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How to play chess against ChatGPT (and why you probably shouldn't)

ChatGPT is capable, but its chess abilities don't always impress.
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Published onMay 28, 2023

Modern AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Bing Chat can mimic human conversation to a surprising extent. And if that wasn’t enough, the latest language models also boast impressive logical reasoning abilities. GPT-4, for example, ranks in the 90th percentile of test-takers in exam topics ranging from biology to world history. So with these impressive credentials, you may wonder: can ChatGPT play chess? And if so, what’s the best way to challenge one of the world’s most capable chatbots to a game?

Here are two different ways to play chess with ChatGPT. Later, we’ll also recommend some alternative chess AI you can try instead.

QUICK ANSWER

To play a game of chess versus ChatGPT, you have two options. You can type in your own prompts and match the moves manually on a website like chess.com. Alternatively, third-party services like ChessGPT communicate with the chatbot behind the scenes and translate the moves to a chessboard. Keep reading to learn more.


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How to play chess with ChatGPT: The straightforward method

Are you looking for the most straightforward way to play chess with ChatGPT? Just ask the chatbot to play along. But what about the chessboard? Unfortunately, ChatGPT can’t draw or render images just yet, so you’ll have to make do with just text. Seasoned chess players will already be familiar with algebraic chess notation, which uses a system of coordinates to identify the location of squares on a board. And that’s exactly what we’ll use to play chess with ChatGPT.

You can learn more about how the algebraic notation works on Chess.com. We’ll also use the same website to play the game versus ChatGPT. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Navigate to ChatGPT’s mobile app or website and log into your account.
  2. In a new conversation thread, enter the following prompt: “Hi ChatGPT, I’m looking for a chess partner who can challenge me and help me improve my skills. Do you want to play a chess game with me? Please tell me if you want to play as white and use algebraic chess notation to communicate your moves. I’d also appreciate it if you could respond with witty comebacks to each one of my moves.”
  3. ChatGPT will respond with either black or white and their opening move. To translate this into an actual game, navigate to Chess.com > Learn > Analysis.
  4. Tell ChatGPT your next move (for example Nf6) and wait for ChatGPT to respond, as pictured above. Keep going until the game ends, either in checkmate or stalemate.

How to play chess with ChatGPT: The easy method

chessgpt screenshot
Calvin Wankhede / Android Authority

OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, also allows third-party developers to communicate with the chatbot through code. This has led to the rise of many ChatGPT-powered websites, including a handful centered around board games like chess. In fact, the popular chess.com website had a GPT-powered AI opponent until very recently.

Why use a third-party website rather than ChatGPT directly? Primarily because you don’t need to switch back and forth between a chessboard and the chatbot. ChessGPT.ai, for example, pitches itself as ChatGPT “hooked up with a chessboard” with a bit of creative prompt engineering.

Another service, creatively named Chess vs. GPT, even lets you check match replays and read the chat log as the game progresses.

Should you play chess against ChatGPT?

With the instructions on how to play chess with ChatGPT out of the way, just how capable is the chatbot? I played a few games using the above methods and found that the chatbot just didn’t perform as well as I expected.

On more than one occasion, ChatGPT forgot the board’s state and suggested illegal or nonsensical moves. It would also conjure up pieces that no longer existed on the board. In that respect, the second method worked a lot better as it would automatically tell ChatGPT to try again.

ChatGPT doesn't play chess very well, so consider trying a different AI.

If you were hoping to beat an AI at chess, chances are that you will win against ChatGPT quite easily once it fumbles. That’s hardly surprising, though, if you remember that the GPT in ChatGPT signifies a large language model and not a general-purpose artificial intelligence program. The world already has several chess-optimized AI that can outperform just about any human. Some examples include AlphaZero and the open-source Stockfish engine. You can play against the latter via a free app, completely offline.

So should you play chess versus ChatGPT? I’d recommend it for entertainment, but not much else. If you do manage to play a full game without errors, consider yourself lucky!