#chess-engine #chess #move #lookup-tables #generator #generate-table #board-game


This is a fast chess move generator. It has a very good set of documentation, so you should take advantage of that. It (now) generates all lookup tables with a build.rs file, which means that very little pseudo-legal move generation requires branching. There are some convenience functions that are exposed to, for example, find all the squares between two squares. This uses a copy-on-make style structure, and the Board structure is as slimmed down as possible to reduce the cost of copying the board. There are places to improve perft-test performance further, but I instead opt to be more feature-complete to make it useful in real applications. For example, I generate both a hash of the board and a pawn-hash of the board for use in evaluation lookup tables (using Zobrist hashing). There are two ways to generate moves, one is faster, the other has more features that will be useful if making a chess engine. See the documentation for more details.

5 releases

0.0.5 Nov 30, 2022
0.0.4 Nov 29, 2022
0.0.3 Nov 29, 2022
0.0.2 Nov 27, 2022
0.0.1 Nov 24, 2022

#662 in Game dev

MIT license


A Fast Chess Library In Rust

Build Status docs.rs DeepSource crates.io

This library handles the process of move generation within a chess engine or chess UI.

This is a library to manage chess game state and move generation.

Requires Rust 1.31 or Greater

This library requires rust version 1.27 or greater in order to check for the BMI2 instruction-set at compile-time. Additionally, this build is compatible with rust 2018 which, I believe, requires rust 1.31.

Note: bmi2 has been disabled due to horrible performance on AMD architectures. I have instead opted to expose the two relevant functions publicly if on a bmi2 CPU.


Incremental Move Generation With Capture/Non-Capture Sorting

Here we iterate over all moves with incremental move generation. The iterator below will generate moves as you are going through the list, which is ideal for situations where not all moves will be looked at (such as in an engine search function).

  use candidate::MoveGen;
  use candidate::Board;
  use candidate::EMPTY;

  // create a board with the initial position
  let board = Board::default();

  // create an iterable
  let mut iterable = MoveGen::new_legal(&board);

  // make sure .len() works.
  assert_eq!(iterable.len(), 20); // the .len() function does *not* consume the iterator

  // lets iterate over targets.
  let targets = board.color_combined(!board.side_to_move());

  // count the number of targets
  let mut count = 0;
  for _ in &mut iterable {
      count += 1;
      // This move captures one of my opponents pieces (with the exception of en passant)

  // now, iterate over the rest of the moves
  for _ in &mut iterable {
      count += 1;
      // This move does not capture anything

  // make sure it works
  assert_eq!(count, 20);

Setting up a position

The Board structure tries to keep the position legal at all times. This can be annoying when setting up a board, for example via user input.

To deal with this, the BoardBuilder structure was introduced in 3.1.0. BoardBuilder structure follows a non-consuming builder pattern and can be converted to a Result<Board, Error> via Board::try_from(...) or board_builder.try_into().

  use candidate::{Board, BoardBuilder, Piece, Square, Color};
  use std::convert::TryInto;

  let mut board_builder = BoardBuilder::new();
  board_builder.piece(Square::A1, Piece::King, Color::White)
               .piece(Square::A8, Piece::Rook, Color::Black)
               .piece(Square::D1, Piece::King, Color::Black);
  let board: Board = board_builder.try_into()?;

Making a Move

Here we make a move on the chess board. The board is a copy-on-make structure, meaning every time you make a move, you create a new chess board. You can use board.make_move() to update the current position, but you cannot unmake the move. The board structure is optimized for size to reduce copy-time.

  use candidate::{Board, ChessMove, Square, Color};

  let m = ChessMove::new(Square::D2, Square::D4, None);

  let board = Board::default();
  assert_eq!(board.make_move_new(m).side_to_move(), Color::Black);

Representing a Full Game

There is more to chess than just what is on the board. The Game object keeps track of the history of the game to allow draw offers, resignations, draw by 50 move rule, draw by repetition, and in general anything that needs the history of the game.

