Syzygy Endgame Tablebases (What They’re For)

Syzygy Endgame Tablebases serve as a complete repository for all conceivable endgame scenarios involving up to seven chess pieces.

This includes configurations with both the king and the pawn.

Every position in these tablebases comes with a designation: it’s either a win, draw, or loss, given that both sides play perfectly.

History and Development

In 2013, Ronald de Man introduced the Syzygy tablebases to the chess world.

These tablebases stood out, setting themselves apart from previous endgame tablebases due to their enhanced efficiency and compact size.

One of their notable features is their accessibility; they are available for free download.

Applications in Chess

Both computer chess engines and human players benefit from Syzygy tablebases.

Chess Engines

For chess engines, incorporating Syzygy tablebases ensures impeccable endgame play.

This precision gives them a discernible edge over human competitors.

Human Players

Players harness the power of Syzygy tablebases to fortify their endgame skills.

They can dissect specific endgame scenarios to discern the optimal sequence of moves, ensuring victory.

Impact on the Game

The advent of Syzygy tablebases reshaped the chess landscape.

Chess engines gained significant strength, and human players found a tool to refine their endgame prowess.

For any chess enthusiast committed to mastering the game, Syzygy tablebases are indispensable.

Benefits of Syzygy Endgame Tablebases

The benefits:

Enhancement of Endgame Skills

Through studying these tablebases, players can elevate their endgame strategies.

By analyzing specific scenarios, one can deduce the sequence of moves leading to a win.

Elevated Performance

Chess engines equipped with Syzygy tablebases have a demonstrably higher caliber of play, especially in endgame scenarios.

Precise Analysis

With Syzygy tablebases, chess engines can offer a more precise analysis of endgame positions.

They can predict the exact outcome of every position, provided the play is perfect.

If 8 Piece Endgames Are Difficult, Is 32 Pieces (Starting Position) – i.e., Solving Chess – Impossible?

The question of whether it’s possible to “solve” chess – that is, determine a definitive best move from any position – has intrigued many for years.

Let’s look into the complexity of solving chess by examining the number of possible positions and game states.

The Vastness of Chess Endgames

Endgame tablebases, like the Syzygy endgame tablebases we discussed earlier, have managed to cover all endgames involving up to seven pieces.

The task grows exponentially more difficult as more pieces are added:

8-Piece Endgames

These are immensely more complicated than 7-piece endgames due to the increased number of possible configurations.

While 8-piece endgames have not been completely tabulated, they are theoretically possible with enough computational power and storage.

32-Piece Endgames (Starting Position)

This is the starting position of a chess game, where every piece is on the board. It represents the epitome of complexity in chess.

The number of possible games and positions that can arise from the starting position is mind-bogglingly large.

The Number Game

The Shannon number, named after Claude Shannon, estimates the lower bound of the game-tree complexity of chess to be at least 10^120.

This number is much larger than the number of atoms in the observable universe!

Given current technology and understanding, it’s impossible to compute or store every possible position and game that can arise from the starting position of a chess game.

What are Syzygy Endgame Tablebases?

Syzygy Endgame Tablebases are comprehensive databases of all possible endgame positions involving up to seven pieces on a chessboard.

They provide information on whether each specific position results in a win, loss, or draw, given perfect play from both sides.

Who developed the Syzygy Endgame Tablebases?

The Syzygy Endgame Tablebases were developed by Ronald de Man.

How do Syzygy Tablebases differ from previous endgame tablebases?

Syzygy Tablebases represent a notable advancement over prior endgame tablebases in two main aspects:

  1. Efficiency: They are more streamlined and require less storage.
  2. Size: Despite being more compact, they cover a broader range of positions, accommodating endgames with up to seven pieces.

How many pieces are covered by the Syzygy Endgame Tablebases?

The Syzygy Endgame Tablebases cover all possible endgames with up to seven pieces on the board, including configurations with kings and pawns.

How can chess players benefit from using Syzygy Tablebases?

Chess players can harness the insights from Syzygy Tablebases in various ways:

  1. Skill Enhancement: By studying specific endgame scenarios, players can refine their endgame techniques.
  2. Analysis: Players can dissect complex endgame positions to determine the best sequence of moves.
  3. Learning: It serves as a tool for understanding critical endgame concepts, such as zugzwang, opposition, and triangulation.

Are Syzygy Tablebases freely available for download?

Yes, Syzygy Tablebases are available for free download.

How do chess engines use Syzygy Tablebases?

