8 Great Chess Apps for Beginners and Grand Masters

The millennia-old pastime of chess has been enjoying an explosion of interest. Whether people are longing for any engaging hobby to keep themselves sane during the long wait, or they fell prey to a popular Netflix drama about a chess prodigy, competition is heating up. While games using a physical board will have to wait a bit longer for most of us, there are excellent online chess platforms and a healthy chess community available in a few clicks or thumb taps.

The game is the same no matter which of these options you choose, but features differ. Some apps and platforms target a more committed audience, while others are simpler and may suit those seeking to dabble against a less competitive crowd.

The Omnibus

Chess.com (Desktop, iOS, Android)

8 Chess Apps and Websites  Chess.com Lichess SocialChess Shredder Chess
Chess.com via Michael Calore

The website with the most obvious name—Chess.com—delivers on its promise: Everyone from newbies to grandmasters has a place here. Games are available at any speed, with time limits for each move ranging from a brisk one minute per side to a leisurely five days.

You can just play and ignore the site’s other offerings, but for the curious, options abound. You can play against numerous AI-powered chess bots, each with its own strengths and playing style. Those looking for some noncompetitive study can learn through puzzles and tutorials, or watch chess livestreams (yes, this is very much a thing) and even find a mentor. The one thing that stymies your explorations on the site is a subscription paywall, which pops up in various places more serious players might wander, such as the opening explorer. You can still play as many games as you like without paying, whether against the computer or actual humans.

When you start playing, you’ll get assigned a rating that denotes your skill level. It will fluctuate wildly over your first several games, then settle into a narrower range. Once that happens, you’ll generally be matched against players who are within a stone’s throw of your skill level. Chess.com runs in any web browser, but there are also mobile apps for iOS and Android that successfully recreate the experience. Just know that on medium- to small-size phones, you may find it more difficult to scrutinize the board.

Subscriptions come in three tiers at $5, $7, and $14 per month, or around half those amounts if you pay for a year upfront. Every tier removes all ads, unlocks every bot, and allows for unlimited use of its game analysis tool in which an AI evaluates every move of your games and suggests alternatives. The middle tier allows unlimited access to the site’s chess puzzles, while the lowest tier allows you 25 puzzles per day. The top tier opens up Chess.com’s full video library of lessons and game analyses. There is so much to explore among the free options that it makes sense to start there, and it’s easy to scale up as warranted by your desire for chess dominance.

The Alternative

Lichess (Desktop, iOS, Android)

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