Live Online Chess and Online Correspondence Chess

There are quite a bit of websites where you can play a game of chess online; however, if you are a serious player then the online chess world can be narrowed down to just a few sites.

Live Chess

If you are looking to play chess in real-time against somebody online then there are really three sites that offer the best competition and most activity.

1. Internet Chess Club (ICC).  The Internet Chess Club is the largest pay-to-play chess site in the world and currently has over 30,000 active members.  Many grandmasters have accounts on ICC and you can also pay for professional lessons.  The site offers quite a bit competition and quality play.  Since the website requires a subscription to play it does attract only the most serious players, which is great for those who actively compete or want to improve their game.  ICC also offers regular tournaments, team games, a rating system, and even simultaneous exhibitions against grandmasters.  In addition to playing chess ICC offers recorded lectures, videos, live tournament commentary, and a weekly broadcast on Chess.FM.   If you are a serious tournament player, or really want to improve your game, ICC is a good value, offers the best competition, and quality of play.  

2. is one of the largest free online chess communities with over 3.5 million registered users. offers videos, tournaments, tutorials, and even a mobile version.  I’d recommend as an alternative to the paid ICC if you are looking to save some cash.  IT may not offer the same quality that the ICC does, has quite a bit of content to keep the average player happy.

3.. Free Internet Chess Server (FICS).  The free Internet chess club has the same idea as the ICC, but as it’s name suggest, it’s free to join and play!  It was actually created after ICC decided to charge members as a free alternative.  FICS currently has over 330,000 members.  The site does not have all of the features that the ICC does, but it’s main focus is actual playing as opposed to tutorials and other content.  Due to the amount of members you shouldn’t have a tough time finding a game, and for the most part the quality is good, but because it’s free it tends to draw in players a bit less competitive and not as serious.  I personally found it a little hard to navigate at first as the interface is very basic.  I’ve played a few games on there but it mainly attracts blitz games, which I do not prefer.  This lead to an alternative to Live play.

Online Correspondence Chess

When it comes to playing chess online I prefer online correspondence.  Most players on live chess sites play blitz, which is a fast version of chess.  Blitz has it’s good points and can be used as a learning tool, but I prefer time to think, analyze, and experience the game, so when I can’t play long games over-the-board (in person) I prefer online correspondence chess.  In online correspondence chess, each player can have anywhere form three to fifteen days to make each move, and the players do not need to be online at the same time.  Yes, the games take longer to play overall, but I feel they are better quality, and you can have multiple games going at a time.  Games with a three day per move limit actually go by pretty quick and you don’t need to be stuck at the computer for hours.  

The best online correspondence chess website that I have played on is Red Hot Pawn (   It is free to join and does not require any downloads; you play through your browser.  Currently the site has over 100,000 active members.  I found RedHotPawn to be easy to use and a lot of fun.  The site tracks many different stats and has a great forum community.  The free membership is limited to 6 concurrent games and you cannot play in tournaments, although they usually hold an annual tournament for non-members to see what tournaments are like (fun fact: I actually won the non-member tournament that I played in!).  IF you like to take your time, have multiple games going at once, and enjoy quality chess then definitely check out!