load one page :)

It was then, a quarter of a century ago, when I didn't have access to commercial chess programs such as Chess Genius, Chess Master, Fritz, Rebel, Chess Tiger, Nimzo and many others - that I had at my disposal free Crafty chess engine...

In those days, Crafty, in its peculiar and crafty way, showed commercial competitors how to play chess effectively and solve chess puzzles by finding apt solutions in ever-shorter times. Crafty was under intense development at the time; it was better and stronger from version to version, allowing it to deal more and more with studies and competitors.

And it had many of them, and the best of the best.

Crafty has always gone its own way.... and often achieved excellent results.

As a free chess engine, he repeatedly left such chess champions as Junior, Hiarcs, Zappa, Rebel, Thinker, Ruffian or even multiple World Champion Shredder defeated. It won important tournaments (CCT1, CCT5, CCT6) and took top spots in the World Computer Chess Championship.

Source: CPW

As if that wasn't enough, Crafty was an open-source chess engine. Of course, there were readily available versions of Crafty in the form of binaries for every popular and also niche operating system. Any interested person could download the source code for free and be inspired by ideas from one of the best chess engines at the time!

And the inspirers were many...

I would like to emphasize, 25 or 20 years ago - it was a different reality of computer chess. The vast majority of chess software was commercial, for which you had to pay heavily. Most chess engines, especially the best ones, were sewn into commercial programs - and only through those programs could you access them.

Crafty went its own way and forged new ones; it pioneered the use of new programming techniques.

That increased the speed of that chess engine and had the effect of significantly increasing its power.

In 2010, in an interview with Frank Quisinsky, Tord Romstad author of the Glaurung chess engine, on the basis of which Stockfish was later developed, described Crafty as "arguably the most important and influential chess program ever".

As a lover of computer chess, decades after my first time with Crafty, I would venture to say that...

Without Crafty the world of computer chess would not be the same as it is today.

Crafty was the only one that had such a great impact that it inspired the creation and development of hundreds of chess engines. And this is still the case today, as can be seen by reading, for example, the thanks of programmers paid to the author of Crafty, an engine that even today inspires the best.

Who is behind this, who is the author of the Crafty chess engine ?

Professor Dr. Robert Hyatt.

It is thanks to him that Crafty was and is free; reached so many programmers who had the opportunity to get acquainted with its source code for free.

That is the power of Open Source !!

The power that comes from openness, from the willingness to share with others; can make people unite around a specific goal. This is the force that took Stockfish so high, to a skyrocketing level no longer attainable by other commercial chess engines.

At the beginning of this post, I jokingly "complained" about good old and gold Crafty...

Crafty is what it is. And it doesn't need to be different, it doesn't need to change. It is a unique chess engine that has forever left its mark on computer chess.

Do you know...

That Crafty run from the command line (terminal, cmd, etc.) gives you an extended help system ?

After typing help and pressing the return key, dozens of commands will appear with a description.

When you type help and the name of the command, such as help analyze, Crafty displays a more detailed description of use and operation.

In the early days when Crafty was developed, graphical interfaces (GUIs) were seen by some as a colorful fad that hindered the use of a chess engine.

If I had to choose one chess engine having only an old and slow computer that cannot handle even the simplest graphical environment, I would choose Crafty. Only this chess engine would provide me with comfortable use via a text terminal.

How strong is Crafty today ?

Source: CCRL

More than 3000 Elo for an engine that hasn't been actively developed for years, a good result.

Crafty was developed at a time when computers were even much slower than their modern counterparts. Significantly, that is, not 2, 5 or 20 times. Today's home computers have computing power hundreds of times greater than the server rooms of the time.

Crafty was equipped with a great deal of chess knowledge backed by algorithms that were innovative for the time. That's where Crafty's strength came from.

Even today, Crafty has an amazing ability to create very good and often winning positions for itself. No matter who its opponent is.

Over the years of using Crafty, I formed the habit of verifying entire games and positions by Crafty, which suggested, for example, interesting ideas in openings, plans for further forcing the game of strategically complex positions.

Ok, so let's see Crafty play its computer chess :)

I will present three examples that I hope will reflect the style and ways in which the Crafty chess engine plays.

Example #1

The following position is from a game between Crafty 25.3 vs EXchess 7.97b.

I covered it in detail in an article on the EXchess engine.

* Fen: 4r1rk/2qb1ppn/3p1b2/1p1P3P/2p1P3/PpP1B1R1/1P4QN/1B4RK w - - 5 34

Crafty having white, developed a big advantage and lost the game.... in a few moves.

The game is worth watching, as up to Crafty's 33rd move in a model way shows how piece by piece he gains an advantage over its opponent, who de facto did not make any fat mistake!

Crafty 25.3 vs EXchess 7.97b
Download ZIP • 2KB

Example #2

A game between Crafty 25.3 (white) and Avalanche 1.2.0 (black).

This time something to get the gray cells going. Yes, your gray cells dear reader.

Please look at the chessboard for a moment and don't scroll down this article :)

White's move, mate in three moves.

* Fen: 5r1k/2q2pR1/r1bp1n2/n3pNN1/1p2P3/2PP3P/B4P1K/R2Q4 w - - 1 43

Avalanche is an engine well over 2900 Elo. Winning against it in such a style was no accident.

Leading up to the black King's mat begins the elegant Queen's maneuver 43. Qh5+!!

The next forcing moves are 43... Nxh5 44.Rh7+ Kg8 and 45.Nh6#.

