How to play chess online (some very useful tips)

You’ve probably reached the point where you want to challenge somebody besides your dad, sibling or friend, and now it’s time to take on the online world. Or maybe you’ve just gotten so much better from when you learnt the game offline a few weeks ago, that now is the time to show the online world your blistering skills!

Well, although you might overrate your own skill level (I know I have…), you should have no trouble finding a suitable place to “show off”. Post-internet proposes many different arenas to do this, so…let’s jump right into it, and have a look at some of the most well-known sites on the worldwide web! 🙂

This is your guide on how and where to play live chess online!

(we won’t go into the ‘correspondence’ option in this article)

PS! I won’t go into too deep of an analysis of each site, when the result of this could very well be a 10+ hour read…

PSPS! I should also mention that I will take a bit of a deeper look at the first two, as those are the ones I’ve played most of my games on. Just keep in mind: These are all great platforms, and will fulfill your desire to have a good time playing chess!

1. Lichess.org

Over the years I’ve tried out many different sites, and lichess.org is one of my two favorites at the moment. I find it very user friendly and easy to navigate.

lichess.org

Apart from the tabs menu next to “lichess.org”, what I really like about this page is the “quick game” option as seen in the picture. If you don’t feel like waiting or typing in any specific search criteria for your game, you simply click e.g. “3+2 Blitz”, and they find you an opponent pretty much instantly! Sometimes you’ll have to wait a whopping 5 seconds…

You also have the choice of tailoring your search to find opponents within a certain rating range, so that you can face players on a level playing field. If you want to do this, just press “Create a game” on the right hand side. For instance, if you have a rating of 1200, you can set the search for any opponent within a +/- 200 range of this, and they will find you a player with more than 1000 and less than 1400 in rating. Or if you like winning, you can tell them to find you an opponent rated way beneath you, and you’ll be likely to show off a nice win-% to your friends!

Back to the menu tab on top of the screen, which gives you the options of “Play”, “Watch”, “Learn”, “Community” and “Tools”. Personally I don’t use much else than “Play”, but I will occasionally use the other ones as well. Mostly this will include “Watch” if Magnus (the world champ) and the big boys are playing. Especially Magnus plays quite a few tournaments on here, and his preferred time control would be what we call bullet. This has ACTION written all over it, as it is a 1 min/player game!

Last thing I want to mention here (referring back to my “PS” at the start…), is their selection of tournaments. They offer a wide variety of tournaments, and you will likely find a tournament that suits you starting up at every hour.

Personal recommendation: Would definitely recommend this site to anybody!

2. Chess.com

My other personal favorite would be chess.com. This one has a lot of the same features as lichess. On the up side, it probably offers even more and better features than lichess does, but on the down side I find this one a tad slower to maneuver.

chess.com

That said, it’s a great site if you want to play chess, and also great for enjoying chess in general. What you see in the picture is one of the really neat features in my opinion. You can follow top class tournaments WITH commentary, which is awesome to watch for a chess lover (maybe you just lost seven games in a row, and want a break from playing, but not really from chess altogether…)!

When it comes to playing, this site is also a great one. They don’t have the same level of “quick game” option or the same variety of quick options as lichess, but the rest is pretty much the same.

What chess.com lacks in the playing area, they more than make up for through other features, though. One I’d like to mention particularly, is the “Puzzle rush”! This is a tactics training ground, and just an awesome one! If you’re a competitive person, you really want to try this out!

The short version:

  • You get 5 minutes
  • 3 strikes and you’re out!

The longer version:

The clock counts down from 5 minutes. When you start, they will show you a position, and you’re supposed to find the best move. If you’re succesfull, you get one point. The first puzzles will be the easiest ones, and as you go along crushing the first ones, they will get harder and harder. The difficulty of your puzzle can be seen on the right hand side of your screen. Also, as the puzzles get harder, you will have to find a longer move sequence to solve your puzzle and get that valuable point.

You can get one wrong, you can get two wrong, but three wrongs…

 

YOU’RE OUT!

 

This exercise is excellent on so many levels, first and foremost for strengthening your calculation skills and your intuitiveness, but also if you have some friends with the same level of competitiveness as you. This is nerve wracking and awesome fun!

