The last year and a half has been absolutely devastating. When everyone started staying at home, guess what game’s popularity soured? That’s right chess! Then we had the outstanding movie, “Queens Gambit” by Netflix! I think it is TVMA! Do not let anyone through K-12 watch this movie alone!! The interest sparked is good for chess. The challenge comes when trying to help these new, and many experienced players, put their online activity into a real world perspective!
To me, this has been a challenge for a long time! I’ve read this article, that article, Chess.com this, Lichess that, ICC is the best, no, Chess Live is the best, and so on, and so on, and so on. Winter hit the nail on the head when he said that each site develops a culture. Over the board chess also has a culture. The average ratings of all of those sights and US Chess are within a couple hundred points. The higher the rating, the narrower the margin. With that in mind I do boldly declare that when properly considered online chess ratings are accurate!
Let’s get into that properly considered part and that will help you better understand. For people on line, chess is a pass time. Some of them may go days, weeks, months, or even years without playing a single game of chess and they don’t feel like they missed out on anything. For others online chess has and will continue to be a part of their daily, weekly, and even perpetual growth in the game. How can you tell which one you are playing with? You can’t! Sometimes you are playing against their computer and you can’t tell!
Online chess is not real chess!! Online chess is a chess substitute that is so close to the real thing that it has people comparing the incomparable!! Did you know that all the conversations about online ratings and how they translate to over the board ratings is based on Blitz, Bullet, and Lightning time controls? Did you know that a game has to be 30 minutes or longer to receive an OTB regular rating from US Chess? This is only part of what I meant when I said properly considered. At US Chess you can have a Regular, Quick, Blitz, and most recently an, “E” rating. So yes, if you play 5 minute games all the time, your rating should be relatively accurate. I’ve only heard of Bullet and Lightning being side events at a real tournament. There are no Bullet and Lightning championships in the real world!
What this means is that while everyone has been trying to see if they are accurate by comparing the general, the only accurate and advantageous comparison would require data from each time control!?! You’d never be able to get one of the chess websites to give you that information!! Why!?! Because they don’t want everyone to know that online chess is not very serious! Go to your favorite site and pick tournaments. If they aren’t holding tournaments that are longer than 30 minutes, it’s because no one plays in them. 95% are 5 minutes or less.
Let’s start with the puzzles. You can not earn 11 points for beating someone that is 393 points below your rating in any OTB Rating System!! The puzzle system is designed for immediate gratification. For each correct 1/2 move answer you get a prompt to continue solving. That’s like having a puzzle book and looking in the back of the book each time you make a half move to see if you were correct. That’s not helping you build visualization, concentration, or stamina! As a matter of fact, the prompting is an interruption that will make it impossible to build those characteristics. It may have been a great puzzle but you needed to write out the entire answer and any variations before checking for accuracy if you want your brain to remember anything. lol When you get an answer wrong, the puzzles get easier and the points you get for a correct solution get ridiculous again!
They have your immediate gratification covered on both ends. While all of websites will give you puzzles to solve that are 200, 300, and even 400 below the rating you have, they almost never make the puzzles 200, 300, or 400 more than your rating! To add insult to injury, how do you give me 11 points when they are 300 and 400 below me, 14 or 15 points when we are equal, but just 16 points when they are 200 higher? If points are your only concern, it helps to get one wrong every once in a while so that you get more points per puzzle.
They don’t just do this to the weaker players!! I just looked at Nakamura’s history for puzzle rush survival. He got 75 correct answers before a 4000 puzzle knocked him out the box. When I went to his last 25 puzzles, I saw that his rating had fluctuated between 3259 and 3331. 11 of the last 25 he did had ratings below 3000. The highest puzzle he was offered was 3384. With a 400 point difference at that level he still gets 10 points for a 3 move problem!?!
Online Chess sights are designed to appeal to the masses. Pass times have to be fun, or people won’t come back. The difference between a tournament and online chess is that online chess has to be fun whether you ever actually get better at chess or not! It’s a playground, not an arena, it’s a batting cage, not a baseball game, you’re using a ball launcher, it’s not a tennis match, you are bowling without keeping score! Playing serious chess is not the main attraction!
