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If you want to play chess on the internet there is nowhere else you need to go - chess.com has everything.
== Starting up ==
When you first visit the site you are required to sign up with a user name and password, after which you receive your own profile page (a little like on dooyoo) on which you can upload pictures, manage friends, send emails, etc.
Pretty much everything you need to improve your chess (other than a replacement brain) can be found here. You can play real players or against the computer. There are various ways to study, including the excellent Chess Mentor, a computer program with a very easy interface which talks you through different positions and teaches you tactics, different playing styles, etc. The lessons are designed by professional chess players. In addition, there is the Tactics Trainer, a series of puzzles which you can attempt to solve, video lessons, daily puzzles, articles, and more.
When you first start on the site, you receive a rating of 1200, which is the standard starting rating for any player (in real life). From there, as you win and lose games your rating will go up and down depending on the level of your opponents.
There are several different ways to play -
== Turn-based Chess ==
You can play turn-based chess which has a controlled time setting of either 1, 3, 7, or 10 days. This means after you play a move, your opponent has up to the chosen time allocated to the game to play their move. If either of you goes over the time limit, you lose. These games are great if you only have a few minutes online each day, although they can last for several weeks on some of the longer time settings.
As well as regular chess you can also play Chess-360 in the same way. This is where the back line of pieces are scrambled at random at the start of the game. You receive a different rating for this.
If you want to play a game and get it over quickly you can visit the Live Chess page. Here, you select the time controls you want - either 1, 5, 10, or 30 minutes - and wait for an opponent to accept your challenge (due to the number of people online, it usually takes just a couple of seconds).
When I first joined the site in 2008, Live Chess was a little unpredictable and it was easy to be disconnected from the game. Since then it has improved a lot but from time to time you might find you are disconnected, particularly if you have a slow internet connection (you are warned of this on the front page of the Live Chess section).
== Setting up and playing a game ==
For each form of the game, (as well as with Tactics Trainer or Chess Mentor) you receive a different rating which goes up or down accordingly. You can post open challenges, accept open challenges, or challenge individual players. In the settings it is also possible to define what level of rating you will accept challenges from in order to play people of your level, below or above. For example, a lot of higher ranked players will only accept challenges from players of a certain ranking.
== Vs the Computer ==
It is also possible to play against Little Chess Partner, a computer program. There are three levels, beginner, intermediate and advanced. You make you move and the computer will respond immediately. Can you beat the advanced level? I can't ....
Other features include -
== Tournaments ==
In turn-based chess it is possible to enter tournaments. Some of these are set by the site, others are created by individual players. Each has its own parameters, therefore you can choose a tournament in which you might have a chance of winning, or one that will feature higher-ranked players (who are often notoriously difficult to challenge). The format (group stage or knockout) varies depending on the tournament.
You get a certain number of "vacation" days. These are used when you know you are going away someone and are going to go over your agreed time limits. In these situations you can use your vacation time. You start with 20 days. It is also possible to adjust your personal settings so that if you accidently go over a time limit your profile automatically reverts to vacation time so that you don't lose any games.
== Forums ==
Here you can discuss anything related to chess. There are specific forums for openings, endgames, games you enjoyed, etc. All the usual forum features are there - search, the ability to track members you are "friends" with, etc.
== Teams ==
There are numerous groups set up for players of different interests. These can be countries or just specific likes (I'm in the Cat Lovers team). Anyone can set up a team, and teams can play games against other teams. You get paired against a player of a similar rating and the team with the most wins overall wins the match.
== Vote Chess ==
This is where a game is set up between two teams or groups, or it can be against a professional. You enter the page and then vote for your preferred move. The move that gets the most votes is played at the end of the time control, and so on. I'm not really into this, to be honest, but it is an interesting feature.
== Membership ==
While it is possible to play as a non-paying member, there are a lot of advantages to being a full member. There are three levels of membership, Gold ($5 a month / $29 a year), Platinum ($7 / $49) or Diamond ($14 / $99). Obviously a yearly membership is better value (40% better, in fact). Membership gives you access to better features, for example, you only have access to Chess Mentor or Video Lessons (although a non-paying member gets a couple of hours of freebies) with a Diamond Membership, whereas with lower memberships you get less access to Tactics Trainer, less vacation time, you can enter/set up less tournaments, etc.
I was a Diamond member for a year, and I loved it (I stopped after a year because I was spending half my life on the site ...). Chess Mentor alone was worth the price, but by far the greatest benefit was the lack of advertising - the only negative thing about the site. They have to make money of course, but if you are a non-paying member you have to put up with endless pop-up and banner ads which can really slow the site down.
=== Overall ===
Chess.com is perfect for players of any level. The teaching tools start from the very basics right up to Master level and beyond. I was primary school chess champion (woo hoo, go me!) but hadn't played for twenty years when I joined. I remembered the basics but with a little practice I got myself up to a competent 1500 rating, at which I have lingered more or less ever since (I only play a few games now - I was getting addicted ...)
I thoroughly recommend this site for anyone interested in chess. The layout is nice (you can choose the backdrop colors you want or even the style of the board that you use), the interface for the games is easy to use and there are all the stats you could possibly want. It's designed by players (I actually played the site owner in one tournament - I got hammered twice!) and its possible to make some good friends (I've hung out with a couple of people I met on chess.com in real life). And if you do come up against a d&&khead, just report them (same as on dooyoo).
And if you fancy a game, my user name is headofwords.
I tried to keep this short, honest ...