“What are the best chess engines I can play against that aren’t gonna just smash me in 10 moves? I’m only rated 1550”

This is a question I get on an almost daily basis.

Well…there are a few.

The ones I like the most (for sub-1600 guys to train against) are:

  1. Storm 0.6
  2. Mephisto Amsterdam
  3. Kanguruh 1.93
  4. Predateur 2.0 and…
  5. Johnny Hector 1.0

If you like playing chess against the computer as a part of your training (you definitely should if you don’t have the time for regular tournaments) then this post is for you.

You’ll Learn:

I’ll introduce you to the engines listed above, give you information and sample games from them, and most importantly show you how to get them!

I recommend playing serious games against these engines, with at least 25 minutes on the clock (60 is better) and with you relaying the moves from the screen to a physical board in order to simulate a real tournament situation.

So let’s learn more about your opponents anyway…

Introducing…The 5 Best Chess Engines! (for U1600 players)

Kanguruh 1.93 (1866 ELO)

kanguruh chess engine, best chess engines #1

This engine is Australian so I obviously feel pretty happy to recommend it to you guys, but even in doing so I am recommending it with no patriotic bias whatsoever.

Kanguruh 1.93 has a rating of 1866 and plays in an aggressive, but sensible manner. I find that If I am on my game and paying attention, I can gradually outplay Kanguruh and get the win in blitz games (If you are under 2000, you should NEVER play blitz against engines in general. 😉 ), but if I am distracted for a moment I can miss something and the engine will play a nice tactical combination against me.

So make sure you’re completely focused otherwise it might just catch you out with a tactical cominbation!

A great opponent!

Storm 0.6 (1823 ELO)

STORM chess engine, best chess engines #2

Storm 0.6 plays a pretty good overall game but is tactically suspect. That’s his weakness.

This means that if you build up a nice piece concentration near his king, he will be wary (as all 1800-1900 players would be)…but might still miss something and allow a winning sacrifice.

We must remember the words from one chess pioneer who said “tactics spring naturally from a better position”

Get a dominating position against Storm 0.6 and you’ll be able to finish him off smoothly.

Predateur 2.0 (1948)

predateur chess engine, best chess engines #3

Predateur has a fairly aggressive style but is positionally quite suspect. He’ll burn bridges with some of his aggressive ideas but if you have a reasonable grasp of chess strategy you’ll be able to hold him off.

Unlike the crazy bastard Johnny Hector 1.0, he’ll only sacrifice material if it’s completely sound though, so if he sacrifices against you, fear the worst!  🙂

Mephisto Amsterdam (1927 ELO)

mephisto amsterdam, best chess engines #4

This one is one which is also very valuable from a historical perspective and a pleasure to play against for that reason alone.

Mephisto Amsterdam comes from the programming genius Richard Lang (whose program Chess Genius later famously defeated Gary Kasparov as black while running on a slowass Pentium 90! 😯 ) and was World Microcomputer Chess Champion in 1985.

Here’s a pic of the beautiful dedicated computer version of this program.

mephisto dedicated

Imagine playing on one of these treasures!

Mephisto Amsterdam plays solid and human-like positional chess (just like his younger brother Chess Genius) and is not an easy push over.

In recent years another programming maestro Ed Schröder (programmer of Rebel/Prodeo) ported the program to UCI so that it can be used as a chess engine in GUIs like Fritz, Arena and Shredder.

This UCI version is the version I’ll be recommending for you guys.

Johnny Hector 1.0 (2100 ELO Approx)

Johnny Hector, best chess engines #5

This engine (which is the first from my coming line of “GM in a Box” personalities) uses the Disaster Area chess engine as its “skeleton” engine, but has been tweaked by me to emulate (closely as possible) the style of Swedish Grandmaster Johnny Hector.

Johnny Hector despite not being a so-called “elite” Grandmaster (2700 ELO and above), is still renowned for his daring play and tactical brilliance.

Wikipedia described his style as:

Hector has an aggressive attacking style, and is known for playing unusual chess openings.

