In this post I want to share with you my favorite picks for playing and practicing chess, as far as software is concerned. Although you can do more research and find your favorites, I think the following list contains pretty much what one could need.
So, what Recommended Software am I going to describe? LiChess, ChessBase, Chess.com, SCID, ChessX, Stockfish and Chessbomb.
Important Notice: SoftwareChess.com is NOT affiliated with any program. Therefore, all links that you will see are simple hyperlinks, without any affiliation code. In other words, I do NOT make a cent, no matter if you click or not, purchase or not.
LiChess is my favorite website to play chess online, at the moment. Period.
It is an amazing website with plenty of functionalities and it’s free, without ads. As its creator said, LiChess was built for the love of chess only. My main reasons for using LiChess are:
I can’t stop recommending LiChess. If you use it, it might be the only thing you will need for a long time, and you will have everything for free. Also, LiChess is a open-source software which means it’s practically impossible that it will ever become a paid platform. For those of you who don’t know what open-source means, in (very) short the source code that generates the website is public and published in a repository called GitHub.
LiChess has so many functionalities that some of them are somewhat hidden. I am often surprised when I find a new tool that I didn’t know about. If you stay tuned long enough on this blog, I am planning to write more detailed guides/tutorial on a few things you can do on LiChess. Just as appetizer, know that you can live stream your game on twich.tv!
Chessbase is a german company that markets chess software, as Wikipedia states. Also, I feel to add, ChessBase is the most read chess-news blog. It has continuous update on top tournaments and other chess stories.
You can’t really count the number of collaborators that ChessBase has among GMs, even famous ones. And as I said in a previous post of mines, ChessBase (the software) is the most used application among GMs, for historical reasons and also for very good practical reasons. It’s a classic standalone application, that therefore you can use everywhere even without internet connection. In other words, it’s not just a website!
The thing that I really admire about ChessBase is that they are selling the subscription to their Premium webapp for a very, very, fair price. Just about 5 dollars per months, and you can even save a few bucks if you purchase 1-year subscription directly. The web app has so many features that I can’t really enumerate all of them. But as said, for me it’s totally worth the prize, and you should know by now that I am not affiliated to them in any way.
Just to give one example, with the subscription to ChessBase you also get videos with training materials from GMs, included in the price. About 400,000 minutes (that is, about 6,500 hours of video!).
Chess.com has been my favorite site to play chess online for quite a long time. Now I am mostly playing on LiChess, but Chess.com remains one of the best options out there, especially because they are improving a lot their blog, so you can find very good articles to read over there, and maybe more importantly because of the competitions they organize.
In fact, Chess.com organizes blitz and bullet online competitions between top players that are really amazing to watch. No one else than World Champion Magnus Carlsen participated and won the last edition! For me, it’s amazing the work they are pulling in at Chess.com to bring all top players, World Champion included, to play a online competition that it’s streamed live all over the world. Chapeau!
A special mention goes to SCID. SCID is a free software that allows you to study chess, by integrating databases and engine analysis (it also has other features, to tell you the truth). It’s also open-source.
SCID has been for long time the only real alternative to ChessBase, until the time ChessBase was “only” a standalone software. Now that ChessBase has become also a webapp, the two are taking different roads.
SCID is still under active development, and it supports a huge number of features. In this sense, the only drawback I can find about it’s exactly that with so many features the user interface might seem too complex at first sight!
Oh, the other problem is that you have to be comfortable with installation of software, if you want to use SCID. These days, everyone is getting used to run application in the browser and they have forgotten how to install a program!
ChessX is a young software that provides similar functionalities to SCID, just that it’s still very young. I would normally only suggest SCID, but ChessX has the big advantage that was built for Mac users, so you can use it on your Apple laptop.
Before ChessX, Mac users have been missing a decent software, since ChessBase was provided only for Windows. During my Apple-days I had to run ChessBase inside the emulator, quite painful. ChessX is tested on Mac, and is free and open-source, so you can just download and use it.
Stockfish is one of the most famous and strongest chess engine available today. As I wrote in a previous post of mines, it has won several times the TCEC, in my opinion the only real World Computer Chess Championship.
You might have heard of the other two top engines that dominates the scene today, Houdini and Komodo, because they are paid software and therefore are supported and advertised by companies. The truth is that the three of them, Stockfish, Houdini and Komodo, have roughly the same strength. If anyone has an edge (at the time of this writing), that is definitely Stockfish, that is winning the current TCEC. Furthermore, Stockfish is free and open-source. Therefore you should not think much about it: go for Stockfish.
Stockfish is also the chess engine that is integrated into LiChess. You can toggle-on the analysis by clicking on the toggle icon (top, right) when in “Analysis” mode in LiChess. I will probably write a more detailed post mentioning this and several other things that you can do in LiChess.
Chessbomb is a website that transmits live chess games from a lot of tournaments around the world. Although it’s neither a chess software, nor a website to play chess, I want to recommend it.
The reason is that I find Chessbomb to be a very quick and easy way to check out what is going on in the world of the tournaments. Especially in those period where I am totally “out of chess”, due to my full-time job and other commitments, a rapid look at Chessbomb allows me to understand what important games have been played in the last few days.
Games in Chessbomb also have integrated analysis with Stockfish, even though I must say the platform lets Stockfish analyze just for a few seconds and therefore quite often the analysis is not the most accurate. Nonetheless, I really recommend you to check out Chessbomb!