In Australia, with a population (as of July 2009) of 21,262.641, there are less than 3,000 people on the ACF's Active Players list. That compares rather badly with chess.com which lists 23,009 Australian members.
New players can be quickly discouraged when they learn that the tactics that win against their friends simply don't hold up at club level. The result is that most don't stay very long. On the Internet that kind of mismatch doesn't have to happen. There are so many players on-line (almost 800,000 with chess.com alone) that we soon find our comfort zone and can play at the level that affords most enjoyment. Internet chess will never replace the excitement of playing in a big tournament but, for pure pleasure, you can't beat it.
I've been playing on the Net for the past eight years and rarely play anywhere else. It has all the convenience of playing from home, finding opponents of your own strength, and talking to people around the world. I've chatted with Russian lawyers, Chinese soldiers, Antarctic scientists, and just about everybody else you could name.
Internet chess is neither as intense nor as serious as club chess. Lots of very quick moves get played, sometimes with disastrous results. Sometimes they're just plain funny – whether they happen to you or to your opponent. If FIDE developed a black box game recorder to capture comments used by Internet players whose games had just crashed, I think the most frequently recorded word would be, "Oops!”
Now that chess.com's Live Chess Beta is almost ready to evolve into a satisfying playing medium I thought it might be worth sharing some of the things I've learned.
The following examples were all taken from blitz games on the now-defunct World Chess Network. Don't expect excellence—do expect fun.
Hint #1: Attacking the enemy queen develops pieces with tempo. IM David Pruess explained in his TV broadcast last week that it's not always a bad thing to develop your queen early. That flies in the face of my own experience, and my BS will trump his IM any day.
Hint #2: Defence is for wimps. There will come a time when you've been under attack by a stronger opponent who keeps finding ways to increase the pressure. You can keep defending and lose intelligently and with dignity, or you can do what the Norsemen did of old—send your Berserkers into the fight and see how strong his own defence is.
Hint #3: The Sicilian is a fighting defence that quickly wrests the initiative from White. In 1971 Lajos Portisch, then in the world's top ten, won the Karlis Lidums Tournament in Adelaide ahead of GMs Schmid, Gheorgiu, Matanovic and Browne. After one game a chess journalist, commenting on his opening play, asked, “Was that move in the book?” Portisch's reply was a very much to the point: “I have my own book,” he said. In the next game the Black player had his own book too—but he was no Portisch.
Hint #4: The best way to refute a gambit is to accept it. Well, yes. I guess. Of course if the clock is ticking down and you get flustered, you might not make the best moves. (Conundrum: if a clock ticks on the Internet and there is no one there to hear it, is there any sound?)
Hint #5: When your opponent refuses to resign a lost game—punish him! Some people just don't know when a game is over and play on, hoping for that once-in-a-lifetime stalemate. In the next game I had a bishop and five connected pawns against White's lone king who strutted back and forth in front of the approaching horde, like Canute defying the tide; so I decided to see how far I could push before he quit in disgust. I underestimated the guy—he was resolute to the end.
A word of warning to young players: don't take these hints seriously—they'll get you into all kinds of trouble.