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ChessCube vs. Chess.com vs. ICC vs. FICS – What’s the best?



ChessCube.com is an online chess community with over 1,400,000 registered members as of March 2011.  They do not feature an online chess forum (Update: I stand corrected, they do have a chess forum, don’t know why I’ve never seen it.) 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.


Chess.com 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. Unlike ChessCube they have no specific focus and have communities for everything ranging from tournaments, articles, forums, strategies etc. 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 Natalia Pogonina – to name a few.  The majority of Chess.com 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 PayPal.com using the account donate@freechess.org”

FICS is a great site and 100% Free.  FICS is well-known for featuring the best bughouse and crazyhouse 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 Chess.com. 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.  Chess.com 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.


  • http://blog.chess.com/kieboomw/chesscom-through-facebook wilbert Kieboom

    Very nice article. There is one other element that can be highlighted. For Chess.com and ChessCube, there is an option within the Facebook to set up an icon so that you can access these chess sites through Facebook. If you are looking to expand your network of international (chess) friends, the likes of Facebook offers a great opportunity to do that and play against those (newly) made friends as well. Facebook allows you to combine forum and play in one!

    • Jeremy

      Actually I have ChessCube bookmarked in Facebook, right on my home page :). Their app is apps.facebook.com/chesscube I think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/francisco.edvar Francisco Edvar


  • Pingback: ChessCube vs. Chess.com vs. FICS vs. ICC – An objective comparison.()

  • Jeremy

    ChessCube actually does have quite a nice forum – its over at http://www.chesscube.com/forum . I find myself browsing over some info there quite a lot. Even if the Chess.com forum is great, ChessCube’s chat rooms are by the far best chess related chat that I’ve seen :). Never mind the restriction of free players when trying to chat on chess.com :).
    I’ve now reached 2100 on ChessCube, and going for 2200 before the end of the year.

    Thanks for the article, very informative!

  • vivek patil

    thanks for the artical.I think chesscube is more enjoying than others.while chess.com or ICC are for serious chess players.

    • Hans

      Yes, and “fics” is not worth mentioning.

      Its a free insult-server.

      Most “admins” are IT-trolls, mainly kids.

      Warning for any use, never register with the mailadress you use regulary.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001427529629 José Alexandre Ribeiro

        I simply love FICS. The insulters exist in any free server.

        • http://www.OnlineChessLessons.net William

          i like FICS but their administration is not very helpful…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001915557687 Wisnu Wardana

    Good article, Chesscube is the best !!!

    • anilo ahito

      I love the simplicity of logging in to chesscube, user-friendly,easy to find opponents with nrar strength of opponents to chose from.i just hope that they find ways that every user free from VIP accounts I simply love chesscube in many ways I’m from the Philippines
      many tnx CHESSCUBEgreat schess site ……

  • Jhoravi

    Chesscube.com and Chess.com are two of the best sites out there. Chess.com is better for correspondence and forum while Chesscube is better in Live games and live chat.

    NOTE Chess.com has version for Android and iPhone and Chesscube has none at the moment (Aug-2011).

    I have given up FICS years ago when they stupidly allowed adjournment in blitz! That’s so ridiculous!

    • Hans

      There are much worse stupidity in that “club” fics -usa.

      Warning for any use.

  • bravado

    used FICS for years…the blitz level there was quite high…but i got so fed up with the jerks disconnecting and hurling insults at you when they lose…i decided to shell out the 70$ for ICC…5$ a month isnt so bad…

    Initially i enjoyed the grandmaster matches and the coverage of the championships and the videos but now iv gotten back into just playing blitz…and…well for that its just OK. There are definitely fewer blitz players around than what i remember at FICS…Anyway my account recently expired and i figured rather than just shell out another 70$ why not give FICS another chance…and well i like what i am seeing. No obnoxious comments, disconnect = loss seems to be default now which is great…i dont know..i am considering just leaving ICC and going back to FICS.

  • Marcus Chan

    The average playing strength on ICC is far superior to Chess.com. I play 1700 on Chess.com but only get about 1300 on ICC.

  • Peter Romero

    Chess Cube is the best and it is free

  • ganymede

    I tried FICS, but some admin banned me without warning or explanation for no apparent reason. Possibly I may have beaten an admin in a game and they didn’t like that. A lot of sore losers on FICS. So I never played there again. In my opinion, the admin(s) at FICS are socially challenged and have problems dealing with other human beings. I will never use FICS again.

