Why I Quit Online Chess

Why I Quit Online Chess

Jun 22, 2015, 7:49 AM |

The following is a reprint of my latest column for Empire Chess Magazine:

Why I Quit Online Chess 

Online chess is all the rage.  A game is available 24-7 without leaving the comfort of your home.  Many diehard OTB (over-the board)  tournament players play chess online as a supplement to their live play, which is the focus of this article.  While I’m not a fan, as indicated by this article’s title, many contend that online chess has some positives:

  • It provides an opportunity to play chess for those who can’t leave the house for various reasons (health, transportation issues, etc.) or who have no local clubs in their area
  • It’s extremely convenient, providing round-the-clock access to a game
  • For OTB players, it acts as “training” where you can experiment with openings, new ideas, etc.
  • Blitz games - typically G/5 - provide excellent tactical training

Now while the above are all valid points for many, it is my contention that the negatives I will outline below far outweigh any positives - at least in my experience.  Since I stopped playing online, my OTB play has improved and I’ve been much happier with my game in general.  To be clear, when I say “online chess” I am referring to the typical quick time controls that dominate online play (G/5, G/10, etc.) Here are the specific reasons why I stopped:

It’s highly addictive to an egregious degree

I recall that scene from the show House of Cards when Kevin Spacey asks his press secretary if he plays video games, and he replies that he sold his X-box on eBay because it was too addicting.  The same was true for me (figuratively) with online chess, and I suspect it’s true for others as well.  I would intend to play “just a few games” and then study some middlegame problems, but would end up playing much longer than planned and skip the studying.  If I was winning I would want to ride that, and if I was losing, I would feel the need to get back my rating points.  As a result, I handled it the way you’re supposed to handle any addiction: eliminating it completely.

Online play takes time away from legitimate chess study

Due to my schedule, my study time now ranges between limited and non-existent so I have found it more productive to use my precious study hours to review my games and work through chess problems.  I’m a huge fan of Chess Mentor learning software (chess.com) and I’ve been slowly working through (again) Ray Cheng’s Practical Chess Exercises. As a result, I feel a bigger sense of accomplishment and am better prepared for my weekly club game.

There’s too much inappropriate behavior during online games

To be fair, the online servers are much better at cracking down on unsportsmanlike behavior, but there’s only so much they can do. I got tired of the immature comments, repeated draw offers, and abandoning of games in lost positions.  It was lowering the integrity of the royal game.

Playing on a computer is too inanimate

Holding a mouse and looking at a computer screen is not chess.  There’s nothing like sitting across from a live opponent, touching the pieces, hitting the clock, and sweating it out.  The thrill of playing the winning move is much more satisfying in a live game.

It hurts your OTB game

Let me state first that online servers are great resources for instructional purposes. There are many videos, articles, and puzzles that are excellent and instruction rich. However, playing quick-rated time controls online did little to help my OTB game and definitely hurt it to a certain degree.  For me, online play encouraged impulsivity and challenged my disciplined, controlled approach to the game.

At the time of this writing, I have stopped playing online for a little over a year.  I don’t miss it and my OTB rating is the highest it’s been (fingers crossed) and hopefully will continue in an upward direction.