If you're feeling stuck, you may want to up your game by practicing with better tools. And by tools, I mean chess apps – online chess. Watch others play and attempt to win against a literal chess engine!
These apps do that and more. Take a look at these six chess apps that will help you practice!
Available on: browser, Android, and iOS
Chances are, if you're reading this article, then you're already using Chess.com or its competitor Lichess (more on this later). When it comes to the two, Chess.com has the larger number of tutorials – perhaps far larger than any other chess app to be found. It's a good entry point for chess beginners to get their toes wet. Veterans who would like to learn more about theory and tactics will enjoy it as well.
- Play against a variety of bots with various skill levels
- Test your skills in ranked and unranked PVP matches
- Enjoy fourplayer chess and other variants
- Puzzles have a daily limit
- Certain play styles become more common, depending on your rank
- It's frustrating to get into the puzzle chess rhythm, then get hit by the daily limit over the paywall
Good to know: You can also play chess on Obsidian. Find out how.
Available on: browser, Android, and iOS
While chess.com is great, imagine getting unlimited puzzles, lessons, and a complex analysis board for free. That's right, Lichess is basically Chess.com without the paywall. If you're on a tight budget, you can move to Lichess for practice while relying on Chess.com for the lessons. This will also expose you to various play styles, giving you an edge the next time you play against a "quirky" player.
- Play anxiety-free by hiding chat and your opponent's rating in Zen mode
- Discover new openings with detailed descriptions in the opening explorer
- Clean website aesthetic
- No video tutorials
- Player rating is significantly inflated
- Smaller playerbase means longer waiting times between games
Tip: other than chess, you can also play plenty of board games online with friends.
3. Scid vs. PC
Available on: Windows, macOS, and Linux
With Scid vs. PC, you can run chess engines on your PC and play and unlimited number of times. Perhaps the best thing about this app is the match library. It lets you store as many games as your hard drive can hold, making it great for referencing matches.
- Runs custom and engines that support UCI and xboard
- Allows you to set up player information for historical games databases
- UI can be a little confusing at start
Available on: browser only
If you need something lightweight that can run on any device, ChessUI.com is a Web-based UI for playing against Stockfish 10. It has an automatic FEN generator so that you can quickly copy and paste your current game to a better chess UI for analysis. This also works offline. While you'll still need an Internet connection to load the initial page, it will still play as soon as you disconnect from the network.
- Easily play with a clean UI
- See opening statistics and history with the online database
- Lets you play and reply a specific opening with opening lock
- Experimental option will let you play against a neural network-based engine
- Does not use the latest version of Stockfish
- Limited variety when choosing engine strength
Available on: Windows and Linux (can only be accessed through Wine on macOS)
Stockfish is not the only top chess engine, so why the big focus on it? Arena lets you pit chess engines against other chess engines in a tournament. It allows you to consult multiple engines using different algorithms over what the best move would be in any pattern.
- Set artificial tournament rules for all players, including yourself
- Supports UCI and xboard engines
- Highly dependent on your CPU's processing power
- Does not have a proper game database
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a phone run a chess engine?
Modern mobile phones can run chess engines – as long as there is a chess GUI program that supports them. So far, however, there aren't many apps that natively run chess engines like Droidfish on phones. However, that doesn't mean that there can't be more in the future.
What is a chess engine?
Chess engines are computer programs. They read chess positions based on a string of chess notation sent to them, brute force their way into finding the fastest way to lead to checkmate, then send you a reply saying, "Do this, as this is the best I found," before waiting for the next move. Engines differ from each other based on the algorithm they use. Those that make the best use of a computer's resources to find the best moves in the shortest amount of time become the better (and hence stronger) chess engine.
Are Chess.com and Lichess ratings legitimate?
In a way, your ratings on Chess.com and Lichess are legitimate – but that's only within their respective data sets. Someone rated 2200, for example, will always be able to beat someone rated 200, 300, and 430 at blitz in their platform. However, their ratings are not as legitimate as a FIDE rating would be for calling someone a GM or IM. You'll still need to get rated by FIDE for that.
Image credit: Unsplash
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