Chess is one of the most widely played games in the world, enjoyed by casual players and grandmasters like Magnus Carlsen. Whether you’re just playing for fun or preparing for tournaments, using a digital platform can help you improve your skills.
With options that provide additional resources such as puzzles, video tutorials, community forums, and AI characters that offer both instruction and entertainment, you can choose a platform that aligns with your specific needs. However, if you’re struggling to navigate the choices, we’re here to help.
In this article, we’ll explore the best chess games for PCs, with a focus on highlighting the standout features of each. Here are our top picks for the best chess PC game:
- #1 Best Overall: Chess.com
- Best Open-Source: Lichess
- Best Training: Chess Tempo
- Best for Ranked Gameplay: ChessBase
- Best Mobile App Integration: Chess Friends
- Best Graphics: SparkChess
- Most User-Friendly: 24/7 Chess
#1 Best Overall: Chess.com
Chess.com can be accessed by any player with a Wi-Fi connection and it offers basic features without the need for users to create an account.
Players have the choice to either play live games with opponents of similar skill levels or challenge customizable AI characters. These characters come with unique personalities and provide comments after each move, which can range from playful trash talk to helpful coaching tips.
Once the games are over, players can access a post-game report card that evaluates their performance and offers detailed feedback. This feature helps you understand where you can enhance your game. Paid subscribers enjoy the benefit of unlimited reports, while those without an account are restricted to one report per day.
By creating a free account, players gain access to additional features, such as free lessons for every level of player. These lessons are presented through short videos accompanied by chess puzzles to illustrate the concepts.
While we highly recommend using Chess.com, it’s important to note that the platform’s algorithm may struggle to recognize strategies that involve sacrificing a piece to gain a better overall position in the game. This can lead to instances where your game report card indicates a mistake.
|Users can enjoy basic features without the necessity of creating an account.
|Without a paid subscription, users are restricted to one post-game report per day.
|Players can choose from a variety of gameplay experiences.
|The algorithm may not recognize advanced tactics involving piece sacrifice for strategic advantage.
|Customizable AI characters add an entertaining and informative element to games.
|The post-game report card offers valuable performance feedback
Best Open-Source: Lichess
Lichess.org is an open-source platform supported entirely by donations, providing all of its advanced features for free.
Players of all levels can benefit from the resources the platform has to offer, but intermediate to advanced players will particularly benefit from its standout feature: quick pairing. With tens of thousands of games in progress at any given moment, you can quickly find a partner even during off-peak hours.
The platform offers a wide variety of time control options to suit diverse playing styles and skill levels. This spans from those who enjoy the rapid decisions of bullet and blitz to players who prefer the more thoughtful and relaxed pace of rapid and classical chess.
In addition to connecting with chess partners, users can also observe live games played by the platform’s highest-rated players. This provides a unique opportunity to witness top-level chess in action. Furthermore, the site offers learning courses, puzzles, and analysis tools to enhance your chess skills.
Given that the platform is completely free to all users, we definitely think it’s worth a try. However, some users have complained that they think the rating system isn’t a reliable indicator of skill level. This means you might face opponents whose skills don’t necessarily match your own.
|The platform provides advanced features at no cost.
|The rating system may not be totally accurate.
|Players of all levels can find valuable educational resources on the platform.
|Quick pairing options allow players to swiftly find opponents for live play while accommodating a wide variety of time control preferences.
|Users can watch live games played by the platform’s highest-rated players.
Best Training: Chess Tempo
If you’re interested in learning chess strategies, we highly recommend taking advantage of the educational resources available on Chess Tempo.
Alongside video tutorials and chess puzzles, the platform offers tools to track and analyze tactical performance, helping you improve your chess skills. Additionally, users can explore a library of games played by grandmasters, offering a valuable opportunity to learn from the best in the world of chess.
While users have the option to browse games randomly, they can also search for specific games of interest by entering key details such as player name or year. To illustrate the extensive nature of the library, a search for “Magnus Carlsen” yielded 4,637 indexed games.
In addition to a game library, the platform also features a problem library. Users can search for and post comments on chess problems, inviting others to provide helpful advice. While this can help you improve your chess skills, it also fosters a sense of community among players.
Although you can access a wealth of resources without creating an account, you’ll need to sign up with your email to fully utilize the platform. Additionally, one drawback of the platform is its unusual lack of AI to power a player versus computer game option. For those who prefer this option, you will need to investigate other options.
|It’s an excellent choice for those interested in learning different chess strategies.
|You’ll need to sign up with your email to use all the features.
|The platform provides tools to analyze and track your tactical performance.
|You can only access gameplay if another live player is available.
|Users can explore a library of games played by grandmasters as well as a problem library.
|The platform fosters a sense of community among players.
Best for Ranked Gameplay: ChessBase
|Elo rating integration
ChessBase‘s standout feature is its integration of the Elo rating system, which is a universal standard for rating chess players based on their performance.
With ChessBase, players regularly receive updates to their Elo ratings based on their performance. This allows players to qualify for more competitive tournaments and track and analyze how their skills are evolving.
Even if you’re not yet an Elo-rated player, you can still benefit from what the platform has to offer. Creating an account is free and grants users access to play against other similarly skilled players, view live tournament games, watch training videos, solve chess puzzles, and search a database of over 8 million archived games.
However, one potential drawback is the absence of the ability to play against a computer. This might be a concern for players who prefer a more leisurely pace during gameplay. Also, users should note that while the vast majority of PC users can download the native app, it requires a Windows operating system.
|The platform is accessible to all skill levels and creating an account is free.
|The platform exclusively offers live gameplay so users won’t be able to play against a computer.
|ChessBase integrates the universal Elo rating system, so players can track and receive updates following gameplay.
|If you don’t use Windows, you won’t be able to download the native app.
|It offers educational resources and analytical tools to improve performance.
