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MIT license

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Owlchess 🦉🦀

Crates.io: owlchess Documentation Build

Yet another chess crate for Rust, with emphasis on speed and safety. Primarily designed for various chess GUIs and tools, it's also possible to use Owlchess to build a fast chess engine.

The code is mostly derived from my chess engine SoFCheck, but rewritten in Rust with regard to safety.

This crate supports core chess functionality:

  • generate moves
  • make moves
  • calculate game outcome
  • parse and format boards in FEN
  • parse and format moves in UCI and SAN


Fast: chessboard is built upon Magic Bitboards, which is a fast way to generate moves and determine whether the king is in check.

Safe: the library prevents you from creating an invalid board or making an invalid move. While such safety is usually a good thing, it is enforces by runtime checks, which can slow down your program. For example, validation in owlchess::Move::make makes this function about 30-50% slower. So, if performance really matters, you may use unsafe APIs for speedup.


Generating moves

use owlchess::{Board, movegen::legal};

fn main() {
    // Create a board from FEN
    let board = Board::from_fen("rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/4P3/8/PPPP1PPP/RNBQKBNR b KQkq e3 0 1")

    // Generate legal moves
    let moves = legal::gen_all(&board);
    assert_eq!(moves.len(), 20);

Making moves from UCI notation

use owlchess::{Board, Move};

fn main() {
    // Create a board with initial position
    let board = Board::initial();

    // Create a legal move from UCI notation
    let mv = Move::from_uci_legal("e2e4", &board).unwrap();

    // Create a new board with move `mv` made on it
    let board = board.make_move(mv).unwrap();
        "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/4P3/8/PPPP1PPP/RNBQKBNR b KQkq e3 0 1"

Playing games

The example below illustrates a MoveChain, which represents a chess game. Unlike Board, MoveChain keeps the history of moves and is able to detect draw by repetitions.

use owlchess::{Outcome, moves::make::Uci, types::OutcomeFilter, Color, WinReason, MoveChain};

fn main() {
    // Create a `MoveChain` from initial position
    let mut chain = MoveChain::new_initial();

    // Push the moves into `MoveChain` as UCI strings

    // Calculate current game outcome
        &Some(Outcome::Win {
            side: Color::Black,
            reason: WinReason::Checkmate,


Some examples are located in the chess/examples directory and crate documentation. They may give you more ideas on how to use the crate.

Rust version

This crate is currently tested only with Rust 1.71 or higher, but can possibly work with older versions. Rust versions before 1.62 are definitely not supported.

Comparison with other crates

There are two well-known chess crates in Rust: chess and shakmaty. These crates are compared with owlchess below.

Comparison with chess

Compared to chess, owlchess provides more features:

  • distinction between various game outcomes
  • draw by insufficient material
  • formatting SAN moves
  • more safety: the board is guaranteed to be valid, as you cannot make an illegal move without unsafe
  • more detailed errors in case of failures

Still, chess has some advantages:

  • faster legal move generator (owlchess relies on fast semilegal move generator instead)
  • more mature code base

But, in many applications, it's enough to have a fast semilegal move generator and fast move validation, so real difference in performance may be less than expected.

Comparison with shakmaty

Compared to shakmaty, owlchess has the following advantages:

  • more safety: the board is guaranteed to be valid, as you cannot make an illegal move without unsafe
  • has support for draw by repetitions
  • uses more liberal MIT license instead of GPLv3

Still, shakmaty has some advantages:

  • faster legal move generator
  • moves are applied faster (especially if Zobrist hashing is not used)
  • supports many chess variants


There is a separate repo with benchmarks for different chess implementations in Rust.


This repository is licensed under the MIT License. See LICENSE for more details.


~21K SLoC