Johnny is dangerous and the strongest in our list despite having no problem at all sacrificing unsoundly… as long as he thinks he’ll put insurmountable pressure on you.

He plays risky gambit openings with both colours and lives life on the edge.

Be careful! This guy plays nothing like an engine… It just might be Johnny Hector on the other side of that screen!  😉

Sample Game

Check out this tactics-filled game which seems completely one-sided and leaves you thinking “Where did white go wrong?” Who knows.  😉

The Blitz Tournament

Man Vs Machine/s Blitz Challenge!

I decided to play a blitz tournament with these guys (Just to reiterate, if you’re U1600, you shouldn’t play blitz against these guys) to give you a sample of their play.

There were some awesome games in the event which are really impressive, as well as instructive and as expected, Johnny Hector 1.0 absolutely drilled through the field with his special brand of coffee-house attacking chess.

Let’s see some highlights from the tournament, then we’ll see a video of me playing my rounds against these guys.

Tournament Highlights

Storm 0.6 vs Predateur 2.0: Draw

In this game we see Predateur 2.0 play a good opening and middlegame, reaching a position where he is completely crushing Storm positionally.

Storm has his queen out of the game, a terrible knight vs the powerful black bishop and also has to deal with an overwhelming queen and rook battery on the 7th rank. 🙁

As time trouble approached Predateur made several mistakes crept in and we started to see some instructive examples of poor judgement.

On move 62 Predateur chose 62…Qb3 allowing the exchange of rooks (he should have exchange queens and gone into the easily won rook ending) and although the queen and pawn ending is still won, it is far from trivial with mutual exposed kings.

In fact, Storm somehow got his a-pawn all the way up the board and was winning at some point but it wasn’t enough in practice.


1.If you have the advantage, don’t go into a queen and pawn ending…especially with an exposed king!

2.Study rook endgames deeply. They are the most frequently occurring ending and require good understanding to play well. Predateur could have gone into an easily won rook ending if he had better judgement.

Predateur 2.0 vs Mephisto Amsterdam

In this game we see Mephisto playing a nice, human-like positional game where he first starts leading himself toward a so-called “good knight vs bad bishop” position and then the way he improves his king and exploits pawn structure is quite nice.

The endgame plays is human-like as well.

The game isn’t perfect, but neither is any. Mephisto is a very solid opponent and the 38…Nb7-d6 idea is particularly nice!

Johnny Hector 1.0 vs Kanguruh 1.93

Here we see another example of Johnny Hector 1.0 absolutely blowing away an opponent in a way where it seemed there was no resistance. Simply amazing how the engine does this so consistently.

He begins by playing a Blackmar Deimer Gambit against Kanguruh’s Caro-Kann Defense and then began to place pressure immediately.

I guess black missed 11.Rxf7 and then 13.Bg5!! is really a beautiful move!


Ready to see ME take these guys on?

Let’s do it. 😎

Brendan vs the Chess Engines


The Result?

Okay! So I played pretty badly and got smashed. 🙂

Realistically I should have been a favourite in this event (with Johnny Hector 1.0), but somehow I was just letting myself get outplayed in simple positions.

A lot of fun anyway and a nice example for you guys of why you shouldn’t play blitz against engines.

These guys are much more manageable at long time controls. Trust me.

Anyway, here’s the crosstable.


Not a proud result, but a fun challenge. Give it a try! 😉

A few things…

No, my rating is not 2000 (that’s the default in Arena when no rating is entered) and yes, even though in the crosstable it says “Johnny Hector 2”, the version you’ll download below is actually version 1.0, the version that played in the tournament.

Ready to give these guys a try? Why not create and play in your own tournament?

The download links are below:

Action Steps:

    1.  Download Johnny Hector 1.0 pack.
    2. Download Kanguruh, Mephisto Amsterdam, Predateur and Storm (direct link to all-in-one archive)
    3. Download Arena chess GUI (If you weren’t already using it)
    4. (Optional) Download the .pgn of the tournament I played and look at the games. 🙂
    5. Play some games against these guys and share them with me later! 🙂