Thursday, June 23, 2011

ChessCube vs. vs. FICS vs. ICC - An objective comparison.

By Chess Coach NM William Stewart

Original article on ChessCube vs. vs. ICC vs. FICS available on William's site

ChessCube is an online chess community with over 1,400,000 registered members as of March 2011. They do not feature an online chess forum, as their focus is primarily on tournaments and general play. Their interface is exceptionally easy to set up and use, and does not require download. Instructional videos are produced by IM Andrew Martin and FMs Monokroussos and Lilov. Many videos are free, some are priced very low. Also of note, ChessCube has a great Chess960 option and audience. It is completely free to play at ChessCube, and a great online environment for younger players. ChessCube also has a new tutoring system,that we've been using to teach chess to our younger and more beginner students. Although it still has quite a few bugs, the system has shown quite a bit of promise compared to the current system we use on FICS. is an online chess community with over 3.4 million members as of June 2011. They currently have one of the most active chess forums on the internet, and their playing software is fairly fluid and does not require download. Their instructional videos are produced by an impressive line-up: GMs Dzindzichashvili, Lenderman, Perelshteyn, Shankland - and more. They also provide articles by GMs Becerra and Serper, IM Bryan Smith, and WGM NataliaPogonina - to name a few. The majority of is 100% Free, however you can upgrade your account to enjoy less ads and more premium services.


Brief history of FICS:

“The first Internet chess server, named the Internet Chess Server (ICS), started in January, 1992. Volunteers coded and ran it free of charge. In 1995, administrators began charging players for membership and changed the name to ICC. Unhappy with the commercialisation of ICS, which they saw as exploiting their work, a handful of programmers, led by Chris Petroff, formed FICS and gave users free, unrestricted access. The server debuted March 3, 1995. FICS is a non-profit site, administered entirely by volunteers. There are approximately 330,000 registered accounts. In 2010 it had over 86,000 active players who played a total of almost 21 million games. Donations to FICS can be sent to using the account”

FICS is a great site and 100% Free. FICS is well-known for featuring the best bughouse andcrazyhouse play in the world, ex. JKiller, Vaboris (Kazim Gulamali), etc.. While not as user-friendly as other online servers, the free interface Thief is the best software for bughouse and/or rapid play. The Thief interface is also popularly used on ICC by 1-min players. For our advanced clients we love using Babaschess to tutor our more advanced chess players. However, the interfaces for FICS can be quite intimidating to setup at first and it is not nearly as user friendly as either ChessCube or However, if you don't want to shell out the $70 a year for ICC, FICS is your best bet for finding strong players.


The Internet Chess Club (ICC) is the first and largest commercial chess server on the planet. The price is $69.95/year, however a 50% discount is available for students. Grandmasters and International Masters receive free membership. ICC represents the strongest playing strength of any server or site. They also provide excellent live coverage and commentary of ongoing tournaments. 1, 3, and 5-minute games are very popular - as are many variants (Losers, 960, Bughouse, etc..). Fantastic instructional videos are provided by GMs Christiansen, Benjamin, Har-Zvi and others. While ICC is a commercialized server, they do offer a very high quality product (especially for stronger players). ICC also boasts great software in the form of their interface Blitzin.

My Personal Opinion

I recommend ChessCube for beginner, intermediate, and younger chess players. Their site is extremely easy to navigate and find a game. represents the best available forum discussion, however the average playing strength is not exceptionally high. Without a doubt, FICS represents the best bughouse and crazyhouse play - and I truly respect their devotion to the game and maintaining their services free of charge. ICC is best for advanced players and video instruction, although they are a commercialized server that is not scared to raise prices. There is not one over-all best site, as they tend to specialize in different areas and services. The best fit really depends on the unique needs of the individual player.

Please also see a live ChessCube game between 2 masters

By William Stewart (FIDE 2234, USCF 2266)


Anonymous said...

Personally, I like chesscube for fun, the 960 option is great. Even chesscube cinema is cool! I also use for learning, there's a lot of excellent lessons on there. I've never really liked ICC, I don't think it's very modern at all, it so needs an updated GUI.

Anonymous said...

Any other servers? What about the Russian chess server with more than 20 players over 2700?

obien said...

Chesscube "It is completely free" its totally a bunch of lie!!! business as well, you have to buy a chesscube coins to continue in playon!

Mr. Zed said...

I find ICC rather pointless. For people with too much money.

Pedro said...

You forgot to mention the also very good 'playchess' server, with thousand of players every day, lot of IM and GM. It's charged, but with reasonable price. The best free server is for sure.

Brian Chalega said...

This article seems a bit tendentious, like obien said chess cube is not free.

My favorite is FICS, it has good players, many interfaces(you can also play with jin applet if you don't want to download an interface) and has interfaces for linux too, and support for chess960.

I also play some games(most against the computer) in a small server called lichess.

One thing that I don't like in these two servers is that they has much few games with slow time controls.

playchess deserved to be mentioned too.

(And sorry for my bad english :-)

machinelf said...

Thanks for the article, I like hearing about different options.

( has 960 chess also, btw)

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

thre is one very good online chess site not mensioned here. They are much better on online play than It is profesional web based server, no installation required. There is lot of amateurs, but also some IM and GM players. They support many languages and are used mainly by european players. And you can play there for real money.