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You are a chess player who has tried a few online chess sites or is thinking of checking some out but have not decided on the best.
There are a lot of different online chess sites to choose from, and it can be hard to know which one is right for you. Different sites offer different features, and it’s important to find one that fits the things you are looking for.
You might be looking for daily correspondence chess or the quicker, live rapid chess options like blitz for quick games. You might want to solve chess puzzles, or get some chess courses or training and watch videos too, to assist, I’m improving your chess game.
I have compiled a list and taken into account all of the aspects that could be considered, with handy reference tables for a quick view of what each chess site features, as well as some more in-depth commentary.
I hope it helps
Best Chess Websites Compared
Best Chess Websites Reviewed
I do not use all the websites listed here to play chess online but use chess.com, chess24, and Lichess most often. For the others, I have spent some considerable time learning about each, playing chess games, and investigating all features for these reviews and the chess site comparison above
The number one website for playing chess online is chess.com. It has the flexibility to offer both daily correspondence games as well as live rapid games across a wide selection of time controls but that’s not all.
You’ll find chess lessons, tactics training, game analysis, video lessons, and much more to improve your chess skills.
Chess.com can be enjoyed with a free account, but there are options for premium membership, which allows more ways to learn chess and analyzing games.
Premium users gain full access to live streams where you can often enjoy major tournaments, watch grandmasters play, and many resources and unlimited access that is not available in the free version.
The biggest online chess site in the world, and the first one I ever signed up for when looking to play chess online it is huge. I first registered for a free basic membership, playing the computer and other players.
I had no idea how vast the site was and began analyzing my games and investigating the site to see what else was on offer. Being limited, the amount of research, analysis, and puzzles I could complete, I soon registered a premium account and today have the platinum level, which for the time I spend on the site, works out excellent value for money. I have certainly become a better chess player after signing up
A favorite for chess players all over the world, Chess24, is one of the most popular chess websites to play games in either correspondence style games or live chess formats. They have an excellent chess app to play online games and get chess instruction.
So much so, that I would say, the ‘Play Magnus‘ owned site is the best for improving your chess abilities.
The playing experience at Chess24 is generally agreed to be slightly below that of the main rivals chess.com and lichess, but they have an extensive video library and even more when going premium allowing deeper analysis and also participation in events like Banter Blitz.
The site is slick, looks good and the money spent is obvious to the eye, however, from a playing perspective, it just doesn’t quite deliver for me personally like chess.com or Lichess.
That’s not to say it is not good, it works, it is clear and the user interface is excellent, perhaps I am a little too used to playing elsewhere.
As with chess.com, to analyze your games you will require a premium membership starting at 14.99 a month, although this can come down to around 90 with one of the frequent promotions that are available. I signed up using a deal, which effectively lowers membership to just 7.50 a month when paid annually in advance, and that’s pretty good value for everything that is behind the paywall.
I particularly like chess24 for the news section
Lichess is one of the best sites for playing live games of chess and you’ll find many top players as well as titled players enjoying Lichess over other websites.
Basic membership is all you need at Lichess as well, there are no premium options which makes playing on this site easy and enjoyable which is why it is one of the top online chess sites in my list.
I really enjoy puzzles, I mean, like too much, and the great thing here is you can play an unlimited number of them without having to upgrade to a paid plan where other sites have a daily limit.
I really like the playing experience on Lichess too it has a really smooth feel and a wide range of time control options.
The best thing though is the practice area, there are close to 300 practice lessons, with tactics training that will really up your chess game
Play real games of chess online with playchess.com which comes from the fantastic chessbase.
A superb site with a ton of options particularly from a learning perspective and it provides an insight into the quality of the paid products available from chessbase.
In terms of playing chess, you can play against Fritz chess program that plays like a human and makes subtle mistakes for you to take advantage of, or you can play normal games with a time control of your choice, as a beginner where you get hints within the game, or you can enter a tournament.
I like the user experience when playing games, it’s not better than others, but the part of playchess that is the most promising is the interactive video series lessons with real chess players.
The only problem is, that I have never been able to get them to work beyond question 1.
It may just be me, but it always fails, which is nothing if not frustrating.
But you don’t even need to register an account to play here, you can register for a free account or there is a premium membership which is cheaper than elsewhere at less than $50 per year, but in terms of value, doesn’t offer quite as much as can be gained for spending a little more with other sites.
Internet Chess Club (ICC)
Beginning way back in the early days of the internet in 1995, the ICC at chessclub.com is one of the first online chess websites to have been founded.
And being one of the first it used to be the most popular, but as one of the oldest chess servers, it has been overtaken by those mentioned above although it retains a loyal and excellent chess community.
It may not be the best website for playing chess online, but the learning center, video series, and puzzles are excellent.
So yeah, great for learning, but playing does require registration and software download which is a bit of a bind.
Free Internet Chess Server (FICS)
We do it for the game, not for the money, say the Free Internet Chess Server, which is all very well, but it’s pretty obvious with a poor-looking website, and the necessity to download software to play.
The thought was originally a good one to offer free chess play when ICC started charging, but it now finds itself way down the list of preferred sites to play chess on.
Again it has a loyal base of users, but they are very few in comparison with other websites to play chess on.