  • Romans

    Yes, chesscube is “fun”, but ICC seems the most professional high level, and is $30 less than the yearly chess.com. However chess.com seems to have a better community-personal feel with skype type coverage and analysis. I don’t mind bouncing around all four sites, depends on my mood at the moment: Fun? Informative? Community? etc.

  • Michael

    There are lots of places to play live chess, & if that’s all you’re doing then the similarities of these sites probably outweigh the differences. But if you want to improve & you’re willing to pay for premium features to do it, Chess.com is max bang for $$

  • shukov

    ICC is the gold standard when it comes to chess servers, best interface, best competition, best tournament coverage. I’ve also played quite a bit at the Europeon chessbase server Playchess.com, not bad but the interface isn’t nearly as good as ICC’s Blitzin. Recently I have joined Chess.com and was pleasantly surpised, pretty decent for a web based interface, the best one I’ve seen. Someone above mentioned rude players, the way to deal with that is to immediately block them so that you will never be matched up with them again. You will find that after blocking 20 or so of them that there is really only a handful of rude people on these servers, but that you just keep playing them over and over, once you get those folks blocked you won’t have much trouble with insults anymore. Good Luck All

  • joe bloggs

    fics is best for beginners, its free and you wont have trouble finding challenging games, icc is very good and for a fixed price you cn play the best of the best, chesscube is a horrible site that leaches money from you, there is no fixed fee but in order to keep playing you have to buy cubits which you lose if you lose a game so for a beginner who loses a lot of games expect to pay out a hell of a lot of hard cash to keep playing on the site, id advise you stay away from chesscube

  • http://chesscube angeldeath_28

    ah..i think chesscube was the best of them

  • angeldeath_28

    for me chesscube was the best of them..im more than 3years playing on that site and and my rates totlaly increase by 1500 to 2100..im happy on dat

    • Android_froyo

      You reached 2100 because chesscube is weak!

      • emde

        Which server is the most difficult: that’s an interesting question. What do you think? There are HUGE variations between the average level of play. I do easily over 2000 on chesscube, and struggle to keep over 1600 on FICS. I am an internet player and very rarely play on longer time controls OTB, so my real life rankdoes not fully reflect strength in blitz, but my ELO is 1550 – almost the same as in FICS!

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001427529629 José Alexandre Ribeiro

          ICC by far

  • Shrike

    FICS is my choice, with the interface Babaschess, or the Mobialia android app, I think is the best online chess gaming experience, for both beginners and experienced players. The FICS players level is quite high, the community is friendly and always ready to help, all the most important tournaments are broadcast live and it’s all free.

  • X1134X

    I’d avoid chess.com like the plague. They have IT trolls in control They think they have a “foolproof” statistical cheating detection method, that is full of flaws. They publish a list of cheaters that they detect and close their accounts, the list gets 100s of accounts A DAY. People aren’t that dedicated to cheating. They have a system that simply identifies everyone as cheaters eventually, and they will close your account, and ban your IP. They also stifle discussion in their forums by banning those who even discuss cheating, or question their methodology. If you want to get started, enjoy chess, then one day find your account closed for NO GOOD REASON, join chess.com.

    • CheckmateSpell


      i was banned and closed by the admin/mod for no reason when i was about to win a battle. why do they use feeling to make decisions instead of evidence?

      i registered on Sep 30 this year and had won 17 battles. i only lost one time. in time, i had gained around 1879 general rating until today (Oct 3). (can you imagine how hard it was?)

      before that, i won 7 battles in one day. on my 8th battle, i got a sudden pop window. i was suspected of cheating. which i didn’t. i thought everything would get better knowing i never cheated. i was wrong.

      if this is considered impressive, then so what? it doesn’t mean i was cheating. which i didn’t. that bastard banned and closed me because i had won 17 battles and lost 1 battle in 2 days, almost won the next battle in day 3.

      so is this how they appreciate someone who puts effort on playing chess? do they want a member who balances wins and losses? or do they hate a member who has won their major battles?

      i really dislike chess.com now along with all admins and moderators. totally lost my respect for them all. sometimes, i feel regret why i didn’t break any rules at all? why did i obey them?

      by CheckmateSpell (1879) 17-1-0
      banned and closed for no reason on October 3rd 2012

      WARNING to all new players on chess.com
      don’t attempt to be a great player! even if you are not cheating.

