My overall feeling with gnuchess is, occasional obligatory frill aside, it’s just not meant to live as a command-line application.
Here’s my logic: It’s terribly cumbersome to control. True, you can use chess notation if you know it, or just coordinates to move pieces.
But you can’t view the board at will, you have to mentally count out coordinates if you don’t know formal notation, and there are in-game triggers and command-line options to spawn the xboard interface.
Which is all fine and dandy, but says to me that playing at the command line is just a formality, and the real intention was with xboard.
I am probably 100 percent wrong though — I usually am — so take these just as the rants of a rotten chess player. After all, this is not my first run-in with gnuchess. I hold a grudge. 👿
On the other hand, if you are a decent player you might enjoy gnuchess. And it’s worth mentioning that in a semigraphical environment (think: terminal emulator under X), you can get a sort-of graphical interface.
Font issues forced the oversized characters there; otherwise they all looked like little twisted black shapes. And of course, if your framebuffer console font doesn’t support those characters, all you get are little black twisted shapes anyway … probably identical too. 😐
I just get the feeling the text-only rendition was added to keep people like me pacified. Be your own judge though.