The Internet has opened up a whole new world of gaming. And if you want to play chess with someone, but can't or won't do it by playing in a face-to-face tournament, or you aren't a fan of correspondence chess, then the Internet offers so many possibilities for engaging in your pastime.
It's becoming increasingly popular for people to play chess online-many sites spring up each day. There are numerous Web-based sites for different types of OTB (over-the-board) play. If you are at work, or at home working on your computer and you need a short diversion, a quick computer chess game can be just the thing for you.
If you play online chess, it's considered bad form, and is also against the official rules and regulations, to use a computer to help you win. A game is supposed to be between two players, not two players with helpers. Policing this rule is a real challenge for Internet and correspondence tournament directors, as you might expect.
How Can I Play Online?
Internet chess play is an interactive way of playing OTB chess without having to leave the comfort of your home or office. As long as you have a connection to the Internet, you can play chess. That means that you can play in a car, on a plane, through your laptop, or at your desktop computer.
Different sites offer different things, but generally all sites offer interactive play, ratings, discussions groups, information on chess software, chess databases, and a place for further reading and study. In addition, you can usually get a rating after each game played, and many sites offer lectures with grandmasters and other top players. Visiting several sites to get a feel for the atmosphere and how chess is played will give you an idea of what the various sites have to offer.
Internet Chess Clubs
Chess games can be played in real time, similar to playing games of chess via telephone. Clubs also offer information and discussion about databases, games collections, chess-playing software, and other computer programs of a similar nature, either offered for sale, or in the state of development.
As you start to log on to the various chess servers, you'll undoubtedly come across something called PGN, which stands for Portable Game Notation. This is a special computer format used for encoding chess games so they can be easily sorted and retrieved. PGN notation can be opened in your favorite (major) word processor, which will show notations as text, or you can download a software program that recognizes PGN and will display it on your computer.
If you don't know where to look for a chess game, start with one of the search engines such as Google, Alta Vista, Yahoo!, or Lycos. Type “chess games” in the search field, and watch what happens. You'll be presented with a myriad of sites that will allow you to play chess. Some charge a fee, some are for members only, and some may be free. But generally you can find a game twenty-four hours of the day, seven days a week.
Many sites allow you to play games using any time control you and your opponent agree to, ranging from one minute for the whole game to five or more hours. You can also get ratings, blitz, and slow chess. Each game is rated immediately after it is played, but if you prefer, you can play unrated games too.
A unique feature is that you can watch a variety of other players, use special graphical interfaces that allow you to make your moves using a mouse on your screen (the old drag and drop technique), talk to anyone from around the world, or even participate or watch simultaneous matches.
U.S. Chess Live
The USCF has its own chess Web site where you can connect to its online chess service, called U.S. Chess Live. Start at www.uschess.org and then click on the USCL banner. U.S. Chess Live is a service that allows you to connect with others who want to play chess online. You can also shop for products and equipment, catch up on lectures and the latest moves, participate in events, and, if you have a problem or a chess-related question, you can pose it to the administrator. You can also volunteer your time to work with other players, or participate as a lecturer in the Scout Chess program for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. The USCL online playing site features:
A built-in database to save and analyze all of your games.
Direct point-and-click access to join tournaments, lectures, and other events.
A redesigned game board featuring attractive time clocks, time of move and lag time display, and figurine notation.
An integrated profile system that organizes member profiles and player information, such as ratings and saved games, into easily accessed folders.
A message system with a traditional e-mail interface to keep in touch with your chess friends.
USCL offers a Royal Membership service that gives access to weekly events including Battle of the Minds, Master Challenges, Chess Simuls, and Guess the Moves contests for prizes. In addition, Royal Members receive access to the exclusive Chess University, featuring top chess professionals and passage to a large database of interactive chess lectures. Free entry to a vast library of past lectures that are playable on demand at your convenience is also available.