You do not have to be a grandmaster like Bobby Fischer to play chess. Heck, you do not even have to own a chess set. All you need is a decent internet connection and one of those great online chess websites where you can learn to play or hone your skills against other players.
In general, most chess sites offer a balanced amount of resources to play chess and learn how the game works. They also offer options for playing casual ranked matches as well as tournament games. Websites are also great for analyzing games and watching live streams of pros played in global tournaments, and most are compatible with lots of languages because chess is an internationally loved game.
New players, or those who want to improve their skills, should choose a website that offers robust learning tools, from lessons and puzzles to video tutorials and tactics trainers. These will help you not only know the basics but also learn to think like a chess master. And if you want to get serious, some websites also have professional trainers that you can hire for regular lessons that will help you train in tactics, analysis and strategy.
Great community, lessons and live videos: Chess.com
Chess.com (free, with premium options) is one of the best places to play and learn to play chess. You can access it on the web or via the website’s iOS and Android apps. The site has phenomenal tools and features for both beginners and grandmasters. (You may even occasionally see some people play a game there, like Magnus Carlsen or Hikaru Nakamura.)
The site has many options for live and AI games and puzzles, tournaments and educational resources. You can easily find an opponent at your level, no matter what it is, whether you want to play a real-time game or one via correspondence. You can even keep track of your place on the top list, which hosts statistics for the site’s three million users.
Article lessons are distributed from the very beginning (learn how to move each piece) to master level maneuvers (such as advanced tactics and playoff patterns). You can also watch live streams of expert players, review master games and read a list of chess experts (including Grandmasters) available to hire as your chess coach. Or if you are the expert, you can join Chess.com’s PRO Chess League or Speed Chess Championship.
Basic membership is free and allows you to play unlimited games in real time and correspondence style and participate in forums. The three premium plans range from $ 2.42 to $ 8.25 per month and give you access to additional features such as unlimited puzzles and lessons, game reports and analytics and unlimited access to video libraries. Whether you choose to upgrade to a paid plan or not, Chess.com has invaluable resources that would appeal to both casual and pro players.
An open source chess server: Lichess
Another good site for tactical training is Lichess (free).
It is an open source server, so there are no ads or premium walls and you can access the site online or through its iOS and Android apps. You can play games against a friend or AI, or choose to participate in Swiss tournaments, daily or monthly arena tournaments or simultaneous exhibitions. If you are a beginner, you can jump in with Lichess’ Chess Basics feature, try different puzzles, train and study or even hire an expert chess coach.
In addition to regular games, Lichess also allows different game types such as Crazyhouse, Chess960, Kling of the Hill, Three-check, Antichess, Atomic, Horde and Racing Kings, and you can set your own parameters for steps and minutes per page. The site has integration with Twitch, so you can watch chess players from all over the world without leaving the site. You can also review historical games in the site’s library or browse the community forum to search for information about the site or game.
Tournaments and various training resources: chess24
Although the website’s website makes it seem like it’s focused on tournaments, chess24 (free with premium options) actually also has great training tools. There is a tab to watch live tournaments and other in-game events, or you can find something to buy from the site’s merch store.
New players have many options to learn, such as chess24’s great chess courses, video series (with lessons from top players), e-books, tactics coaches and moving database and analysis. Chess24’s Playzone makes it easy to play a game, with options for playing ranked opponents with varying time controls or in a tournament. There is a player board that stays updated regularly and a tactics trainer that is available on both the web and the iOS app.
To access some of these features, however, you will need to upgrade to one of the premium plans, which range from $ 9.90 – $ 14.99 per month. Upgrading gives you full access to everything on the site, such as e-books and videos, tactics training, game analysis, live premium training from experienced coaches and more.
Premium membership and comprehensive learning tools: Internet Chess Club
Before Chess.com and Lichess, there was the Internet Chess Club (starting at $ 9.95 per month). It’s one of the oldest chess servers out there, and although other sites have taken in and stolen some of their thunder, the ICC is still a great place to play a game against other major players, many of whom have the title. The site runs on prepaid and subscription-based memberships but offers a free 30-day trial.
The Internet Chess Club is rich in options for learning and playing chess. Even if you sign up for a free account, you can play limited free games and access the site’s more than 3,000 video lessons, but you can get the most out of the site by upgrading to a paid plan. From there, you can play in tournaments around the world and USCF ratings, take chess courses and train in the ICC’s Learning Center, follow global elite chess tournaments and watch grandmasters compete.
The site has an extensive list of buses to rent if you need help building or polishing your chess games. Similarly, the ICC’s betting options are also robust, with weekly tournaments online, casual games with friends and official US Chess Federation online tournaments.
You can refer your friends and make money when they join, read the latest chess news and talk to other players in the forum. There is even a grocery store where you can catch all kinds of chess candy from clothes and DVDs to boards and books. ICC lets you download a client for your Windows, Mac, Kindle, and Chromebook devices, or through its iOS and Android apps.
Study, watch and play at all levels: Playchess.com
Playchess.com (free with premium options) is powered by ChessBase who created the popular chess software. It offers all sorts of options for participating in the chess world, from training and games, to studying and even seeing grandmasters play in tournaments. You can also view other players’ profiles, including those of Grandmasters, and review their game steps and stats.
Playchess has games for beginners, which can give you a limited number of tips, or you can play a normal game with time control elements (such as bullet, flash or slow games) and no tips. And if you’re basically a pro, you can jump into a tournament and (hopefully) win a prize. The site also offers a large database of over eight million games and even lets you store your own in the cloud for later analysis.
For learning, the site offers lots of training videos, tactical training and a tool for developing and practicing your opening strategies. Although this site is the only one in our comparison that does not offer a mobile app, its library of training tools and game options is definitely worth checking out, regardless of your level or ranking.