Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Welcome to our big chess computer test 2021. Here we present all the chess computers we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the net.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best chess computer for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a chess computer.




Summary

  • Anyone who likes to play chess but has no opponent or simply wants to practise can use a chess computer to play against a virtual opponent.
  • Basically, a distinction is made between entry-level models, high-class chess computers and travel chess computers. There are even chess computers for the visually impaired and blind.
  • You can also download free or paid apps for chess.

The Best Chess Computer: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a chess computer

What is a chess computer?

Chess computers (or chess calculators) are like chess boards, except that they are controlled by a specialised computer. They are designed specifically for playing chess against a human player.

They also offer other functions, such as playing against yourself or against another chess computer.

The chess opponent can then be generated by pressing a certain button. A level of difficulty can also be selected by setting the playing strength.

Schachbrett mit Holzfiguren

The appearance of a chess computer is similar to that of a normal chess board. (Image source: unsplash.com / rawpixel)

Who are chess computers suitable for?

No matter whether you are already a professional at chess or you would like to learn - a chess computer is suitable for anyone who likes to play challenging games that also require a bit of thinking.

If you don't have a partner to play chess with, you can easily generate one with a chess computer.

There are even chess computers for the visually impaired and blind.

Some chess computers only come with an instruction manual, but no chess tutorial.

Chess computers are divided into entry-level models and chess computers for professionals. Depending on which category you see yourself in, we recommend that you buy the certain product.

How does a chess computer work?

As mentioned above, a chess computer is basically a simple chess board with various buttons and a display and possibly other elements and additional functions.

The player with the white pieces may first move the pieces via the user interface. The squares on the chess board are pressure-sensitive and are thus detected by the computer.

After your move, the computer executes its move through algebraic notation on the display. In newer models, this works via built-in light-emitting diodes.

The computer can calculate hundreds of moves in seconds and then evaluate them. In doing so, it calculates the material, the movement possibilities of one's own pieces as well as those of the opponent. The calculation is basically based on an algorithm.

What does a chess computer cost?

There is an enormous price range between all the different chess computers and it depends on the quality and your purchase criteria. Depending on the chess computer, the range is from about 40 to 2850 euros (prices can vary, of course).

For beginners, a model starting at about 50 euros is sufficient. For advanced players, professionals or people who want and can afford more quality, we recommend a somewhat more expensive chess computer that offers more functions or additional features.

What alternatives are there to a chess computer?

We have prepared the following table for you:

Alternative Designation
Chess programmes These can be used on conventional Windows PCs. These programmes can be purchased for a relatively small sum. Here you can also adjust the playing strength or even do high-quality chess training for children or young people.
Applications The apps can be downloaded normally on a smartphone or on one's own tablet for a fee or even free of charge.

Decision: What types of chess computers are there and which is the right one for you?

Type Designation
Entry-level models Suitable for beginners - extensive learning and control functions
High-class chess computers Have a high number of functions or features
Travel chess computers Perfect for on the road!

If you want to buy a chess computer, there are different options for you, depending on whether you consider yourself a beginner, an average player or a professional.

Moreover, a chess computer is also available in a take-away format, so while you are travelling, you can play chess comfortably. I'll explain what that looks like below.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of inexpensive entry-level models?

Entry-level models are very suitable for beginners and are usually relatively inexpensive. The models have many practice areas and extensive learning and control functions.

As you get better at chess, you can increase the difficulty level and improve. Some devices have interactive chess training and an opening library and thus offer independent learning.

Advantages
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Relatively cheap
Disadvantages
  • Few functions
  • Battery operated

What distinguishes high-class chess computers and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

High-class chess computers have a high number of functions or features. At the same time, they also have a very beautiful design consisting of high-quality material and offer perfect performance.

The recognition speed as well as the reliability of the high-class chess computers are exceptionally good.

Advantages
  • High number of difficulty levels
  • Many different language options
  • High quality
  • With power supply
  • Display are illuminated
  • Various menus and functions
  • User-friendly
Disadvantages
  • High-quality chess computers are relatively expensive

What are the advantages and disadvantages of travel chess computers?

Travel chess computers are also called portable chess computers and are portable, small and handy chess computers that are useful for many people on the train or as a passenger in the car. Such devices often fit in a jacket pocket or glove compartment and can easily be taken along.