Crafty 25.3 vs Avalanche 1.2.0
Download ZIP • 3KB

When everything goes according to Crafty's plan, it can play very impressively.

Example #3

In this skirmish, in which Crafty commands the black, its opponent is an engine from another era of computer chess - Lc0 - a result of modern thought and technology involving the gigantic computing power of the community centered around this engine.

This battle Crafty wins in a style that the best would not be ashamed of.

Lc0's last move was 29. Bb4.

An equal but very dynamic position, created after playing the opening - the French defense. Abounding in a huge number of possibilities for both sides, and interestingly enough, a pair of Bishops versus a pair of Knights will face each other.

* Fen: k1r4r/3b1p2/p3p3/1pqpP1P1/1B1n1P2/P2BNn2/KRP2Q1P/1R6 b - - 9 29


Crafty responds with the best possible move, which gives black a chance to gain an advantage. And although still at this point both sides have equal chances, Crafty has created the so-called critical position. Lc0 should respond as good as possible, because if it doesn't then in such a dynamic situation its chances of a fine outcome of the game will start to decline.

* Fen: k1r4r/q2b1p2/p3p3/1p1pP1P1/1B1n1P2/P2BNn2/KRP2Q1P/1R6 w - - 10 30

30. Rh1?!

Lc0 did not choose the best move. It was necessary to move Bishop to a5 to block a possible move by black Pawn to that square.

Although it is seemingly not apparent, Rook's move to defend the white Pawn was a fat strategic error.

* Fen: k1r4r/q2b1p2/p3p3/1p1pP1P1/1B1n1P2/P2BNn2/KRP2Q1P/7R b - - 11 30


Crafty gains wind in sails.

* Fen: k1r4r/q2b1p2/4p3/pp1pP1P1/1B1n1P2/P2BNn2/KRP2Q1P/7R w - - 0 31


After the exchange of Pawns, Crafty continues to open the position.

* Fen: k1r4r/q2b1p2/3Bp3/3pP1P1/3n1P2/1p1BNn2/1RP2Q1P/1K5R w - - 0 34


Position open, Crafty brings a heavy figure into the white King's zone.

* Fen: k6r/q2b1p2/3Bp3/3pP1P1/3n1P2/1PrBNn2/1R3Q1P/1K5R w - - 1 35


Can Lc0 forces be taken away with impunity ?

Yes, it is possible when you have Rook on a battle rampage and the support of such a great pair of Knights!

* Fen: k6r/q4P2/3Bp3/3pP3/b2n1P2/4rn2/R4Q1P/K6R w - - 0 39


Lc0 can't escape Knight's check on c2. To defend the white King material losses are inevitable.

* Fen: k6r/q4P2/3Bp3/3pP3/b2n1P2/4r3/R4Q1P/KR2n3 w - - 2 40


Crafty seals its victory by triumphantly killing the white Queen.

* Fen: k6r/5P2/3Bp3/3pP3/b4P2/8/RK2nq1P/8 w - - 0 45


And although Lc0 made a new Queen, Crafty ended the game impressively - with even material on both sides.

Lc0 v0.29.0-rc0 (714679) vs Crafty 25.3
Download ZIP • 4KB

It was a nice game, wasn't it ?

Here is Crafty, a crafty chess engine that can win against anyone. Possessor of the rare ability to create critical and winning positions. Sometimes a bit overconfident, which adds to the charm of its playing style.

I'm not a Crafty fan...

I'm a big Crafty fan.

If by some miracle you haven't dealt with Crafty yet, I encourage you - get to know each other. This acquaintance can be for years :)

I would like to take this opportunity to express my respect for Professor Dr. Robert Hyatt's work on the Crafty chess engine, for all that he has done for several decades for the chess community. Thank you!

From where can I download Crafty ?

Valters Baumanis has written his own Crafty Chess interface and it is available for free in a Windows version to download from here.

This GUI, although having nice capabilities, is a 2015 version; it may cause compatibility problems on the latest Windows.

Foremost, I suggest downloading the Crafty chess engine from the pages of its co-authors. There you will find binaries and source codes.

Unfortunately, the binaries hosted there are several years old, so not all of them may work on the latest operating systems.

That's why for your convenience I've included compilations for modern operating systems below.

Android – Compiled by Archimedes

Download 7Z • 3.65MB

Linux Intel – Compiled by Darius

Download 7Z • 1.03MB

Linux Arm64 – Compiled by Darius

Download 7Z • 724KB
Download 7Z • 651KB

Mac Apple Silicon & Intel – Compiled by Darius

Download 7Z • 491KB
Download 7Z • 703KB

Windows – Compiled by Darius

Download 7Z • 725KB
Download 7Z • 1.18MB

Note for Windows users:

If you will want to use Crafty 25.3 in a GUI that supports only the UCI protocol (e.g. Fritz), I suggest using an adapter by Odd Gunnar Malin called Wb2Uci (Winboard to UCI) for this purpose.

You can download it via the Crafty Chess Interface Wiki.


* Diagrams generated using ChessBase 17.


Wow this bring back great memories of matches between Crafty, Yace, and Phalanx back in the day. Great Post


Apr 21, 2023

Great Post....We Love Crafty...Crafty Is /Was The Cutting Edge for Computer Chess for many years with a Unique style and Although Tactically Not my Cup of Tea...Never a Dull Moment While Watching Crafty Play Chess Games....😃😉

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