  • http://www.chessfriends.com sandra

    Hi all,

    thre is one very good online chess site not mensioned here. http://www.chessfriends.com. They are much better on online play than chess.com. 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.

    • http://www.OnlineChessLessons.net William

      Thanks for the tip Sandra – I guess that site is not as popular yet in the US as I have never heard of it. Sounds pretty cool – I will definitely have to check it out. Cheers, Will

      • Francisco Hernandez

        I would disagree on the level of players, but there´s a great difference in style of play. Chess.com players are tactical and aggressive,and usually go for the kill since move 1, whereas ChessFriends and Chesscube like to be a little more positional, and like longer games. And the higher level of FICS players is not as obvious until you reach 1700-1800 level, in which you start to find real tactical and positional monsters. One thing i love and hate, depending on the mood, about chess.com is the difficulty to increase your ratings, specially in blitz and bullet. And I´ve noticed their pairing system tries to keep you down by setting you against people with great winning streaks when you are having a bad day. So expect to win about 10 times in a row and then loose about 10 o more if you don´t control your ego.

  • bonsai girl

    chess.com for learning
    chesscube.com for playing

  • Mr__Spooky

    Chess.com wins easiy

  • flavio

    chess.com has changed a lot since you wrote this. I think the playing strength has increased markedly. they have attracted many more titled professionals to their server as well. they also just recently raised their prices for diamond membership to 30 dollars a month from 15. looks like they’re aiming to take on ICC eventually. if you ask me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186576529 James Sneller

    Yes, Chess.com is no longer a walk in the park opposition wise. Still the best players to be found are on ICC. Chess cubes is nice but feels more like playing an arcade game then playing chess, as the majority of tournaments are 1 min or 2 min. I don’t enjoy 1 minute chess. I can play it successively, but its just throwing pieces around, plus I find it leads to really superficial thinking if you play too much of it.

    As noted previously cube players considerably weaker then ICC or Chess.com. 2000 rating would be about 1600 to 1700 on ICC.

    • http://www.OnlineChessLessons.net William

      Agreed – chess.com has gotten much stronger in the last 1-2 years, but i still think ICC has the strongest players with the largest collection of GMs, IMs, FMs, etc.. I know what you mean about Chesscube favoring the bullet tournaments, but they do offer a lot of other options as well. Thanks for checking out our site and commenting – Will

  • Michael

    I noticed chess.com has 8 choices of time controls like 5min2secs which makes for a much better game if you are not a speed demon.

    I think you can do that on ICC but it’s not as easy to set up.

    ICC has great videos and coverage of the big tournaments. Unless chess.com can do the same they won’t take over ICC. Frankly I think ICC can improve their coverage, often the commentators get lost in discussions and don’t even follow what is going on at crucial moments.

    • http://www.OnlineChessLessons.net William

      Well I`ve got to disagree with you Michael – I think it is pretty easy to set up increment games like 5 2 on ICC. But I do think the interface and usability of chess.com is definitely easier if you are not super technically savvy. Chess.com also does offer great videos, but they don`t do much (if any) tournament coverage so you`ve got a good point there. Interesting point about ICC`s commentators – I think they usually do a great job but every once in a while I guess I`ve seen them get a little off topic!



  • http://@zarcap Esteban Capoccetti

    I’m a chess.com and ICC member; let me recommend both of them for those players who are willing to improve their chess skills.
    chess.com is plenty of very instruccional videos made by strong IM/GMs., also you can find there valuables chess articles covering all aspects of the game.
    IT’s a MUST for players really wanting to gain usefull chess knowledge.
    ICC is the perfect complement, playing with strong opponents will give you the required experience to test what learned on chess.com; I must mention that ICC Dan Heisman instruccional videos are also a great source to continue feeding your chess knowledge.
    Best wishes for all of you!!, have a very good new year!!

  • Anon 123

    I love ChessCube and Chess.com. I hate ICC and FICS.

  • John

    FICS has the worst admins ever. They have no respect for users but this is the price you pay if you’re going to play free. FICS admins make bans on personal reasons, they call the shots. If anything avoid FICS. Chesscube is way better. ICC is way better.