If websites weren’t for fun, how would a 2000 and a 1900 player get to have Nakamura on their stream? He beats masters blindfolded, he’s not there for the challenge?! If online chess was supposed to be serious why would a player with a rating of 2242 be 8th in the world for hours her stream has been watched!?! Irena Krush is ranked tied for 99th in the US at 2519. The top 10 year old in the country was rated 2259 in March of 2021. Get serious?! lol
If you haven’t already, you must conquer the bots. Don’t believe the ratings they give them. Bots don’t have real ratings because they haven’t been to any tournaments either! lol I make all of my students play the bots for 6 reasons!?! 1.) The bots never resign! You either win or lose. 2.) There is no way to offer the Bot a draw. 3.) There is no time limit, so there is no clock to lose to or time pressure. 4.) When you lose and ask for a rematch you have to change color. We all need a balanced game. 5.) The Bots vary their opening responses enough to learn many variations. 6.) The Bots play harder after they have made a mistake. Now that you have an advantage, you must learn to convert it. I can’t tell you how many times I was leading and let the Bot back into the game. While it doesn’t offer or accept draws, the Bots will force a draw to keep from losing!
Adults and children alike failed miserably when asked to sit at a screen for 45-55 minutes, then take a 5-10 minute break, 4, 5, and 6 times a day, and then be responsible for what was covered. All of a sudden everything required concentration, stamina, memory, and interest! That’s where over the board chess and online chess part company. One of the things I’ve noticed about on line players, is they think they have gotten somewhere, and they think they have changed into something great when all they’ve been doing is having bad practices and failing the practice test. Could you imagine a coach or instructor that holds 15 minute practices or coaching sessions and expects documentable change and improvement?! I laugh when I hear about serious chess lessons only lasting an hour. At a real tournament they have to play 2, 3, 4, and maybe even 5 games in a day! The games start with 40 minutes each and go longer. Yasser used to lock himself in his study for 5 hrs at a time! His reasoning was that his study sessions need to be as long as the games he was going to play. According to him there was no other way for him to judge his concentration, clarity, and stamina!! That has always stuck with me!
Online chess is like having the best toys and the best tools in the same place. If someone new comes in and doesn’t know which is which you’ll have people tooling with the toys, and toying with the tools. It’ll be a lot of fun, but nothing meaningful will get done. “Over the board”, “in person” chess, has one major and differentiating distinction that websites will never be able to match…IT MATTERS!!! Even today there are stigmas about the accomplishments people make on line. Just about every type of online accomplishment is less valuable than what is accomplished in person. When it comes to chess, only playing, coaching, directing, and organizing in the real world is worthy of the, “Accomplishments” sections of school applications, college applications, scholarship applications, and resumes. If everything you ever do with chess is online, it will wind up in the, “Hobbies and Interests” sections of those documents. If you ever get asked about having played in a tournament and you say no, their curiosity about how your involvement with chess can help their school or business will be over!
You can’t be serious if you wear whatever you have on just because you want to go to the Gym!? That means you must play with longer, real world time controls. Study using a board, books, pencils, and paper. Hold yourself accountable for accuracy and results instead of aesthetics and speed. The true grit, metal, character, fiber, strength, skill, and worth of a serious chess player is in there ability to draw and win against strangers!!! The only test for that is on the road!
Online Ratings are accurate for whatever time control you play in. Online, that’s 5 minutes or less!!! They reflect your level of interest and can give you feedback if that’s what you want. Unfortunately nothing about online chess can be considered a result to anyone except the player that is getting them. Online chess results don’t mean or prove anything because there is a form of chess that does mean and prove, and it’s not played on line. Online players will always lose to over the board players of the same ratings because the OTB player expects results based on how they play, not how much time is left!!!
If you’d like our help turning your playground into a gym, If you’d like our help in making your chess activity worthy of the, “Accomplishment” sections of your life’s documentation, you know how to reach us!
Hope you got the message. Declare and enjoy. We love tools and we love toys! lol