Whether you enjoy chess as a casual activity, or are trying to hone your skills as a professional player, or are even just socializing on the basis of this shared interest, you’ll find a place online to play. There are thousands of servers where you can always find a willing opponent at any time of the day. Here are some of the top sites you should check out.
Chess.com is huge. It has over 11 million members and that number just increases every day. On any given day, there will be more than a million games going on at the same time. Players can play live chess with time controls, or correspondence games where they take their own time to make a move (which can even be days.) Chess.com is known to be welcoming to newcomers, and is a friendly environment for chess players, at least for the most part. The server is free of cost, and allows users to play on their phones. VIP users, however, can pay a premium in order to gain access to extra training features, videos and statistics. However, there are a lot of learning tools and introductory lessons that’ll also help basic players increase their knowledge of chess strategies, and refine their methods.
If you’re a part of the online chess community, you would have already heard of the ICC. It is the premier chess site, and the oldest as well, having been founded in 1995. It’s not meant for casual players, but if you’re looking for some stiff competition, you head here. The ICC is simply filled with top players, including titled players and grandmasters. And you can even challenge them yourself! There’s a one month free trial period, but membership isn’t free. Members can access libraries of games, recorded lectures and private lessons at additional cost.
ICC allows members to play both chess and quite a few chess variants against other users and computers with a rating system in place. Members can also watch live tournament broadcasts complete with commentary by grandmasters and watch past games with titled players on ICC. Plus, ICC even offers tournaments, such as when it partnered with the United States Chess Federation to provide online quick and blitz tournaments.
ICC has its own proprietary software, Windows BlitzIn and the Dasher program. It also has sophisticated methods to detect cheating.
Another old online chess server, the Free Internet Chess Server was set up as a free alternative to ICC when the latter began to charge for membership. Players will need to download a compatible interface due to the lack of an official application that can connect to and interact with the server. They can either play as anonymous guests or make a user account, for which the server will maintain game statistics and ratings. FICS has more than 650,000 registered accounts at this time.
FICS also has a number of limited chat channels, which are strictly monitored and censored. The channels are mostly only used for general help, helping out guest players and for general chat. Players can also use “shouts” as a way to mass communicate.
Apart from chess, FICS also plays host to chess variants like suicide, loser’s chess and wild, and hosts regular tournaments as well.
A free and open source online chess server, Lichess provides a variety of online play modes. Lichess is massively popular – second only to chess.com, which is number 1 worldwide. Every feature on the website is free without exceptions, including the training features like tactics training, puzzles and chess coordinate. The site supports both live and correspondence chess games against other players at different time controls. Like FICS, players don’t need to register to play and can use the website anonymously instead. But registered players can make use of the ratings system, compete in Lichess’s tournaments and post in the forums. They can also use the Stockfish chess engine in order to analyze played games. Additionally, registered users can earn the title of Lichess Master, which will then appear by their username.
Users can play one of the chess variants hosted by the website too, like Chess960, King of the Hill and Racing Kings. Lichess is also friendly to players with visual impairments, with features in place to help them play the games. Players can stream live to twitch.tv, hitbox.tv and YouTube. Lichess is host to established players like Grandmaster Eric Hansen and International Master John Bartholomew.
This is another massive chess community, with over 1.4 million members. Every day, ChessCube hosts hundred of tournaments that allow players to win cubits, the online currency used at the site. These cubits can then be used at the ChessCube shop to buy items like backgrounds, voices, chess piece colors and chess piece styles. Another form of currency is crowns, which are meant for premium or VIP members, but can also be used by players strong enough to win tournaments. Crowns can be used to enter some kinds of tournaments and to buy items at lower levels permanently.
The community is largely free from trolls and abusive players, thanks to its system of moderators who have the power to mute abusive players or report users who are cheating. Registered players can chat with each other in the chat rooms or while playing or spectating games. Players don’t have to register, but registered players can make use of more perks than anonymous guests.
GameKnot is a free to play correspondence- only site. As correspondence-only sites go, it is on the larger side, with over a million players. While the website is slow to update, and the lack of an open forum makes it difficult to have discussions, GameKnot makes up in other areas. The tactics trainer on the website is an improvement over that of Chess.com, since GameKnot does not time all its tactics and force players to lose points if they don’t complete a move in 5 seconds. Additionally, GameKnot uses tactics played on real games on the site. On Chess.com, which has very few hard puzzles, it is possible for players to game the system by memorizing the answers to them and then completing the puzzle when it invariably appears again later. GameKnot, on the other hand, is not so limited in its supply of hard puzzles, and so players cannot game the system in this way.
Gameknot has also has a large database with just under 800K games for version 1.e4 of its world database. There are even more games under the GamerKnot database.
Red Hot Pawn is also a correspondence-only site. Basic membership here is free, but users can register to gain access to the advanced features. Red Hot Pawn has a large user base, which can play in tournaments on the site. It also has ladders, teams (or ‘clans’) and other play modes.
It’sYouTurn.com is a lot more no-frills than most of the other websites mentioned here. It is a better site for casual players than it is for players looking for strong opponents. The website provides simple correspondence play, and in addition to chess, players can also play other strategy games like Go, Xiangqi, Backgammon and Battleships.