December 22, 2008 the new Arena 2.0 graphical user interface for UCI and winboard engines was released. I have had a chance over the past few weeks to try it out and have found it to be extremely well done. Martin Blume has continued development over many years paying close attention to user feedback to create this programming masterpiece. Leaner and meaner than most commercial interfaces, it is not only the place many engine players started, but is where many are retuning. Using less hardware resources and having more up to date engine protocols makes Arena 2.0 very attractive for competitive engine chess purposes.
Arena has its own .abk opening book format which is straight forward and lends its self very well to hand tuning. The main install package went onto my Windows XP pro 64 system with out a problem and runs 64 bit multi processor engines nicely. In fact I get a few more Nodes per second out of Rybka 3 than I am accustom to. Engine vs. engine matches run flawlessly and the PGN files generated can easily be converted to CB data file format for use in .ctg book work. I now have two of my computers running Arena 24-7 using identical Rybka 3 engines do comparative book testing.
Included in the 2.0 main package is a variety of strong engines to get you started, SOS, Spike, Ruffian and even Rybka v2.2n2 mp.x64. Also included is a PGN database from Olivier Deville, a small opening book form master book maker Harry Schnapp and a mini book by some guy that I don’t know.
There is no better GUI to learn how to configure chess engines, utilize hash tables and system resources. Over 250 chess engines are compatible with Arena 2.0 and there is a vast number of downloadable add-ons, all free at playwitharena.com.