Python Program that runs Stockfish

This is a demonstration of a python program that runs the chess engine Stockfish and uses the Chessboard library to manage the board. You can run it on your PC from Python and it will beat you at Chess (it plays by default at its maximum ELO of around 2600).

This program can be used as the foundation for driving a chessboard or other device by replacing the simple keyboard entry of moves with communication with a device.

This program will only run under Python 2.7 with the right libraries installed. Please don’t try running it on an Arduino, which of course does not support Python or Stockfish. It will run on most PCs and the Raspberry Pi


TestPython Stockfish

This zipfile contains everything you need to run the test of Stockfish from Python on 64 bit Windows using a simple text interface. It assumes you have Python 2.7 installed.

If you want to run it on a different machine you need to get the appropriate version of Stockfish. (It runs on the Raspberry Pi, sudo apt-get install stockfish)

Put all these files in a directory and run the Python program
The easiest way from Windows is to Right Click and then choose “Edit with Idle” Then from Idle: “Run Module”

You will get a lot of start up stuff generated by Stockfish, including some errors because my code options are out of date.
It will stop with the message:

“Enter a board message:”

You enter a move by typing, for example “me2e4” ie Move E2 to E4 and then go from there, see example output in TestOutput.txt

The version of stockfish here is the 64 bit version, if you have a 32 bit machine, the you will need to get that from the Stockfish site.
If you use a different version of Stockfish, make sure the program name in is changed.

Modifying the Chess Program

This is a base program that assumes you play white. If you want the computer to play black you can modify it to send a blank move “” to Stockfish.

The program below contains this change. If you type ma9a9 as your first move the computer plays white. This is just an example of a simple change. If you type ma9a9 at any time other than the first move of a game it crashes.

Remember that the base program is just to illustrate how to manage the chess engine, anything else you need to add yourself.


Stockfish Python Program Listing:

#This program plays chess using Stockfish the open source chess engine, using the ChessBoard library to manage the board.
# it is written in Python 2.7 because chessboard is. Python 3 might work but I havn’t tested it.
# it assumes you have got the python libraries chessboard, subprocess and time
# it assumes stockfish is looded in the python directory.
# In this program the routines Getboard and Sendboard get a move in the for me2e4, by simple keyboard input. In the working system these get replaced by serial coms with the board
# it runs Stockfish using a list of moves not FEN. I couldn’t get the FEN routines to work in ChessBoard fails after h2 h4 so #’d out
# Instead they use a move list, which is less eligent, but works.
# See full working system at :
# to start try running the program and type me2e4 at the first prompt.
# This program is built using lots of examples from around the web, so do what you want with it. A credit to would be nice.

# initiate chessboard
from ChessBoard import ChessBoard
import subprocess, time
maxchess = ChessBoard()

# initiate stockfish chess engine

engine = subprocess.Popen(

def get():

# using the ‘isready’ command (engine has to answer ‘readyok’)
# to indicate current last line of stdout
while True :
text = engine.stdout.readline().strip()
if text == ‘readyok’:
if text !=”:
if text[0:8] == ‘bestmove’:

return text
def sget():

# using the ‘isready’ command (engine has to answer ‘readyok’)
# to indicate current last line of stdout
while True :
text = engine.stdout.readline().strip()
#if text == ‘readyok’:
#   break
if text !=”:
if text[0:8] == ‘bestmove’:
return mtext
def getboard():
“”” gets a text string from the board “””
btxt = raw_input(“\n Enter a board message: “).lower()
return btxt

def sendboard(stxt):
“”” sends a text string to the board “””
print(“\n send to board: ” +stxt)

def newgame():
get ()
get ()
put(‘setoption name Skill Level value ‘ +skill)
get ()
put(‘setoption name Hash value 128’)
put(‘setoption name Best Book Move value true’)
put(‘setoption name OwnBook value true’)
get ()
return fmove

def bmove(fmove):
“”” assume we get a command of the form ma1a2 from board”””
# Get a move from the board
brdmove = bmessage[1:5].lower()
# now validate move
# if invalid, get reason & send back to board
#  maxchess.addTextMove(move)
if maxchess.addTextMove(brdmove) == False :
etxt = “error”+ str(maxchess.getReason())+brdmove
return fmove

#  elif valid  make the move and send Fen to board

# maxfen = maxchess.getFEN()
# sendboard(maxfen)
# remove line below when working
raw_input(“\n\nPress the enter key to continue”)
print (“fmove”)
print (“brdmove”)
fmove =fmove+” ” +brdmove

cmove = “position startpos moves”+fmove
print (cmove)

