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Benefits and Drawbacks of Playing Chess Online

Posted by Arun J on

Online Chess has bridged the gap between distance and availability. Now anyone can play with any level of players through the internet. But how should one approach it to make the best use of it? 
This is a question many players and parents ask their coaches frequently. In this article, let's discuss the benefits and drawbacks of online chess. 
Addictive Nature of Online Chess: The biggest drawback. 
The online chess realm is full of players pre-moving for an Adrenalin rush, the sweet sensation of breaking another man's ego and just having fun. It's not uncommon for a player to complain of headaches after a mind-numbing number of hours before a computer, playing on their favorite chess server. Or, players want to increase their rating by a particular margin, or reach that magic rating number and persist relentlessly until their goal is reached. In this case, the motive is the success. And there is another group of player who plays just for fun, they play risky lines for the fun of it, which motivates them to persist playing. Just like gambling or obsessive internet browsing, online play can become just as addictive because of the Adrenalin rush and hit of pleasure it can offer after each quick victory. Chess variants like crazy house played on a shorter time control can be even more exciting and offer unlimited opportunities to stay excited because of all the crazy sacrifices that would be possible. This is the first drawback of online Chess - It's easy to play obsessively, compulsively and eventually turn it into an addictive behavior where one craves for a few more games.
Time Killer: 
The next biggest drawback with online chess is that it can quickly turn into entertainment and kill a lot of important hours that we could have used in other ways. It is tempting to play just one more game, and then we usually end up playing dozens. Just like how a knife can help make your apple slices as well as chop a finger if used inappropriately, online chess can either help you or hinder your progress in chess. A personal discipline is required to make the most of online chess to utilize it to your full advantage. 
How does a player make sure he improves a little bit with each game he plays online? The answer lies in the attitude and habits pertaining to how you approach online chess. 
Benefits: Learning Opportunities.
Take a few minutes to think about the below positions. 
[1. Black just played Rd2. The position looks pathetic. Will you resign? Or is there something you can still do?]
[below: 2. White played Bb5 and black captured it hastily. White is a Rook down and the position looks bad. Should white resign or is there any hope?]
In both the above positions, I played on the losing side and was unable to find the best move under severe time pressure. The biggest benefit of online chess is the learning opportunity it has to offer. But to be able to successfully use it, there are a few habits one has to cultivate. 
  1. Fun Vs Learning: Make learning your priority. Analyze your games to find hidden continuations that you have missed in the game.
  2. Limit the number of games you play each day on the internet. Make sure you analyze them before playing the next few games.
  3. Give yourself a generous time control or an increment of few seconds. Chess played for victory on time is no use. It's also no use playing pre-move ridden bullet games. 
Each game should lead us one inch in the right direction of our learning journey. 
The second biggest benefit of playing online is the community
You get to see top Grandmasters online and sometimes even lucky to have a chat with some of them. Maybe the elite are reserved types and rarely chat, but you can always chat with your opponent after the game and see what his ideas were. You will never know where you find your next sparring partner or even your next coach. 
Kibitzing other plays games and broadcasts is a great way to stay inspired and learn new ideas from top players. Most chess servers have broadcast feature which relays top games and games of other players. 
The Opportunity to experiment: 
Going anonymous and testing your favorite opening lines is something even elite Grandmasters do at times. You don't have to test your opening ideas directly in important OTB games. The Internet gives us the opportunity to play so many games in a span of few hours. We can use this to our advantage by testing our experimental ideas with other players online. Another idea is to find players of your strength (or higher) who would be interested in practice games. You can play in selected opening lines after a brief discussion. 
Data mining and understanding your own strength and weakness.
The vast number of online games you have played remains stored in databases (Either online or offline depending on the server you are playing on) which can be mined properly to understand key insights into our game. Lichess, for example, offers analysis and statistics tools which give you more insight into your game. On the other hand, one can download these days and look at the statistics using tools inside Chessbase (chess database management software).
A little research tells me how terrible my scores in King's Indian (When I play White) or the Morra Gambit (when I am black) are, compared to my results in Open Sicilian (white). They also point out where your strength and weaknesses are. Such insights gathered from the data mined from your online chess games can help you make critical changes in your OTB game and save (or gain!)a few important rating points.
Found the answers to the puzzles posted above? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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