can anyone point me in the direction of a nice (and free ) chess program
I can't say if you will find it a "nice" program, but I'm sure you can download and use it free of cost.
Windows Vista has a really cool built in Chess program.
ludochess.com/jester_eng/jester_eng.html is free and at the highest level has a rating of about 2000+. It has other 'versions' like Fischerandom too.
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