They are usually battery operated and come in a folding form or with a removable lid.

Particularly popular among travel chess computers are models with a plug-in sensor board or with magnetic piece tiles. They also offer a stable board so that the pieces are safe from shocks during a trip.

Advantages
  • Convenient for travelling
  • Very handy
Disadvantages
  • Low ease of use
  • Low playing strength

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate chess computers

In the following we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible chess computers. The criteria you can use to compare chess computers include:

  • Playing strength
  • Functions
  • Operability
  • Battery operation
  • Material

In the following paragraphs, we will explain what is important in the individual criteria.

Playing strength (ELO number)

A very important purchase criterion for users is the playing strength of the chess computer. The playing strength should be set in such a way that the user is not overtaxed, but on the other hand it should not be set too easily, so that nothing more can be learned.

The goal should be a constant development of your strategic skills. For this purpose, you should also adjust the playing strength accordingly and practise or train with the device regularly.

Also note that you should test your personal limits in order to really get the most out of the chess computer.

The playing strength is measured in ELO and can help you to find out your correct playing strength and thus find the perfect product for you. The ELO measurement is used in tournament chess worldwide.

Power chess computer Player level
Up to approx. ELO 1240 Beginner, beginner, hobby player
Up to approx. ELO 1500 Practised hobby player, low player level
Up to approx. ELO 1700 Average player
Up to approx. ELO 1950 Strong player
Up to approx. ELO 2200 Very strong player
Up to approx. ELO 2200 Very strong player and regular tournament player

Functions

The term 'functions' also refers to the game levels, i.e. which modes the machine offers. Depending on the model, there are different game levels and variations.

Usually, the game levels are divided into categories, such as the calculation depth (i.e. the move precalculation) and the calculation time (time until the next move).

There are also different tournament levels or time levels, which offer even more options. All the different modes and game levels are explained in detail in the user manuals. We recommend that you read them carefully and in detail, as they can be very helpful.

Mann spielt Schach

Different functions of your chess computer can increase the pleasure of playing and help you to become even better. (Image source: unsplash.com / taha ajmi)

Usability

There are often differences in the usability or the amount of programming. In most cases, it is often the quality of the characters or even the design that decides the purchase.

For example, the figures can be ordered separately for some models, in case one or more figures should get lost or worn out.

Battery operation

Another important criterion is battery operation. Many people use a chess computer from the comfort of their own home and, out of habit, want to have a mains adapter rather than batteries.

Buying new batteries is time-consuming as well as costly. A rechargeable battery, on the other hand, sounds more tempting. Whether with batteries or with a rechargeable battery, you can take the device with you anywhere at any time.

Material

A high-quality material is of course not only important for the user, but also offers a lot in terms of appearance. Unfortunately, cheap models are not available in good quality and are mainly made of plastic.

High-quality devices, however, offer stable figures that lie well in the hand and a material made of valuable wood. The excellent design also increases user-friendliness and ensures comfortable operation.

Facts worth knowing about chess computers

The history of chess computers

The first model that was apparently already able to play chess was the so-called Schachtürke. It appeared around the end of the 18th century and was designed by Wolfgang von Kempelen.

The device consisted of a life-size figure that executed a complicated mechanism and amazed opponents.

Since the secret of this device has not been officially revealed to this day, it was assumed that a chess player sat inside the "machine" and that one was therefore not competing against a technical opponent.

The breakthrough of chess computers finally came with the introduction of a microchip.

A major milestone were the models from the manufacturer Mephisto from the 1980s onwards. These devices consisted of a simple wooden board with embedded light-emitting diodes.

In 1997, there was the competition between Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov. Through this competition, it was learned that the computer would become an invincible opponent in the distant future.

Deep Blue eventually won against the world chess champion Kasparov and set a milestone on the subject of man vs. machine.

Are there apps for chess computers?

Yes, even if you are often on the road or busy with your mobile phone, you can easily download the latest chess apps to your iPhone or smartphone and play quick games.

Unfortunately, there are many free and correspondingly unsuccessful apps. Caution is advised here. A one-time investment in a good chess app is clearly recommended.

Frau hält Smartphone

There are many different chess apps. (Image source: unsplash.com / Yura Fresh)

Image source: pixabay.com / O12

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