From AI-powered apps to YouTube lessons from grandmasters, you can learn how to play chess online for free, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned player.
A new mini-series, The Queen's Gambit, has sparked interest online in learning how to play chess. If you're a complete beginner, these apps and sites will teach you the basics of chess and great opening moves. If you already know your way around the 64 squares, they'll teach you to level-up your skills and find entertaining new ways to play the game.
Aimchess is a cool new app to learn how to play chess or get better at the game. Every day, the app makes you go through a few lessons and tactics, through which you'll earn points or credits. You can spend those credits to unlock additional lessons.
The two most popular free chess apps online are Chess.com or Lichess. Aimchess works with both of them, creating an AI-powered analysis of your playing patterns. Just key in your username and it'll take data from your last few games to present a report that shows your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can improve.
You'll also get daily lessons that incorporate your playing style and historical games. Sometimes, the app will challenge you to win games that you lost, and analyze it for you.It's a creative way to supercharge your chess training.
The free version allows for nine lessons per day and analyzes your last 40 games for up to three reports. The paid pro version ($7.99 per month) has unlimited lessons and analyzes the last 1000 games for up to 10 reports.
Download: Aimchess for Android | iOS (Free)
To become a good chess player, you need to study the most common openings and end game tactics. They need to become almost second nature for you, with instant recall of the various combinations and moves based on your opponent's reactions. Listudy is here to teach you that.
Listudy is free to use with or without registering for an account. It uses the method of spaced repetition to improve memory recall, wherein you learn something by doing it repeatedly at set intervals. Over time, this trains your brain to commit this to memory.
Through Listudy, you can learn the most common openings like Queen's Gambit, King's Indian Defence, Evan's Gambit, and so on. For each tactic, you'll also learn the variations, which is an important part of mastering an opening.
Similarly, you can also train for the various endgame combinations you'll find yourself in while playing chess. It's a good idea to learn these because this is when the clock is usually ticking down, so you often need to play fast to win.
Listudy also has a database of tactics to test yourself, where it'll give you a random board position and ask you to find the best move. There are no limits on this, and you can keep trying to solve the problem.
Chess Vision is an incredible set of AI-powered tools for the game. There are three main parts, with the extension for Chrome and Firefox being the spotlight for regular folks.
After installing the Chess Vision extension, it can analyze any chess board on your screen. For example, if you're trying to solve tactics in an app or watching a live-streamed chess match, just fire up the extension. In a few minutes, it'll scan and replicate the board, and offer the best moves and tactics. It's an excellent way to learn the game, and especially figure out where you're making mistakes.
The second part of Chess Vision is the powerful chess-based YouTube search engine. The search includes filters for opening positions, game phase, position openness, and pawn structure. You can also filter by overall themes like pawn sacrifice or opposition side castling. Set what you want, and you'll get a list of YouTube videos at the perfect timestamp.
The third and final part is an AI-based ebook reader, which turns classic chess books into interactive pages. So the diagrams from a book can now be played like an online game. This is a limited feature for free users, and you'll have to pay to unlock full books.
Download: Chess Vision for Chrome | Firefox (Free)
Playing chess and teaching chess are two distinct skill sets, something that many champions of the game can't do. John Bartholomew is a rare exception, ranked as an International Master and host of one of the most popular YouTube chess lessons shows.
Bartholomew's channel is excellent for beginners, especially in the form of two playlists or series: Chess Fundamentals and Climbing the Rating Ladder. In Chess Fundamentals, he breaks down how grandmasters approach the game with a few principles, demonstrating it in easy-to-understand English.
In Climbing the Rating Ladder, Bartholomew plays from low ranks to high ranks, explaining the common mistakes and styles at each skill level, so that you can raise your own ranking. It's not a foolproof plan, but several online chess players swear by how this series improved their game and their rank.
The channel has several other videos that any chess fanatic will love. Bartholomew assumes that you understand the basic moves, so if you're starting from scratch, use one of the other apps in this list.
Ward Farnsworth's acclaimed 2011 book "Predator at the Chessboard: A Field Guide to Chess Tactics" is now available for free online. The team has turned the book into a website, with each chapter reprinted in full. Simply head to the site and you can read the 20 chapters across 700 pages worth of chess insights.
Then there's the accompanying site, Chess Problems, where you can test Farnsworth's teachings. Each problem lays out a board position and asks you to find the best move. You can ask for a hint or reveal the solution, which links back to one of the lessons from Farnsworth.
As you learn how to play chess, you realize it is a unique game in terms of speed. You can play a timed blitz which finishes the whole game within five minutes. Or you can take it slow, giving each other days to make a move. Heck, people used to even play chess via mail, sending a letter back and forth with their latest move.
It's a wonderful game to pick up during the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns. You can safely stay at home and play it with your housemates, or play it online with friends and strangers, and even hop into live video sessions for chess. Win some games and people will start thinking you're the smartest person in the room.
Did you know that your iPhone has a hidden button you can access by tapping its back? Here's how to use it.
Mihir Patkar has been writing on technology and productivity for over 14 years at some of the top media publications across the world. He has an academic background in journalism.
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