4 April 2020

Stay Home, Play Chess Online

Anna Burtasova looks into the world of online chess

The global pandemic has drastically changed our lives. Sport events are canceled all over the world and chess is no exception. There are neither top events to follow nor visits to a chess club, your neighbor or grandparents to pass time over the board.

According to the Guardian, 3bn people are living in isolation these days. Online games, streams, and e-sports are filling the void. Luckily, chess is a perfect game to play online with many platforms offering games, friendly challenges, as well as lessons and lectures to improve your play. Here is our selection of the most popular ones.


Chess.com (https://www.chess.com)

With more than 4 million games being played every day and more than 35 million members, chess.com is the biggest online chess community. Basic membership is free, but premium users gain access to extra training features, videos, and statistics. In addition to playing, chess.com offers many extra services (even to their basic members), including famous “Puzzle Rush”, video lessons, streams and broadcasts from various tournaments all around the world. 

Chess.com is home to major online competitions, including PRO Chess League, that brings together top teams around the globe to compete for glory and cash. The website has a spin-off for children, ChessKid (https://www.chesskid.com/)

There are different levels of paid membership that unlocks puzzles, lessons, analyses and other perks; with $139.64 yearly for an unlimited Diamond one. 

Cost: Free for a basic membership, $139.64 yearly for unlimited “Diamond” membership

Pros: Easy to find a game of any level, a big number of training and entertaining services


Lichess.org (https://lichess.org/)

The second-largest chess community online, the French registered non-profit website describes itself as “a free/libre, open-source chess server powered by volunteers and donations.” It is known for the fast move response, with minimal lag, making it bullet players’ favorite. In addition to playing, you can analyze your games, use the database and engine, learn the fundamentals of chess and solve puzzles. 

Lichess is also famous for its “Titled Arena” tournaments that attract the world’s strongest grandmasters (Carlsen, Firouzja, Andreikin to name a few). 

Cost: Free (and will always be!)

Pros: Easy to find a game of any level, little to no lag

Chess24.com (https://chess24.com/en) 

Chess24 was launched in 2014 with offices in Hamburg and Gibraltar. What started as an idea of a chess video website, grew into an ultimate chess experience with playing, watching chess tournaments (with arguably the best tournament page interface on the market), training and entertainment. The site provides high-quality educational videos and streams and is home to the Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup featuring top players such as Carlsen, Firouzja, Duda, etc. 

After Chess24 merged with Magnus Carlsen’s company in the spring of 2019, the world champion started to be very active on Chess24, playing games with the members during his Banter Blitz sessions, commenting during the tournaments’ streams. 

Premium membership unlocks access to educational video series, eBooks, an option to challenge GMs during Banter Blitz sessions, database, PGN download, and other perks. 

Cost: Free for a basic membership, $129.99 yearly for Premium

Pros: Easy to find a game of any level, a large number of training and entertaining services, superb layout to watch tournaments


Internet Chess Club (https://www.chessclub.com/)

Launched in 1995, ICC was a pioneer of online chess. Every modern middle-aged grandmaster was surely spending endless hours in the legendary BlitzIn client, playing games, chatting with fellow players or giving lessons. 

ICC had over 30,000 subscribing members in 2005. With the internet becoming widely accessible and mobile, ICC lost its dominant position to the browser-based playing zones. However, it still stands as one of the most reliable services on the market. Now one can access the servers in various ways: via a downloadable client, through the mobile app or a browser. ICC also offers video lessons 

Cost: $69.95 yearly

Pros: Stable and reliable, video lessons


Playchess (https://play.chessbase.com/en/) 

Playchess is run by ChessBase, the creators of the most popular chess database software. The site is fully integrated with ChessBase software and other ChessBase programs such as Fritz. It allows not only to play but also to watch tournaments, analyze games and use the database.

You can play a casual game without registering, entering the zone as a guest. For a full experience, one needs to download a client and create an account. Premium account gives access to educational videos, a bigger pool of tactic puzzles, live book, PGN download, and other perks. 

Cost: guest is free, Full Premium 49.90 yearly

Pros: integration with other ChessBase products

The necessity to stay at home and practice social distancing caused a boom in online chess activity. The major websites report abnormal growth, by 40% on average from the start of the month. The recent FIDE’s newsletter provides the quotes of the people behind the top three players on the market.  

"We have broken daily records for games played, new members onboarded and concurrent players on site”, says Nick Barton, Director of Business Development for 
Chess.com. “We recently saw an increase to over 50,000 new member registrations in a single day and this number has been growing consistently over the last two weeks."

"Over the last few weeks, lichess.org's average number of users at peak times (CET evenings) has increased from around 45,000 per evening, to last night's high [29 March] of 82,000. Presumably much like all of the other sites, our metrics have increased by around 40% since the start of the month", says Theo Wait, a spokesperson for the community-run platform.

"Chess24.com's daily registration numbers have tripled since the beginning of the lockdown in many countries", says Chess24 CEO Sebastian J. Kuhnert. "The number of games played every day on our platform has, on average, doubled in comparison to the same period in 2019". 

You definitely won’t be alone in getting on board with online chess during these weeks and will certainly find like-minded people of any chess level, no matter which platform you choose.