Settling The Debate: Commentary With Engine Yes or No?

Chess is booming. One of the reasons is top-level chess with a great variety of commentators.

The ongoing Candidates tournament is the most important chess tournament of this year. So obviously, it attracts a lot of viewers.

Many of those discuss what the optimal commentary of these games should look like. Most importantly, if commentators should be checking the engine or not.

This article is my take on “the optimal commentary”.

Which Perspective?

There are two main perspectives I will discuss in this article.

  • Good for the game
  • Good to improve your chess

Good For The Game

That’s the easy one. It is good for most in the chess scene if we attract more viewers. More viewers means less experienced viewers.

And less experienced viewers don’t get the GM-waffling of a Zwischenzug 7 moves down the line. And even when they look at a position, they might have no idea what is going on.

Engine Bar = Quick Score Update

For them, it is key to have a quick score when they tune in. The engine, especially the eval bar, does that for them.

As the commentary anyway needs to be very basic, commentators being influenced by the Engine doesn’t make a big difference for this audience in my opinion.

They should have more brain space to find the right words, deliver background stories, and give a nice overview of each game.

Streams focusing on the growth of chess should definitely have eval bars and engine-assisted commentary.

I agree with GM Jon Ludvig Hammer’s take (an experienced commentator)

Good For Your Chess

If you care about improving your chess, or learning something, the discussion is a little more complex. Streams like the one from ChessDojo offer a human Grandmaster perspective entirely without engine help.

This allows you to get more of a look into a good players brain. So I tend to agree that this is a better way to improve your chess.


If you really want to improve your game, you need to go a step further. The passive listening to a top player will give you some nice insights, but when you play a game you’ll be on your own.

So the only way you can watch games of top players and really improve is the following.

Watching Top Level Games And Improving

1) Leave all help behind and think for yourself.

2) Note down your thoughts.

3) Replay the commentary of the position you thought about yourself and compare your thoughts to the commentator. Then, add the engine to verify.

4) Understand your misconceptions and write down what you learned. Repeat.

As there are better ways to improve your chess anyway, I’d highly recommend everyone reading this to take a nice snack, chill on your sofa, and enjoy the spectacle.

It isn’t always about improvement, and this comes from a nerdy GM who writes about chess improvement all the time…

If you actually want to improve your chess, consider signing up for my free newsletter or getting one of my courses. That really makes you improve!

Commentary With Engine Yes or No?

I think in 2024 it is unavoidable that also commentators use the engine. And that viewers at least get the possibility to watch the engine bar throughout the game.

It sometimes is sad to hear “What about Nxd5 (puts it on the board)… oh no the engine hates it, let’s go back”.

So my suggestion would be to show the engine bar only for live positions and not for variations the commentators put on the board.

This way the viewer gets to hear their thoughts without the influence of an engine bar moving up and down. Another thing to experiment is that only one commentator is using an engine and the others are giving their human take on the position.

And if you don’t agree with my takes, don’t worry.

The beauty of the internet is that you’ll find a stream that is just for you. There are so many. So enjoy the great offer, no matter how you watch the Candidates.

Kind reminder to subscribe to my Newsletter (totally free!) and check out my courses. They are pretty good my students say.

I firmly believe that

anyone can improve their chess through the right mindset and training techniques.

I’m here to guide you on your journey to chess mastery.

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