  • Jennie

    I agree with John and several others that FICS is a terrible site. And if your female BEWARE! I’ve been sexually harassed & had lewd comments made to me by their “administrators”(as well as a couple of players) This is NO place for kids

    ICC has the best interface I think; I did have 1 sexually insulting remark made, but ICC immediately apologized so I think they acted very professionally.

    chess.com is good, as is playchess.com

    1 more good point for ICC; their ‘premove’ feature is much better than any other server. The other servers
    show the piece on the square it’s going to while ICC just shows an arrow pointing to the destination square, which does not spoil your view of the board.

    Only thing about ICC is that I find it harder to find a game there; on chess.com it’s very easy


    It is possible to hide an IP, so that isn’t spam

  • Gerhard

    chess sites are a very tough business. Only a few sites will survive competition. And I fear chesscube will not be among them. This has several reasons.

    Firstly and most important: other sites were by far better in attracting paying members. But Chesscube has always been the home of players mainly from india, indonesia, philipinnes etc. and they cannot afford to buy a membership. Why management never tried to change that? A nice gui is one thing, but without enough marketing nobody sees that.. This leads to point nr. 2. Secondly: bad management! What shall premium members who have just bought a premium membership for 40 bucks or so (like I did for example) think if the management offers the same membership two weeks later for 30 bucks. And 4 weeks later for 20 bucks. But even that did not help chesscube, even at the most discounted price thinkable this site did not attract paying members. While chess.com has nowadays tenthousands of paying members and even playchess.com has tousands of paying members, chesscube has a ridiculous percentage of people who pay for the service. There are not more then several hundreds of paying members on chesscube and thats not enough for professionell service! Thirdly: the mods. Nearly anbody who wanted to become a mod, got the job. With all the consequences. I have never seen so many wrong decisions like here on chesscube (just this week they banned without prewarning one of the biggest chesscube-donators!..)
    At chesscube there has long time been no need to develop a decent business model that work, as Chesscube has had right from the start a 2 miliion dollar venture financing by south african venture capital fund InVeFin. Chesscube’s management knew pretty well how to spend money but never knew how to attract paying members.
    2ng biggest problem: bad management, really bad leadership! Take the chesscube story and you can write a “how-to NOT-run-a-business” bestseller..A bunch of tech nerds and gamers: tech students,, young, unexperienced, lack of social intelligence, no idea of marketing, no idea of business plans, no idea of financings. Since Mark Levitt left Chesscube, there is anarchy on this site.
    How is the saying: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Well, chesscube is nearly bankrupt and paid their mods less then peanuts. Tons of wrong decisions are the result. People were banned and unbanned according to the mood of immature amateur mods. No management, no business plan, no skills.
    CC is not short for Chessscube but for Chess & Chaos…

    • Zdenek

      I must agree with “Gerhard” and I don”t reccomend Chesscube. I was banned of no reason and I changed several mails with Chesscube support, because I was interested, where is the problem. In first mail they sent to me,there was written it is a case of “sandbagging”…I found what “sandbagging” is and answered that I don”t lower my rating deliberately, even I am nearly my maximum rating. “Sandbaggers” plays for some benefits (betting) and lower deliberately their rating to be undersimated by their opponents…I don´t use bets (rarely 25 cubits = min. bet = nothing) and I don´t ruin my rating – it is obvious from rating charts. I was waiting for the answer…They gave me the truth at this, but wrote that I improve my rating rather with weaker opponents (about 2000; I have (had) 2400). I was moving in limits the Chesscube have determined and they told me, it is cheating ?? I have played with players with the difference of rating +-500 points, it is maximum dispersion to choosing opponents on Chesscube…I can´t play with opponent, if he doesn´t want to play.
      Even if the game is started, the opponent can changes his mind and abort the game, if he wants.
      And they inhibit the rights of two free persons to play a game, to choose their opponent !!! I have played on Chesscube for several years and I was satisfied and then this happend. There was arrogant approach from Vhesscube and no willingness to solve the problem. It would enough to think a little…I play with players in the range (which is the same for everyone) and I choose my opponents and my opponents have the same right….there is NO PROBLEM but I was BANNED. Maybe “the dekorum” is not applied in case of non paying players.

  • AleksisIron

    But a thing to think about is that ICC has a large American membership where Playchess is more European. So the peak login times are different. Though both will still have many hundreds online even in the quiet times.

  • ketchuplover

    instantchess.com has a “casual chess” board which can be found after clicking on explore at the top of the page. Not sure but you might not even have to sign up to use it. Worth checking out imo.

  • Anshu

    i play with all espessially icc