The Best Free Chess Games For Linux

Play chess for free on your Linux desktop

Chess pieces on board

Toshiro Shimada / Getty Images

This guide to the best Linux chess games​ highlights 4 versions of Chess, 3 of which can be installed via your package managers and 1 that relies on Steam. The critique will look at the visual elements, the quality of the AI, the ease of gameplay and the game's ability to enforce rules.

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Simply Chess

Simply Chess
Simply Chess
What We Like
  • Available on Steam.

  • Convenient notification system.

  • Cross-platform with a large player base.

  • Great community.

What We Don't Like
  • Visuals could be better.

  • Not open source.

Simply Chess is available via the Steam platform.

Steam is available for most major Linux distributions and you can install Simply Chess by searching through the free games.

This is a cross-platform game available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. This is important as it guarantees that there are is a decent number of players in the online chatrooms at any given time.

Simply Chess is number 1 on this list not for the visuals but for the fact that you can find like-minded people to play the great game with.

When choosing an opponent you can either choose to join somebody else's game or create your own.

You can decide who goes first and how long each player has between goes. The actual time between goes ranges from 1 minute to a month.

Don't worry, you don't have to stay online for a whole month waiting for Gary Kasperov to make his move. There is a notification system which will notify you when it is your turn.

The actual game interface is very good. When you click on a piece it will tell you all of the positions that the piece can move.

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Dream Chess

Dream Chess
Dream Chess
What We Like
  • Available in the distribution repositories.

  • Open source.

  • Challenging computer opponents.

What We Don't Like
  • No online play.

  • Feels somewhat limited overall.

If you aren't bothered by online gameplay then you can install Dream Chess from the package manager for your distribution.

The visuals for Dream Chess are more pleasing to the eye than Simply Chess.

You can play against the computer or one of your friends but both players have to use the same computer.

The controls are easy to use. Simply click on the piece and click where you want to move it to. Unlike Simply Chess you aren't shown exactly where you can place the pieces.

The AI gameplay is very good and actually somewhat difficult even in easy mode. Fortunately, if you make a mistake you can always backtrack using the context menu. Cheat!!!

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Brutal Chess

Brutal Chess
Brutal Chess
What We Like
  • Available in the distribution repositories.

  • Open source.

  • Simple skill levels.

What We Don't Like
  • No online play.

  • Features are limited.

Brutal Chess is also available from your Linux distribution's package manager.

The board and pieces are very pleasing on the eye.

The features are lacking compared to the previous options, however. There is no multiplayer option and you can only play against the computer.

There are different skill levels which can be set up on a new game with options for easy, medium and hard.

If you press the escape key during the game a menu appears allowing you to change the screen resolution or to start a new game.

This is a decent lightweight version of chess with a nice game board.

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GTK Board Games

GTK Chess
GTK Chess
What We Like
  • Available in the distribution repositories.

  • Open source.

  • Loads of games.

  • Great for basic games.

What We Don't Like
  • No online play.

  • Not that visually appealing.

  • Lacking in features.

The GTK board games package is included not because the implementation of the Chess game is great, but because you get lots of different games and they take up hardly any disk space or memory.

The GTK board games package comes with the following games:

  • Chess
  • Anti-chess
  • Breakthrough
  • Pacman (hmmm, not really very good though)
  • Fifteen puzzle
  • Same game
  • Tetris
  • Blet
  • 18 Queens Puzzle
  • Towers of Hanoi
  • Hiq
  • Plot 4
  • Quarto
  • RGB
  • Pentaline
  • Dots and boxes
  • Stopgate
  • Pentominoes
  • Balanced Joust
  • Othello
  • Wordtris
  • 4 letter words
  • Maze
  • Hypermaze
  • Infiltrate
  • Knights Tour
  • Mastermind
  • Ataxx
  • Checkers
  • Memory
  • Nine Mans Harris

So basically in this case you get dozens of games as well as chess.

The actual implementation of Chess is very basic and a note on the top of the screen says "warning this game has not yet been fully implemented".

Obviously, there is no multiplayer mode but there is a fairly decent AI and the rules seem to be well catered for including the ability to castle.

Not as visually pleasing as the other chess games but for a bit of quick light relief whilst waiting for a large file to download or waiting for a video to rip, this is a decent option.

Install with:

sudo apt install games-board