#        if fmove == True :
#                move = “position startpos moves “+move
#        else:
#               move =”position fen “+maxfen

# put(‘ucinewgame’)
# get()

# send move to engine & get engines move

put(“go movetime ” +movetime)
# time.sleep(6)
# text = get()
# put(‘stop’)
text = sget()
print (text)
smove = text[9:13]
hint = text[21:25]
if maxchess.addTextMove(smove) != True :
stxt = “e”+ str(maxchess.getReason())+move

fmove =temp+” ” +smove
stx = smove+hint
# maxfen = maxchess.getFEN()
print (“computer move: ” +smove)
return fmove

def put(command):

# assume new game
print (“\n Chess Program \n”)
skill = “10”
movetime = “6000”
fmove = newgame()
while True:

# Get  message from board
bmessage = getboard()
# Message options   Move, Newgame, level, style
code = bmessage[0]

# decide which function to call based on first letter of txt
if code == ‘m’: fmove = bmove(fmove)
elif code == ‘n’: newgame()
elif code == ‘l’: level()
elif code == ‘s’: style()
else :  sendboard(‘error at option’)





33 Responses to Python Program that runs Stockfish

  1. amal says:


    • Max says:

      Amal, The program does work, but you need to make sure you have all the modules like chessboard installed and loaded in the right directories, see the comments section. You also need the Stockfish installed in the Python directory with the same file name in the code. This program is written in Python 2.7. I notice you hope to write your chess program on an Arduino. Obviously this program will not run on an Arduino as it doesn’t support Python. I ran it on a Windows PC and on an RPI.

  2. amal says:


    • Max says:

      Best of luck, I don’t think you will be able to get Stockfish to run on an Arduino, if you do I’d love to know and it certainly will not run chessboard or Python. You’d be better off with a Raspberry Pi to run the chess engine.

  3. Klaus says:

    Hi where do I get the ChessBoard library?
    following link donesnt work

    • Max says:

      Klaus, ChessBoard is no longer supported by the owner and has been removed from his site.
      However he has allowed me to put a copy here for you to download. ChessBoard

  4. Klaus says:

    Can you please better explain where to copy the library and stockfish
    which file in which folder
    and there are no links where to download the library

  5. Klaus says:

    which file of stockfish (open source code?) must be copied in which folder
    phyton is installed in /usr/bin and I cant put any files in this folder

    • Max says:

      from debian on the Raspberry pi just type:
      sudo apt-get install stockfish
      it puts all the right stuff in the right place

  6. Deepak says:

    Hi Max,
    First of all, great work buddy !!!
    I am trying to replicate this and I am facing issue with the Python code. I have built the chess board with Reed Limit switches and now trying to setup the Python. I am new to Python and I am not able to run this code. I believe the intendation I am doing is wrong and that is causing the problem. It would be great if you could share the .py file.
    Thanks and have a great day.
    – Deepak

    • Max says:

      I have now added the program file and all the other files in a zip file at the top of this page. I have tested it on an old DEll I have and it works.
      I hope this helps

  7. Olivier says:

    Hi Max,

    Just to tell you that I tested your code from the raspberry I just received and everything worked perfectly. Many Thanks

  8. Dom says:

    Hello, thanks for this. I’m building a robot arm to play chess and I’m trying to use this for it. I got it all working in Windows but I just got a Raspberry Pi and I’d like to get it working on that too.

    I did sudo apt-get install stockfish


    What do I change this line to?

    Sorry my first experience of Raspberry Pi, love it though, very cool.

    • Dom says:

      Ok so I figured it out, its simply ‘stockfish’

      # initiate stockfish chess engine

      engine = subprocess.Popen(

      One other question, I can use stockfish’s response to move my robot arm but there is no way to tell if the computer is taking a piece, the arm must know if it needs to remove a piece before doing the move. Any idea how to do this check?

      • Dom says:

        I just solved that one, by adding a function to the chessboard script that returns whats on the board before the chessboard gets updated. Now I can make the arm remove the piece if its a taking move.

        Next step is to learn servoblaster to control the robot arm I designed and 3D printed 🙂

        • Max says:

          Dom, Looks like you are solving all your own problems as you go!. Looks like a fantastic project, please keep me updated. What robot arm/ movement system are you using?

          • Dom says:

            Its a little bit primitive at the moment, I used Cinema4D to design it then a Mendel90 3d printer to print the parts. I had to keep reprinting parts with design changes, so I went for functionality over looks, it may get a redesign once it works.