Free online chess games
- Players of all levels, up to Grandmasters
- Improve with Chess Tactics + Puzzles
- Monthly Tournaments + League + Ladder
- Huge Chess Games Database
- Play chess vs computer
- Annotated chess games
- Chess Teams + Clubs
I like GameKnot, a lot, and I do not use it as much as I should, and I don’t mean this is a mean way, I just forget and that might be the problem. It can be forgettable in terms of experience.
It has a lot to offer which is why it makes this list of best online chess websites and one of the best places to play chess online, but the big boys have usurped the experience, and often, Gameknot is no more than a second thought.
Red Hot Pawn
I don’t care how many times I see it or say it, it’s the greatest chess website name there could ever be. Whoever came up with it was a genius.
This one makes the list on a technicality. Yes, it’s not bad, it’s not one of the most popular chess websites, but it has an excellent mobile app. So a little spurious on this list, but here nevertheless as I think it deserves a mention anyway.
Chess Tempo is quite a good place to play online chess. It is not essential to register to play, you can do so as a guest, but your playing choices are somewhat limited.
Registration is free, which provides access to all game formats including quick games, or longer games lasting days or even weeks in correspondence, should that be your thing.
Free or Paid Chess Sites
When playing chess online there is never a need to make any payment, you can always play for free, the best chess websites above all offer the option of free online play.
When subscribing, you are paying for access to more information.
Subscriptions usually allow you to analyze your game, access more training tools like lessons and videos, and allow you to complete more actions in a single day than free access.
An example of this would be the puzzles on chess.com – When accessing the site for free, registered or not, you can play only a limited number of chess puzzles per day, with a subscription this is opened up and you can play all day if you wish.
Are chess website subscriptions worth it?
I personally have subscribed to sites I have used. I don’t currently subscribe to all as listed above but retain the diamond level membership on chess.com and chess24 membership.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Site to Play Chess Online
The chess site that is best for you may not be the same site that is the best for someone else, so we have to consider everything that goes into the decision of finding your destination for online chess.
Number of available players
There is no doubt the largest pool of players available is available at chess.com.
With millions of completed games daily, there is no chess website with more subscribers.
The benefit of the larger pool of players, is your game requests get matched quickly for just about any time increment setting you prefer, whereas on a smaller site, there may be very limited numbers of potential matches available at particular times of the day, if ever.
The flip side to this is online cheating. Unfortunately where you have online chess, you have online cheats who will be using chess engines, and next move companions, to always play the best move against you and thus win and affect your rating.
These players are very easily detectable, if not by yourself, by others and the sites themselves, and they tend to be removed quite quickly when reported, and you get any lost rating points back.
There are some smaller online chess communities available, especially if you work down the list of sites above, but as always my advice is to try a few, give each of the top 3 some time and you will find your preference mainly around the platform and design.
How good are the platform and interface
So I just mentioned the platform.
Because playing one game of chess is much like playing any other, what preference often comes down to for us humans is the look and feel of the experience.
Some nuances like the sound a move is signified by on each site will become important to you.
Is it customizable?
Thankfully in most cases, the best chess websites allow you to customize the board, the pieces, and on occasions the sounds. Giving you the option of choosing your preferences.
Time Control Options
Different players might prefer correspondence chess (represented by ‘daily’ games on chess.com) over Rapid chess in Blitz or bullet formats.
The best chess website will provide the option to play either, from crazy fast 1 minute games, right through to 3 day time controls for a move.
By far the most popular format for online chess is rapid, in 10-minute or 5-minute formats, although 3/2 is also popular.
Take a look at the separate article on time control in chess, for more information and to learn about the various options that are available.
A real test of your chess skill is to enter, play, and hopefully, win, tournaments. The best online chess sites above will provide options to play tournaments against players in the same rating group as yourself, where you can test your metal, and improve in chess having played and learned online.
As mentioned previously in the article, you will inevitably come across chess cheats.
These players will play you online, but what you can not see is they are receiving assistance and using chess engines, and next move generators, utilizing stockfish analysis to find the optimum move every time.
Even the best Grandmasters like Magnus Carlsen can no longer beat a computer, so what chance have you?
Thankfully the best sites have systems in play to detect when players are cheating, and if you come across one, you also have the option to report your suspicion and the site will look into it.
It is a shame, but generally unavoidable, and in all honesty, as the biggest online chess, site, chess.com seem to have more than its fair share of cheats online but are very proactive in eliminating them
The best chess website based on the number of registered users has to be chess.com, the platform and user experience is second to none, but I would also suggest taking a look at Chess24.
Both are fantastic in their premium formats for affordable monthly or annual subscriptions.
If you just want to play online for free without as many bells and whistles and a basic membership, Lichess is also an excellent option, and I can confirm, I use all three at some point or another with Chess.com gaining the majority of my attention.
Frequently asked questions about the best online chess sites.
Is it safe to play chess online?
It is perfectly safe to play chess online at many chess websites including free options highlighted above, you have th option to enter a chat function, but for me, I prefer, as I would over the board to play in silence.
Is lichess better than chess com?
Lichess offers a great deal of chess-playing options for free, as does chess.com. Chess.com has arguably a deeper range of options and premium subscription levels while Lichess offers a bit more play for free but with fewer analysis options.
What is the biggest chess games platform?
By the number of registered users, Chess.com is by far the largest online chess site in the world. With options for free play or premium membership packages, it has more users than any other chess website available.
What chess site does Magnus Carlsen use?
Magnus Carlsen is intrinsically linked to Chess24 given his company is the parent company of this website