Personal recommendation: Would definitely recommend this site to anybody!

3. Play.chessbase.com

play.chessbase.com

Chessbase has been around for a long time, first for bringing chessnews around the world, then they added a playing platform. In my opinion it’s not as good of a platform as the first two, but it’s still a good one. I find this one a little bit harder to handle, but they do have pretty much the same attributes as chess.com and lichess.org.

I won’t say too much about the lobby, playability and so forth regarding this site, but I will accentuate one very cool feature Chessbase has going for them:

“Fight”, or “fight puzzle combat”, if you will! This is a very cool feature, that allows you to play the aforementioned puzzle rush as a 1v1-battle. Here two people get the same puzzle, and the first one to solve it, gets one point. First one to 13 points wins the match. Intense and a lot fun at the same time!

Personal recommendation: Nothing wrong with this one, but not my first choice.

4. Chess24.com

As for the prior one, Chess24.com is also a

chess24.com/en/play/chess

perfectly fine site to enjoy, but just not as good as the first two. They have a lot of the same features to their home-screen as the other ones, but I don’t like how you have to scroll down to see all the components of the page. This makes it too untidy in my opinion.

Two things they have going for them, though, are:

  • a pretty large live table on their home-screen showing one of the top games, and
  • as seen on the right hand side of the picture, their banter blitz with the World Champion, Magnus Carlsen.

If you’re new to the term “banter blitz”, this is simply an opportunity for the audience to watch a live stream of somebody playing and commenting on their own games, sharing some insights to their own plans and what’s going on in their games. This can be quite enriching and enjoyable!

A third thing Chess24 does remarkably well, is their live broadcast of events around the world. You can watch top pros play live games. Although this isn’t anything exclusive to Chess24, what really makes their broadcasting stand out, is the commentary and analysis of some of the world’s best players. This applies only to the top, top tournaments, though, and it will cost you a few dollars, pounds, euros, wons, kroners (…) to get access to this.

Personal recommendation: For playing purposes, not my first choice. Definitely worth watching broadcasts here if you have some money you were going to throw away.

Some personal thoughts on the matter

First off, I would like to say this:

All four of these sites will provide what you want from an online chess platform, being enjoyable chess games.

These sites can also be considered some of the best chess training software, especially on certain topics. A decade or two ago, these platforms would only consist of the possibility of launching a game you played yourself. Today there are so many added features, and a wide variety of training opportunities being one of them.

You can learn a ton of things on these platforms, especially if you’re willing to pay a little bit extra. And when I say this, I should also mention (since I haven’t done so before…) that signing up for all these sites is completely free.

What do I use, and what should you use?

Personally – like I’ve mentioned earlier in this article – I play pretty much all my games on either lichess.org or chess.com. This does not at all mean that you should too. Try the different ones, and make up your own opinion on the topic. Maybe you enjoy some of the things I don’t find as enjoyable about a certain site, although I have to admit I have a hard time believing my opinion is not the correct one… 😮 (I can hear my wife whisper: “You’re not funny…”)

Go out there, find what works for you, and please leave a comment below on either this review or what you find to be the most suitable playing site for you. I would love to hear and discuss some thoughts on the subject!

And of course, if you need more guidance or tips, or anything else, just leave a question below!

 

Until next time,

Joachim

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10 thoughts on “How to play chess online (some very useful tips)”

  1. I really like the layout of your website; it looks good and very professional, especially when you tell the user/viewer of your website step by step tips of how to play chess online. This is further emphasized and proven by the images you add in each step, which is really awesome. One thing I would say is that the pink background is maybe a good color in your opinion but in my humble and honest opinion, I think it makes the website feel isolated in a way; if it was a more neutral color like black or grey it would be so much better. It would look even better if its a similar background image to the header.

    Overall though, you did an amazing job with regards to your website.

    1. Thank you Shakeel,

      I will most definitely take into consideration! I was quite uncertain about the topic you mention, and I guess in the end I just felt like trying something that not “everybody” else has. I should probably just stick to that, though.

      Thank you for both tips and kind words. They’re highly appreciated!

