Chess Servers on the Internet
Would you like to play a nice game of chess?
Internet Chess Servers not only provide online opponents for you on a 24 hour / 7 day basis, but many of them also have other features including lectures, the ability to observe and comment on other games, separate chat channels, instructional chess (where top players comment on their own game while they are playing and you are observing), chess lessons, live coverage of major chess events, Grandmaster challenges, Grandmaster analysis of your games, chess coaching, move prediction, news, chess variations, and many more. A number of the more popular chess servers are listed below. If you know of other chess servers that you suggest including on this list please e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chess.net - Chess.net evolved from the original work of Interplay Productions and its successors and has been available on AOL in the past. It is now a product of NetGames.com. Chess.net can be accessed from generic graphical interfaces such as Winboard or Xboard, or through Chess.net's client software. Chess.net offers its Chess.Net for Windows (CNFW) on CD-ROM for a price. They offer a bare bones version of CNFW for download at no cost. They also offer Java and UNIX versions of their software and can be accessed via telnet to chess.net:5000. A telnet connection provides a text based (but fast) interface. The Java interface can be directly accessed from their website with no need to download any software in advance. Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan and Roman Dzindzichashvili among others have relationships with this site. There is no charge to register at this time, but there may be in the future. Anyone can log in as a guest by not providing a password when logging in. Guests have the inconvenience of a different user ID each time they sign on. Guests cannot play rated games.
Kasparovchess (Formerly Club Kasparov) - This is Garry Kasparov's site and includes world chess news and instruction in addition to online play. Registration is required to obtain a user ID, however anyone can log on as a guest. There is no provision to download a graphical interface or client software to your computer, as the software that you will use resides on the server. This does, however, make it take longer to access than most servers, since it must load the interface every time you log on. At the present time there is no charge for registration, however there is talk that a charge will be implemented. There is a subscription fee, however, to access their "KC University", where GMs Kasparov, Kramnik, and Korchnoi, among others offer multimedia lessons.
The Free Internet Chess Server (FICS) - As the name implies, use of this server is free. It is necessary to register in order to obtain a user ID, but there is no charge to register. Anyone who doesn't want to register can log on as a guest. Players are given a choice of graphical interfaces to download, or they can access FICS via telnet to freechess.org:5000 and use a text-based interface. Among the platforms for which graphical interfaces are available are Amiga, DOS, Linux, Macintosh, Next, OS/2, UNIX, and Windows. The most common Windows interfaces are Cclient and Winboard. Winboard and Amyboard (for the Amiga) are ports of the UNIX program Xboard and can be used as generic graphic interfaces to play games previously saved as .pgn (Portable Game Notation) files, interface with many chess playing programs, and connect to a number of chess servers. These interfaces are available from but not specific to FICS.
The Internet Chess Club (ICC) - The Internet Chess Club has evolved from the original "Internet Chess Server" and is currently the largest and most active server that caters to serious players. There is an annual membership fee to join the Internet Chess Club and take full advantage of all of their features, although anyone can register as a guest and have limited access, including the ability to play unrated games. Players can download the ICC client software or use a generic graphical interface such as Winboard. The most common ICC Windows interface is called "Blitzin" (available in 8 languages). There are also interfaces for Macintosh, Unix, OS/2, and several Java interfaces. When you want to play on ICC, simply enable your Internet connection and run the ICC client software or graphical interface, which will connect you to the server. Access is also possible via telnet to lm.com:5000. As with any telnet connection the interface is not graphical, but it is fast. The ICC has a working relationship with the US Chess Federation (USCF) and a number of USCF online tournaments are played on the ICC.
