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How to choose chess engine for Mac ?

x86-64, pop, popcnt, win-32bit, Intel, x86-32, arm64, amd64, modern, vnni, old, bmi2, m1, apple silicon, sse4, pgo, pext, ... ?, .... ?!, .....??

What is this all about ? Why all these symbols ? What are the markings needed for ?

I just want to use the right chess engine for my computer, and it should work !

And you're right, that's how it should be. But it usually isn't.

How-To is intended for inexperienced users.

The chess engine should run without any fuss on your computer.

You use a Mac, download the engine for that operating system, install it in your favorite GUI, and it should work. And you shouldn't care if your Mac is 32 or 64 bit, or if your processor is Intel or Apple Silicon M1. The engine should work.

But... this is usually not the case!

When you use friendly chess software that automatically selects the right chess engine for your computer, then it is as it should be. Technology should help, make it easier, make it convenient to use the capabilities of the software and the chess engine.

When you wish to use, for example, the offer of a well-known commercial engine manufacturer or the benefits of open source, download a free chess engine and use it, you should often know which version to choose. Otherwise, you will be left with the trial-and-error method or searching for answers on the Internet.

From the perspective of the last few decades, although chess engines are at an increasingly high level, their manufacturers and developers still force ordinary users into undesirable choices.

You buy or download a free chess engine, it should run on your computer without any compilation. That's how it should be...

Why is this important ?

Because if you choose wrongly, at worst the chess engine will not work, and at best the chess engine will work and play at a lower level and with less power than it could.

This How to is intended to give you the knowledge that will enable you to choose the most suitable chess engine for your computer.

We will use the official version of the Stockfish chess engine to show all the nuances of the selection.

Always download chess engines from safe places on the web with a good and established reputation.

Before I start this How to for good, I will write that if you have obtained a chess engine from a safe source, you are an inexperienced user, and you want to have a working chess engine quickly and easily, then:

  • first choose the version with avx2 in the name, because it's giving significant extra speed and power for most 64-bit computers made since 2013 (AMD or Intel CPU's).

  • or... just run one by one and see if it works :)

Contrary to what you might think, this is a relatively safe way to check the acquired chess engine(s), but not the least effective one, since even if any of them will allow you to run and work, it will not be optimally selected for your Mac. Nevertheless, it is a way.

It is worth knowing that the chess engine:

  • Designed for a specific operating system, such as Mac, by default will not work under any other, such as Linux or Windows.

  • Designed for a specific architecture usually will not work on another architecture, e.g. Linux x86-64 will not work on Linux arm64 and vice versa. There are some exceptions here, e.g., the ability to run Windows 32-bit engines on Windows 64-bit, the ability to run Mac engines compiled for older Intel processors in a Mac environment with an Apple Silicon processor, and so on.

Let's move on to the substance.


The choice starts with a simple thing - choosing a chess engine for the operating system your computer uses.

From the dedicated page you can download Stockfish 15. 1 or directly - below.

If you are using Mac, choose the chess engine for Mac.

If you are using Mac, do not get chess engine for Linux.

If you are using Mac, do not get chess engine for Windows.

Sometimes in the name of the chess engine instead of the name Mac, you can find names:

  • darwin

  • macOS

  • osx

They mean the same thing - a chess engine dedicated to Mac computer.


Now you should choose the version suitable for your Mac.

Download 7Z • 22.26MB
Download 7Z • 22.09MB

  • If you are using an Apple Silicon-based Mac, then choose Stockfish-15.1_Mac_Apple_Silicon.7z

  • If you are using an Intel-based Mac, then choose Stockfish-15.1_Mac_Intel.7z

If you don't know how to check which Mac you are using, then go to Apple's website.

What happens if you choose wrong ?

  • If you choose the Apple Silicon version having Intel-based Mac Stockfish will not start.