Chess engines integrate Syzygy Tablebases to access instant and precise evaluations of endgame positions. Instead of calculating moves, the engine consults the tablebase, which provides the definitive outcome of a position (win, loss, or draw) and the optimal move sequence, ensuring perfect play in the endgame.

What impact have Syzygy Tablebases had on modern chess?

Syzygy Tablebases have significantly influenced modern chess in several ways:

  1. Stronger Chess Engines: Engines equipped with Syzygy Tablebases demonstrate impeccable endgame play, outperforming engines without them.
  2. Enhanced Player Skill: Many players, from amateurs to professionals, have improved their endgame techniques by studying these tablebases.
  3. Accurate Analysis: Commentary, teaching, and post-game analysis have become more precise, as endgame outcomes can be determined definitively.

How do I integrate Syzygy Tablebases into my chess engine or software?

The integration process varies depending on the engine or software.

Generally, you’ll need to:

  1. Download the Syzygy Tablebases.
  2. Store them in a specific directory on your computer.
  3. Configure your chess engine or software to reference this directory and utilize the tablebases during analysis or play.

It’s advisable to refer to the specific instructions or documentation associated with your chess engine or software for detailed steps.

How often are Syzygy Tablebases updated?

Syzygy Tablebases are not updated in the same way software applications might receive regular updates.

Once a specific endgame position with a defined number of pieces has been “solved” and added to the tablebase, it remains static.

However, any improvements in efficiency or expansions to cover more positions could lead to updates.

What is the storage requirement for the complete set of Syzygy Tablebases?

The storage requirement for the complete set of Syzygy Tablebases depends on the number of pieces covered.

For all possible endgames with up to seven pieces, the storage size is several terabytes.

However, users can choose to download subsets of the tablebases (e.g., only five-piece endgames) which would require significantly less storage space.

How does the Syzygy Tablebase determine if a position is a win, draw, or loss?

Syzygy Tablebases employ retrograde analysis.

Starting from known endgame positions (like checkmates or draws due to insufficient material), they work backward to evaluate all possible preceding positions.

This ensures that every position in the tablebase reflects the outcome based on perfect play from both sides.

Can Syzygy Tablebases replace traditional chess engine evaluation in the endgame?

Yes, in the specific endgame scenarios covered by the tablebases, they can replace the traditional evaluation.

When a chess engine encounters a position within the Syzygy Tablebases, it can consult the tablebase for an immediate and accurate assessment instead of conducting computational analysis.

However, in positions not covered by the tablebases, the engine will revert to its traditional evaluation methods.

Are there any limitations or drawbacks to using Syzygy Tablebases?

A few potential limitations include:

  1. Storage Requirement: The complete set of tablebases requires significant storage space.
  2. Coverage: While they cover endgames with up to seven pieces, any scenario with more pieces requires traditional engine analysis.
  3. Integration: Not all chess engines or software may support or be optimized for Syzygy Tablebases.

How do Syzygy Tablebases handle positions with promotions or en passant captures?

Syzygy Tablebases account for all legal moves in a given position, including promotions and en passant captures.

If a pawn promotion leads to a win or if an en passant capture is the optimal move in a particular scenario, the tablebase will indicate it as such.

They provide comprehensive insights into every valid move for the endgame scenarios they cover.

Does Stockfish Use Syzygy Tablebases?

Yes, Stockfish, one of the leading open-source chess engines, supports and utilizes Syzygy Endgame Tablebases.

When integrated, Stockfish can access these tablebases during its analysis to achieve perfect play in endgame positions covered by Syzygy, enhancing its accuracy and strength in these scenarios.

Does Leela Chess Zero Use Syzygy Tablebases?

Yes, Leela Chess Zero (LCZero or Lc0), a neural network-based chess engine, supports and can utilize Syzygy Endgame Tablebases.

By incorporating them, LCZero can enhance its endgame performance in positions covered by Syzygy.

Did AlphaZero Use Syzygy Tablebases?

No, AlphaZero, developed by DeepMind, did not use Syzygy Tablebases or any external endgame databases.

Instead, it relied solely on its deep neural networks and Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) for evaluation and decision-making throughout the game.

Does Komodo Use Syzygy Tablebases?

Yes, Komodo, a top-tier traditional chess engine, supports Syzygy Endgame Tablebases.

When integrated, Komodo can access these tablebases to optimize its endgame play in the positions they cover.


If you’re devoted to chess and aim to enhance your skills, especially in the endgame, the Syzygy endgame tablebases are a must-have tool.

They not only bolster your endgame strategy but also empower you to play stronger and more informed chess.

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