Chess For Dummies
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You can find two types of websites for playing chess online: free and pay-to-play. The pay-to-play sites are for serious chess players, so unless you count yourself among them, stick to the free sites.

Whether you're paying to play or playing for free, you need to register and create an online ID. Below are some popular free and pay-to-play websites.

Some pay-to-play sites allow you to play as a guest to get you to try their software, but you won't have full functionality until you register.

Free sites

  • has captured the free-play market as well as the pay-to-play market in recent years, but the players there are nearly all veterans.
  • Pogo — just enter "chess" in the Search bar at the top of the home page to find a game.
  • Free Internet Chess Server.

Pay-to-play sites

On the pay-to-play sites, you can choose from a wide range of human and computer opponents. Opponents are always available because the sites' audiences are worldwide. You can even configure these sites to save your played games automatically on your hard drive so you can analyze them later — a crucial move if you want to improve.

A variety of time controls — determining how fast you must play — are offered on these sites. Many players play blitz chess, with each game taking only a few minutes, but all sorts of time controls have their adherents. One of the best sites for slower time controls is GAMEKNOT.

If you aren't ready to play online, you can still watch and learn. Most of these sites allow you to click on a game in progress, so you can then follow the action in real time. The highest-level tournaments are broadcast over the internet nowadays, and millions of eyeballs are tuned in. However, you normally have to be a registered user at one of the pay-to-play sites to join in the fun.

You may want to consider a trial membership on the pay-to-play sites, which is usually available, just to see whether a particular site is for you. Commentary by strong players accompanies many live broadcasts, and some means are usually provided for players of all abilities to ask questions or make their own observations.

Live lessons are also regularly scheduled, and old ones are archived. So you have other reasons to join rather than simply to play. But the play is the best part. Finding regular sparring partners who are roughly your equal in strength is one of the real joys of chess on the internet. You can make enduring friendships with people whom you would otherwise never meet. Go ahead — log on!

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

James Eade became a US Chess Federation Chess Master in 1981. International organizations awarded him the master title in 1990 (for correspondence) and in 1993 (for regular tournament play). Today, he writes about and teaches chess.

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