US Chess Live (USCL) - This co-venture between the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and Games Parlor, Inc., is the official site for USCF online play. Registration is required for full access although anyone can sign on as a guest without charge. It is best to download the US Chess Live client software in order to play. Currently it is available only for Windows platforms, but there are plans for UNIX/Linux and Macintosh versions in the future. Other interface software such as Xboard for Linux or Unix or Fixation for the Macintosh is supported. There is no charge for registration, however USCF membership is required for registration. This means that full access is free to USCF members and the cost of a USCF membership to non-members. USCF membership also includes "Chess Life" or "School Mates" magazine and authorization to play in USCF rated Over-the-Board tournaments as well as online. The site was first opened to the public in August, 2000, and is in the process of being continuously upgraded. Many more features will be added as well as a continuing improvement of their graphical interface. Currently the site offers chat, lectures Grandmaster Challenge, Grandmaster analysis of players' games, and instructional chess (Called "Battle of the Minds" on USCL, observers can actually ask the players specific questions about their game while it is being played in addition to the player's comments throughout the game) as well as online play of chess and many variations. A new addition is a staff of chess advisors that will help you improve your chess game. They are expert level or above.
The World Chess Network (WCN)- Use of this server is free. It is necessary to register to gain access to play, but there is no charge to do so at this time. There is no provision for logging on as a guest. In order to play on this site players must download MGIchess, their client software, which is only available for Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000 platforms. It is not compatible with older versions of Windows or with non-Windows platforms. Players cannot play chess by simply going to the website. They can register, download the software, and obtain information. All connections for the purpose of playing must be made through the MGIchess software. This site is operated by Master Games, International, and features a full schedule of lectures and instructional chess sessions (called "Banter Chess"). Former World Champion Boris Spassky is one of many prominent people involved with this site. A new feature is "Predict-A-Move, where users can participate by predicting moves of master games.
When is a chess server not a chess server?
Be cautious of multiple game servers if you really want to have a good experience with chess. Multiple game servers offer not only chess, but many other board games where players move turn by turn (Checkers, Backgammon, Reversi/Othello, Go-Moku/Pente, etc.). Many of these servers do not follow the rules of chess completely. Additionally, many of the players on these servers are not particularly familiar with the rules of chess.
It's Your Turn (It'sYourTurn.com). The problem becomes apparent when you look at their version of the "detailed" rules of chess. By the time you read that the game is played on a checkerboard, you observe that the only rules deal with how the pieces move (nothing on draws, board orientation, etc.), you read that a pawn can be promoted to "any other piece" and there is no mention of en passant pawn captures, etc., you can see for yourself that it is better to use a true chess server. Some chess servers do not precisely follow all of the rules of chess, but whatever game these multiple game sites provide, its likelihood of following the rules of chess as well as the chess servers do is rather low.
Nonetheless, most Internet Portals that offer online game play will use a multiple game server. They often compromise accuracy in favor of simplicity. After all, the people that visit those sites do so for convenience and often don't know the rules anyway.
Servers for Internet portals and other general purpose Internet sites
Go2net Playsite (go2net.com or playsite.com). Go2net provides the gaming area for Infospace and its own site. The board has algebraic notation labels. You can choose to play without downloading client software or you can download the client software and install it to cut down on the time it would take to load the software online. You can register for a free account or you can sign on as a guest. Guests cannot play rated games or talk. The rules that are specified are correct.
MSN Gaming Zone (MSN.com or zone.com). The MSN Gaming Zone is the game server for the MSN portal site. They often have special events, such as the Kasparov Vs the Rest of the World match. Playing on the MSN Gaming Zone is a different story, however. They do not allow draw offers or draw claims. Stalemate is the only way to draw on the MSN Gaming Zone.
Pogo.com. Pogo.com provides the games for several Internet portals such as About.com, Excite.com, Disney"s Go Network, Iwon.com, Netscape, and NBC's NBCi. It uses an abbreviated set of rules. For example, the 50 move rule only looks for pieces being captured. The movement of pawns or change in capability of pieces are not considered. It does allow for draw offers.
Yahoo utilizes its own server and Earthlink uses the Kasparovchess server.
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Rev 1.8 Last Modified 02/18/01