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Where to Play Chess Online: the Best Websites

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 4


After the success of the article about the Top 3 books to improve your chess skills, here is a review of the best places to play chess online. However, don't hesitate to look for a local chess club near to you as playing against someone on the board is generally much more fun.

4. Yahoo Games

A bit Disappointing

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Yahoo proposes a lot of games and chess is one of them. If you are using Yahoo  for the news, the mails or the search engine, you may as well use their website to play chess on line.

How does it work? You first need to find the yahoo game page where you can play chess. It is not so easy as they have several chess games  where you play against the computer. The correct path is "Games/Board Games/Most Popular Games/Chess" (not Flash Chess or Ultimate Chess). The address is this one: http://games.yahoo.com/play/ch&ss=1 but it is not easy to remember.

Then you need to choose a room depending on your level (social, beginner, intermediate or advanced) and on the number of people in the room. The more people in it, the more chance you have to find an opponent, but the rooms are limited to 200 players.

Finally, you create a table with your time preferences (15 minutes + 10 seconds per move per default, which is quite slow for the internet but may be quite fast if you are used to thinking a lot). Someone will join the table to play and start the game. Some people may join to simply watch the game. You can also join a table already created to play but generally the other person is not answering.

The good points about Yahoo games are:

  • no need to install a client, works directly from your internet browser 
  • completely free 
  • always some people connected
  • the mechanisms of the site (room, table, ...) is not so complex once you get it

Bad points are:

  • mostly casual, not so strong players
  • interface not optimised to play chess (no full screen, some ads, time not visible enough, ...)
  • the mechanisms of the site seem unnecessary and can be difficult to understand at first 

3. Freechess.org

100% Free, Passion-Driven Server

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Freechess.org is a non-profit chess server. Everything is free and for casual players this sounds like a good idea. Also, this server proposes many chess variants (loser chess where the aim is to lose the game, crazyhouse where you can re-use pieces you have captured from your opponent, atomic chess where pieces explode, bughouse for 4 players,...). This server was the definite best place to play chess 10 years ago. Since then it has unfortunately been the victim of the success of the other websites (number 2 and number 1 on this list). 

How does it work? You go to freechess.org (not .com) and either register yourself or login as guest (Login now, and then when the applet appears, login as guest). A Java applet called Jin will appear . Don't close the original window or it will disconnect the applet. You are then connected to the server and able to start a game: in the actions window, you will find a "Find an Opponent..." button which will let you choose the time limits you want (again, default is 10 minutes + 15 seconds per move, which is pretty slow for internet standards but is a bit fast if you are used to thinking a lot).

The good points about Freechess.org:

  • non-profit, 100% free, no ads, no premium membership, only passion-driven people
  • many chess variants (bughouse, crazyhouse, atomic chess, ...)
  • some tutorials are available (announced now and then; otherwise you can download them)
  • you can even have someone analyse one of your game for free ("teaching ladder" on the main page of freechess.org)

The bad points:

  • the default interface is really limited, mostly commands based, some features are missing, ... If you are used to linux, you will be fine. Otherwise, you'd better download an interface to connect to this server (many chess fans developed free interfaces for this server, one is called Thief)
  • most very strong players have left this server to places where they could make a little money (see 2 and 1 of this list). That made the strong players leave, then the intermediate ones, ...

2. Playchess.com

Most Professional Place

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Playchess.com is a bit the opposite of freechess.org. All is about money here. But this is not necessary a bad thing. That enables playchess.com to add new features, improve the user interface, hire some people to organise chess tournaments online, or commentators to cover big events like the world championship with live coverage and explanation about what is happening. If you can afford it and are serious about chess, Playchess.com is a good place to play chess. 

Also, strong players (grandmasters) can earn a little bit of money on Playchess.com through the server currency, the ducats. This can be for a play-for-money game against you, an analysis of your game, some private chess lessons etc... This is very popular among strong players and is beneficial for you, because if very strong players are connected, strong players will be interested to connect to this server too, which will attract intermediate players, ... ie many players connected, many tournaments organised, many games between very strong players you can observe.

The good points about playchess.com:

  • many strong players, probably favourite places for grandmasters
  • many tournaments organised with many prizes where you can earn ducats (and then use these ducats to get free lesson or free game against grandmasters)
  • live coverage of main events with popular commentators (among the best commentators you can find)

The bad points:

  • generally speaking, this server is not free. 32,90 euros for one-year classic membership
  • you need to install a client to play on playchess.com 

1. Chess.com

Best for Casual Players

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With over 5 millions members, Chess.com is now the most popular place to play chess. 

How does it work? Simply go to chess.com. Easy to remember, free to play, no need for a client and an intuitive interface.

The server proposes 2 types of play: live chess to play live against someone (the usual stuff) and "online chess" which is correspondence chess  (you have many days to play a move). The correspondence chess is quite popular through team games (you join a team, discuss every moves and vote for the best move).

The server has an incredible number of features. Puzzle of the day, articles from Grandmasters, tournaments (limited number for basic members), videos tutorials (for paying members) and a forum. The forum is active and may even be the best chess forum on the net. Everything from discussions about a particular opening to the best ipad app, or book recommendations for children can be found (otherwise, you could simply ask).

The good points about chess.com:

  • free to play (at least for most features)
  • no need to install a client, works directly from your internet browser
  • active forum
  • many features (puzzle of the day, articles from Grandmasters, ...)
  • possibility to play correspondence chess, alone or inside a team

Bad points:

  • less very strong grandmasters than playchess.com
  • less tournaments than playchess.com, nothing to win in tournaments
  • no chess variants such as bughouse, loser chess, crazyhouse, atomic chess, ...


Despite my ranking, all these sites have advantages and disadvantages and are worth checking. You may then find the one that fits you best. Have great chess games online!

Here are more chess articles that may interest you:




Jul 18, 2012 10:45pm
I found this article quite interesting, I use www.redhotpawn.com. for online chess. I'd like to see more chess related articles from you. I've got a list of chess articles I'll be mainly focussing on over the next month myself. I can already tell your chess background stems from a different set of reading material than my own. So it would interest me alot to have another writers perspective on chess strategies.
Jul 18, 2012 10:57pm
Thanks for your comment. I am actually working on a chess article right now.
Sep 8, 2014 5:30am
For the moment, I am playing on PremiumChess http://premiumchess.net/. I used to play in chess.com but PremiumChess is certified by FIDE and its more interesting for me to play with federations through out the world. I really recommend you to try it out.
Sep 8, 2014 5:43am
Thanks for mentioning it! I do remember when the FIDE announced it but I haven't taken the time to try it yet.
Also, I have been playing a bit on chess24.com and this site is also really nice. I particularly like their live coverage of major chess events.
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