      Hope to speak to you again,
      Joachim

  2. Hi Joachim,
    Great site, my 15yr old loves chess and is super good at it. There’s no way I will ever beat him. I find with chess you always have to be thinking 2-3 steps ahead of each move and I struggle with that lol. My son on the other hand is an absolute hands down great chess player, I’m often left in awe they way he controls the board.
    I may just have to sign up for one of these sites to practice my skills. You mentioned that signing up was free, are these sites considered gambling sites where you would sign up for tournaments and win money? The reason I ask is that I’m wondering if it is appropriate to recommend these sites to my 15yr old?

    Great article,
    Thanks for the read

    Tracy

    1. Hello Tracy,

      Thanks for both kind words and good questions!

      First off I want to say: Way to go, “son”! 😀 I’m glad he enjoys it that much, and it’s remarkable how fast they will learn at that age, so he will for sure just keep getting (even) better!

      These sites are not considered gambling sites, and absolutely fine to recommend to a 15 year old. Since I can’t say this for sure about all of the mentioned sites, I will only include Lichess in this comment: Close to every tournament is played without any sort of cash prize. Once in a while (once a month or even longer in between) they will host a so-called “Titled Arena”, which is a tournament solely for titled players (IM’s and GM’s). These tournaments will pay the top five finishers, usually $1000 for 1st. To sum it up: 99.9% (or more) of the tournaments are without any money involved, and the one tournament that does, is sort of a tournament for the pros, where the average Joe can watch and enjoy (it’s like going to the movies for a chess lover :p ).

      That said, I both think and assume this goes for all of them, mainly because it would just not be good for their name to have “gambling” associated with their site.

      Hope this was helpful, and I hope you get to practise your skills in the near future!

      Just fire away if there’s anything else I can help you with 🙂

      Regards,
      Joachim

  3. Hi Joachim,
    Great article, I really enjoyed this and definitely will be checking out one or more of these sites. I like chess, but never really had any kind of instruction or read about tactics, so I’m really bad. You mentioned that lichess has a “learn” section; do you think that would be the right place to start before playing actual games against real people? And, if you don’t have a rating, is there a way to be matched up with other (very) novice players? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hey Jordan,
      that makes me happy to hear! “Really bad” is all relative, and surely you’d find people who would think you’re quite the opposite! 😉

      The “learn” section is a very nice one at lichess (as is the case for the other ones as well). Depending on what you actually know, this could very well be the place to start. It’s really intuitive and easy to use, and quite inspirational as well, if you ask me. You should be able to pick up a thing or two right away here! I would recommend spending a little bit of time here before you face “real” players. Although you learn a lot through just playing games, it’s nice to have some general understanding first. That said, there’s nothing wrong with “learning through playing” either! 🙂

      There’s no need to worry when it comes to the rating issue. Lichess – as well as any other site – will make sure to pair you with equally skilled opponents. The very first game or few games, you might face some better players. Every start-up player get’s a provisional rating, and although it’s set to a relatively low one, it might still be a bit higher than where your actual level is at. This will adjust very quickly, though, and you’ll soon enough face opponents at your own level.

      Let me know if you get to crush some hopeful opponents – that would make my day! 😉

      See you soon,
      Joachim

  4. Thank you for this! I have been searching for a great place to play chess. I sincerely like the game, but have neglected it. No longer! I will get back into it, it is one of the greatest board games of all time!

    1. Hello Alex,

      thank you, and I couldn’t agree with you more: This is the greatest game! 😀 It simply combines so many elements of thinking, focusing and concentrating, and one of the things I love the most about it, is how any age can beat any age! It doesn’t matter if you’re 10 or 70, anybody could have a good game, and also it can be – and hopefully is – equally fun to everybody!

      Glad to hear you’re getting back into it, and I’d be very excited to see you post a “Sooo enjoying chess again!”-comment! 😉

      Good luck and see you around,
      Joachim

  5. Joachim,
    This was so informative! I played some chess with a program called PureChess on steam and that’s got some cool esthetics. I’m grateful you put up some of the best sites you liked to play on. I think that chess.com was my favorite from the ones you listed. Thanks again!

    1. Hello Bobby,

      Chess.com is a really good one, and I can see why that was your favorite! They have all you can ask for and more, in my opinion. I hope you still get some time to execute this hobby, as it is the greatest hobby you can have! (I’m not biased… :p )

      Play well,
      Joachim

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