fairymax - xboard-compatible chess and chess-variant engine 'Fairy-Max'
is a program that plays chess and chess variants. It uses the
xboard/winboard chess-engine protocol to communicate. Apart from 'regular'
chess (also known as the Mad-Queen variant), it can play Capablanca chess,
gothic chess, janus chess, knightmate, cylinder chess, berolina chess,
superchess, makruk (Thai chess, and also some of its variants, Cambodian chess
(Ouk), asean chess and ai-wok), courier chess, Seirawan chess, Spartan chess,
falcon chess, great shatranj, team-mate chess, charge of the light brigade,
king of the hill, bifurcator chess, Los-Alamos chess, Mexican chess,
Ciccolini's chess, grande acedrex, wildebeest chess (almost), shuffle chess
without castling and chess with different armies (all combinations of the
FIDE, Clobberers, Nutters and Rookies armies). Fairy-Max can be easily
configured by the user to play other variants as well, by modifying the ini
file. This ini file describes the rules of movement of the participating
pieces and the initial board setup.
Fairy-Max can also play shatranj, but in this case is not aware of the shatranj
rule that a bare king loses. So it might play sub-optimally in the late
end-game. A version of Fairy-Max adapted to implement the baring rule (and the
rule that stalemate is a win) is available under the name shamax
Grande Acedrex and Courier Chess might also have had a baring rule, so you may
want to play these with shamax instead of fairymax too.
Similarly, a version of Fairy-Max adapted to play Xiang Qi (Chinese Chess) is
included in the fairymax package as well, under the name maxqi
is a derivative of the world's (once) smallest chess program
(source-code wise), micro-Max. The latter measures less that 2000 characters,
(about 100 code lines), and has a computer rating of around 2050 on the CCRL
rating list. Although this is about 1000 rating points behind the world
champion, micro-Max still makes a quite tough opponent even for club players,
although it is not unbeatable.
The main difference between micro-Max and Fairy-Max is that the latter loads its
move-generator tables, which specify how the various pieces move, from an
external file, so it can be easily adapted to incorporate un-orthodox pieces.
For ease of use of the artificial-intelligence, Fairy-Max is equipped with I/O
routines that allow it to run with the xboard graphical user interface.
(6) for instructions about how to use fairymax
xboard. To start up quickly, you just need the command: xboard -fcp
. Note that to be able to play the chess variants, it is
recommended to use the latest XBoard version, as some of the recently added
variants will use features not supported by older XBoard versions (in
particular allowing an engine to reconfigure XBoard's ideas on the initial
setup and how the pieces move). Problems with older XBoard versions might
range from only being able to play the variant with legality testing switched
off, inability to display some of the unorthodox pieces in board sizes other
, not recognizing variants
with non-standard names, to refusing even names that by now are standard
For some variants even the name is unknown to XBoard, and they are all grouped
under the catchall name 'fairy'. Which variant is played by Fairy-Max when
XBoard is set to 'fairy', can be determined by a combobox control in the
XBoard 'Engine Settings' menu dialog. This currently applies to the various
army combinations of chess with different armies. After having set this
Variant fairy selects
option, activating XBoard's New game
when already in variant fairy, or selecting fairy from the New variant
menu dialog will then start the selected game.
Fairymax supports multi-PV mode: by specifying a non-zero multi-PV margin in the
Engine-Settings dialog of XBoard, Fairy-Max will not only print the principal
variation for the best move, but also for every move that approaches the score
of this best move to within the set margin. (If it does not find the best move
on the first try, this might lead to printing of a few extra lines below the
threshold.) Fairy-Max now also supports analysis mode, and exclusion of moves
from the analysis.
The fmax.ini file from which Fairy-Max by default takes the piece and game
definitions is a self-documenting text file, which contains instructions for
how to define new pieces and chess variants. In addition it contains an
extensive list of pre-defined pieces, incuding many not occurring in any of
the pre-defined variants, which the user can draw on to define his own
Amongst the move types supported by Fairy-Max are normal leaper and slider
moves, (e.g. knight and rook), divergent moves (i.e. capture and non-capture
moves can be different), hoppers (which jump over other pieces, such as the
Chinese cannon or the grasshopper), lame leapers (the move of which can be
blocked on squares they cannot move to, such as the Chinese horse and
elephant), limited-range sliders (upto range 5), and any combination thereof,
in every possible direction. The board width is configurable upto a width of
14 files, and cylindrical boards (where left and right edge connect) are
supported as well. The board height can be configured up to 16 ranks.
- If the first argument to fairymax is numeric, it is taken
as an indicator for the amount of memory Fairy-Max is allowed to use for
its internal hash table. The default value for this argument, 22, would
result in a memory usage of 48MB. Each next-higher number doubles the
memory usage, each next-lower halves it. Running with less than 6MB (i.e.
argument 19) is not recommended. When fairymax is running under xboard
4.3.15 or later the hash-table size can be set through the xboard menus,
making this argument superfluous.
- A second or non-numeric first argument is taken as a
filename. Fairy-Max will use the mentioned file in stead of its default
fmax.ini file to define the movement of pieces and initial setup of the
variants. This makes it easier to define your own variants.
- INTERACTIVE OPTIONS
- Fairy-Max also supports some options that can only be set
interactively, though XBoard's engine settings menu dialog. These include
a setting to further define -variant fairy, (e.g. which armies to pit
against each other in chess with different armies), and whether makruk is
to be played with Thai or Cambodian rules (the latter requiring XBoard's
legality testing to be switched off!). You can also enable resigning, and
set a score threshold for when Fairy-Max should do it, and define the
already mentioned multi-PV margin there. An 'Info' button in the settings
dialog makes XBoard pop up a window with some info about the currently
- Persistent hash
- Some of the interactive options can be used to store the
current position in a file bearing the name of the variant being played,
with the extension '.hash' added to it, during analysis. Positions in that
file will be loaded into Fairy-Max' hash table before every game,
protected from overwrite. This can be used to create an opening or
end-game book for the variant. The Save in hash file button is
convenient for saving the occasional position. For saving many positions
in a row the option Automatic pesistent-hash dialog can be ticked.
This pops up a dialog at the start of every analysis search, in which the
user then just has to press 'OK' to put the score from the analysis into
the hash file. If a number is typed in that dialog before pressing 'OK',
the position will be saved with that score (in centi-Pawn) rather than the
score determined by the engine's own analysis. This can for instance be
used to discourage opening lines the engine overrates. The file will be
created in the current directory, but at the start of a game both this
file, as well as one in Fairy-Max' private data files, will be loaded. The
install does contain such a persistent hash file for makruk, to help
Fairy-Max find the checkmate in the 'difficult' corners of the KMMMK and
KNMMK (with like M) end-games.
At http://hgm.nubati.net/cgi-bin/gitweb.cgi the source code can be obtained.
(6) interface ("Chess Engine Communication
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