  use candidate::{Game, Square, ChessMove};

  let b1c3 = ChessMove::new(Square::B1, Square::C3, None);
  let c3b1 = ChessMove::new(Square::C3, Square::B1, None);
  let b8c6 = ChessMove::new(Square::B8, Square::C6, None);
  let c6b8 = ChessMove::new(Square::C6, Square::B8, None);
  let mut game = Game::new();
  assert_eq!(game.can_declare_draw(), false);
  assert_eq!(game.can_declare_draw(), false); // position has shown up twice
  assert_eq!(game.can_declare_draw(), true); // position has shown up three times

FEN Strings

BoardBuilder, Board, and Game all implement FromStr to allow you to convert an FEN string into the object. Additionally, BoardBuilder and Board implement std::fmt::Display to convert them into an FEN string.

  use candidate::Board;
  use std::str::FromStr;
      Board::from_str("rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1")
              .expect("Valid Position"),

Compile-time Options

When compiling, I definitely recommend using RUSTFLAGS="-C target-cpu=native", specifically to gain access to the popcnt and ctzl instruction available on almost all modern CPUs. This is used internally to figure out how many pieces are on a bitboard, and what square a piece is on respectively. Because of the type system used here, these tasks become literally a single instruction. Additionally, BMI2 is enabled on machines with the instructions by using this flag.


The BMI2 instruction-set is used on machines that support it. This speeds up the logic in two ways:

  • It uses built-in instructions to do the same logic that magic bitboards do.
  • It reduces cache load by storing moves in a u16 rather than a u64, which can be decompressed to a u64 with a single instruction.

On targets without BMI2, the library falls back on magic bitboards. This is checked at compile-time.


Another rust chess library is in the 'shakmaty' crate. This is a great library, with many more features than this one. It supports various chess variants, as well as the UCI protocol. However, those features come at a cost, and this library performs consistently faster in all test cases I can throw at it. To compare the two, I have added 'shakmaty' support to the 'chess_perft' application, and moved a bunch of benchmarks to that crate. You can view the results at https://github.com/jordanbray/chess_perft.

What It Does

This library allows you to create a chess board from a FEN-formatted string, list all legal moves for the chess board and make moves.

This library also allows you to view various pieces of board-state information such as castle rights.

This library has very fast move generation (the primary purposes of its existance), which will be optimized more. All the tricks to make chess move generation fast are used.

What It Does Not Do

This is not a chess engine, just the move generator. This is not a chess UI, just the move generator. This is not a chess PGN parser, database, UCI communicator, XBOARD/WinBoard protocol, website or grandmaster. Just a humble move generator.

More coming soon

API Documentation



This project was forked from https://github.com/jordanbray/chess, as of 91fe8e2. Several unmerged PRs have been added into this version - the author on these commits has been set to reflect the actual author. Maintaining backwards compatibility with the chess crate is a non-goal. Expect breaking changes until 1.0. Check CHANGELOG.md for details - all breaking changes should be marked as BREAKING

Some of the improvements made since the fork:

  • Build times are drastically improved. rust-analyzer actually works now (thanks KarelPeeters)
  • Checking the status of the Board is 2-3x faster for a fully populated board (thanks AlexanderHarrison)
  • Using Game is 10-20x faster for reasonably sized games when using the new cache_game_state feature (more for larger games). If you're in an embedded environment and can't tolerate the extra KB of memory, you can disable this feature.
  • Legality checking of unsanitized moves is 4-5x faster
  • Game::make_move now returns Option<String> with the SAN representation of the move. Board::make_move still returns a bool to avoid overhead in the hot path
  • Optional instrumentation added to Game, using tracing - just use the instrument_game feature.
  • Board::en_passant_target and Board::has_checkers added as convenience methods. Board::en_passant is slightly faster than Board::en_passant_target for now.
  • Performance benchmarks added

Is it any good?