Rcommend a computer chess game (based on specific functionality requirements)

So I’m looking for a good computer chess game. In terms of skill level I’m a moderately bright amateur with no formal studying who doesn’t have the level of commitment it would take to it to the next level. I don’t care if the program can beat a grand master, and I’m not specifically trying to improve my game, I just want something I can goof around with and give my brain a little work out.

To that end I am most interested in the middle game, and like the idea of throwing together a reasonably matched random board position and fighting my way from there. So I’m looking for a chess program that would have the following functionality in order of importance (most to least)

  1. Allow me to set up the board any way I want and play it from there. (15 knights and a king against 15 bishops and a king)
  2. enough different skill levels that I can find one that is approximately my level of play
  3. Allow the computer to play itself (ideally with the ability to pause the action)
  4. After the action is paused allow me to take over as one of the players.
  5. be moderately priced

Any suggestions?

The older Chessmaster games did this, I think. Here is one from 2004 that you may want to make sure works on Windows 10(or whatever you have).

Chessmaster 10

I’m pretty fond of Xboard, which has all the functionality you require. I think the Windows equivalent is called WinBoard.

Regarding point 1, it helps to learn Forsyth-Edward notation so that you can load arbitrary positions in Xboard and practice the middle game. (I once made a typo and used k instead of n for the black knight, and Xboard didn’t complain, just gave the black side two kings. Then the evaluation engine happily allowed one of the kings to be captured, which apparently didn’t count as checkmate since black still had one king on the board.)

Regarding point 3, I recently asked Xboard to let the engines Fairy-Max and Stockfish play out a barricaded middle game position, where success for black hinged on keeping the pawn chains intact. Sometimes I would give the white pieces to Fairy-Max, and sometimes to Stockfish. I also tried letting the same evaluation engine handle both pieces. One of these permutations generated so much heat that the computer shut itself down to prevent CPU death.

Regarding point 4, in Xboard you can switch among the modes “Machine White”, “Machine Black”, “Two Machines”, and “Edit Position” at any point in a game, if you want to take over and play with one of your ideas.

Thanks, I’ll check these out.