            I used 4 x MG996R servos and 1 x 9g servo for the gripper. I started using arduino to control the servo’s but got lots of jitter and it wouldn’t do small movements accurately. I then used the Rasberry Pi and I was astounded by how much better and accurate it was.

            I’m hopefully getting it all wired up to the Pi tonight. In the end I used PIGPIO instead of Servoblaster to control the servos as the python module is easy to use. I also use an ADXL345 accelerometer to control the gripper to ensure its always level. This worked on the arduino and I think I’ve got all the code to transfer it to the Pi. I’m just starting researching the board and reed switches. I’ll use the arduino for that. Thanks for all your info here, really helpful 🙂

  9. Dom says:

    Here is a video using the arduino and ADXL345 to keep it level, the gripper isn’t attached

    Here is the gripper, its my own design, it may need a a few tweaks but not bad for a first attempt

  10. Dom says:

    Ok getting there! Still needs a lot of tweaks on the movement. its a bit spring but it needs the loads bearing springs to support the arm.

  11. Jerome says:

    When accidentally entering an invalid move (i.e. me2e8), I am kicked out to a “>>>” prompt. How do I continue with where I left off without restarting the game?

    • Max says:

      Jerome, the code is just an example of how to run stockfish it contains some error handling, but it isn’t a finished system.You need to write your own interface for user verification and error handling.

  12. Michail says:

    Thank you Max,
    the program works great! Great help for an absolute beginner and a nice platform to start building from…
    Just got it to run on my Mac, next step is to put in in RPi! I’m also trying to code some text-to-speech functionality. Thanks for the head-start.

  13. Flávio says:

    Good morning Max!
    I would first like to congratulate you on your excellent work.
    I am building a robot that plays chess, using magnets and hall sensors to recognize the pieces, I also use a mechanical arm that I am designing, I also use a rasperbarry pi and an arduino.
    To access Stockfish I use the TestPython-Stockfish files and am making changes to the code as needed.
    I’m building this robot to market (sell my robot) and I want to do it honestly.
    So I would like to know if I can publish a ChessBoard version with my changes under the GNU license giving you the credits due from the library. So anyone can have access to the source code of this new version of ChessBoard.
    The person only needs to make the arduino code and assemble the hardware, in case the person wanted to do a project just like mine.
    I want to know if you’re against it? I will respect your decision! Thank you!
    Note: I am from Brazil and I am using Google Translate and may have inconsistency in the text.

    • Max says:

      Flávio, I have no objection to you giving away the software as long as the GNU licence persists and you make new versions available. However Chessboard is not mine. ChessBoard was written by John Eriksson (wmjoers) so you need to track him down (his Email is in the Readme file) and ask him.However, in the Readme file that accompanies Chessboard it says: You are free:
      * to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
      * to make derivative works
      * to make commercial use of the work

      Under the following conditions:

      You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor:

      * For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.

      So you decide.

      • Flávio says:

        Good morning Max!
        Thanks for the clarification about the library.
        As soon as I finish my ChessBoard changes, I’ll send the link to my GNU version and another Youtube link with the robot running.
        Appreciate your attention! Thank you!

  14. Fabro says:

    Hi Max, Can you tell me How can I change game level? Please

    Regards and congratulations

    • Max says:

      Fabro, The game level, ie skill level of Stockfish is set using the UCI interface and setting the option “Skill Level”, so you will see the line put(‘setoption name Skill Level value ‘ +skill) in the example code, with skill being set to 10 later on. Skill can be in the range 0-20, 20 being the strongest. See Stockfish parameters and UCI info.

  15. dooby kalisheeno says:

    I spent over a month trying to get the python code to read the 64 reed switches with no luck. Can someone please give me a source code or help. thanks.
    –dooby kalisheeno

    • Max says:

      my suggestion is that you start by building a test 3×3 reed matrix as described on the NOX pages.
      This includes full instructions on hardware build and software download. If you do not want to build the full project you can just build a simple 3×3 reed switch circuit on a bit of board and then test it using the program tests the reed switches.
      The 8×8 is just a bigger version.

  16. Pedro Gonzalez says:

    Your program is the best you have seen, it is short, simple and works perfectly on windows 7 and 10. You are a great programmer.
    I have adapted some things, and I only get him to work playing me with white (ex: me first move intro ‘me2e4’). How could I get him to work playing black? For example, introducing me7e6 as the first movement.
    Thank you so much for everything.

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