If you're used to 3D chess games with perfectly rendered pieces and spectacular animations, WinBoard's simple 2D approach might seem, well, basic. You can play around with colours, fonts and piece styles, or tweak everything with board themes, but none of this really makes much difference.

Look past the board design, though, and WinBoard becomes much more impressive. The Mode menu alone enables you to set the computer to play black, white or both, edit games, maybe analyze them to make sure you understand exactly what's going on.

You're not restricted to playing against a single built-in engine, either. WinBoard comes with several you can try. There's also support for connecting to various chess servers, helping you find and play chess with opponents from all over the world. Or if you don't have time for a full game, it's even possible to play by email: your opponent sends his move, WinBoard updates your board accordingly, and emails your move once you've figured it out.

If that's not enough, WinBoard also supports variations of the game, including shogi (Japanese chess), Makruk, Berolina, Spartan and many others. Games can be saved in Portable Games Notation (PGN) for easy sharing with others. And just about every aspect of the program can be precisely configured, helping to deliver exactly the results you want.

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WinBoard's visuals are basic, but the program is highly configurable and supports many chess services, engines and game variations. Worth a look if you're an experienced chess player and more interested in game depth than graphics quality.