Best Mobile App Integration: Chess Friends
If you’re frequently on the move and need a mobile app that complements your PC experience, Chess Friends offers a convenient solution.
With over 1 million registered players worldwide, the mobile app accommodates players of all skill levels. Plus, players can earn and improve their ratings by playing other rated players on the platform.
Both the desktop platform and the mobile app offer various educational resources, including puzzles, assisted learning game modes, and the option to watch live games. Additionally, the app has recently introduced offline play, enhancing the user experience.
However, it’s worth mentioning that while the platform provides the ability to play against computer opponents at different skill levels, we did encounter glitches with this feature. Another important consideration is that the mobile app is free to download but unlimited games require a subscription.
|The mobile app seamlessly pairs with the desktop app.
|If you try to play against a computer, you may encounter system glitches.
|Since the app has a large number of users, you’re likely to find a partner even during off-peak hours.
|More advanced features require a subscription.
|You can play offline.
Best Graphics: SparkChess
|Customizable board styles
SparkChess is designed with an emphasis on fun, featuring engaging graphics and AI characters.
Users can choose to see their board in three dimensions, with the options to rotate, pan, and zoom. Furthermore, users can edit the style of their board, choosing either classic-looking pieces or a hand-painted fantasy set.
Moreover, players can challenge opponents with different skill levels, catering to everyone from beginners to advanced players. This wide range of opponents ensures that you’ll always have a suitable challenger.
The platform offers various game modes, including Classic, Fischer Random (Chess960), and an assortment of chess puzzles. Whether you’re in the mood for traditional chess or a more unique variant, SparkChess has you covered.
You can access SparkChess on your web browsers, but it is also available for download as a native app on Windows 7 and newer, Mac OS X 10.9 and newer, iOS 9 and newer, and Android 5.0 and newer.
Although SparkChess offers a free version, the best features can only be unlocked by paying for the Premium subscription.
|SparkChess prioritizes a fun and engaging experience with attractive graphics
|Although it offers many advanced features, you won’t be able to access most of them without a subscription.
|Players of all skill levels can enjoy the platform.
|It offers gameplay and educational resources.
|You can access it through a web browser or opt to download it on your PC or mobile device.
Most User-Friendly: 24/7 Chess
247Chess.com has a straightforward and visually simple interface, ensuring that players of all skill levels can easily initiate a game.
The home screen features three buttons, offering users the flexibility to play against a computer, face an online opponent, or invite a friend to engage in a game. After selecting your preferred game mode, you have the option to further customize your experience by adjusting your skill level and setting the desired time limit. These options ensure that your chess experience is precisely as challenging or relaxed as you prefer.
To keep users engaged, the platform emphasizes setting personal records. This not only adds an element of competitiveness to the game but also promotes skill development and a sense of accomplishment.
Although it’s easy to start a game, a novice may struggle to win even on the easiest level. Furthermore, it doesn’t offer the advanced educational resources that most other platforms provide.
|The user-friendly interface makes it easy to access a chess game.
|Even the easiest level may be too challenging for a novice.
|Personalization options allow users to tailor their chess games to their desired difficulty level.
|It doesn’t offer any advanced features or educational resources.
|It encourages users to improve their skills by setting new personal records.
How to Pick the Best Chess Games for PC: Step-by-Step
When choosing the best chess games for PC, there are some important features to keep in mind.
- Quick pairing
- AI integration
- Educational resources
- Tournament availability
Let’s explore each one in further detail.
One of the key features that players look for in the best chess game for PC is the ability to find an opponent quickly. A good chess platform should offer a matchmaking system that pairs players of similar skill levels, minimizing wait times and ensuring challenging but fair gameplay.
If possible, we recommend testing out the online platform before downloading a native app. This allows you to get a feel for the platform’s ability to set up matches between similarly skilled players.
Many players appreciate the option to play against customizable AI characters. While these can be entertaining, they also have the potential to be helpful.
We highly recommend enabling the option to receive comments and guidance from AI characters, as this feature can be incredibly valuable for improving your skills.
Most chess players want to improve their skills. Educational resources can be instrumental in achieving that goal.
Look for a chess game that provides educational resources such as video tutorials, strategy guides, puzzles, and access to a library of games played by grandmasters.
For those interested in competitive play, the availability of tournaments is enticing. Tournaments can help players gauge their skill level and provide an opportunity to earn recognition within the chess community.
If you’re interested in this option, know that there are tournaments for all players, regardless of skill level. However, not all platforms offer this option. We recommend doing your own research to determine if your chosen option hosts tournaments and who is eligible.
What to Know Before Downloading a Chess Game for PC
Before downloading a chess game for your PC, it’s important to define your objectives. Are you looking to play casually, improve your skills, or participate in tournaments? Clarifying your goals will help you select the right chess game that aligns with your ambitions.
Ensure that the chess game you choose is compatible with your PC’s operating system. Some chess games are designed for specific platforms, so check if it’s compatible with Windows, Mac, or Linux. Compatibility ensures a smooth gaming experience without technical issues.
Viruses and Malware
Downloaded games, including chess games, can potentially contain viruses or other malicious software. To minimize the risk of downloading malware, make sure you download games from official sources such as the platform’s official website. Additionally, we recommend installing and regularly updating reliable antivirus software on your PC.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©MichaelMaggs / CC BY-SA 3.0 .