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OTB vs Online

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What does the increasing popularity of online chess mean for OTB (over-the-board) chess? This one is discussed often, but there's no way to prove anything. Between playing against their PCs and online chess, many players first encounter serious chess thanks to the computer, and many then go on to seek out OTB chess. By "serious" I mean tournaments, ratings, openings, all those things a majority of the world's oft-cited 400 million chessplayers don't know anything about. For most of those millions chess is just another board game, if perhaps one they understand has a serious side.

Anyone out there go from online chess to OTB chess instead of the other way around? I know from various posts on the Ninja message boards that this is not unusual, especially among the youth crowd. Most who go from offline to online play feel they are different games. If you started online, what encouraged you to play your first OTB tournament? Can exclusively online play create a strong player? Most find it hard to concentrate enough playing online (or against a program) to see the improvement you get OTB, but I'm speaking as an old fogey of 35. Most online players only play blitz, and that's not going to create a Master. Why do you/don't you play OTB/online?


There was a survey on this topic recently. See http://home.comcast.net/~zugz/index.html


One reason that I no longer play OTB is the amount of time it takes, at least to do what I consider (for me) passably well. In addition to the fact that (again, for me) chess is like golf, you have to play it a lot to do well consistently, you have study time, etc. When you're 38, married, and have a full time job, taking a weekend a month (or more!) to play a tournament on top of all the study time, practice, etc, can get to be grind on the marriage. So now I play only online.

I was 12 years old when I got my start at yahoo, believe it or not! Then after 3-4 months of that, someone on yahoo suggested WCN (WorldChessNetwork) and that was a much better "serious" site, with GM lectures and stuff. Only until after 5 months of internet, I began trying to find why/where/when/how tournaments are held. Not entirely sure how I stumbled onto USCF's official site, but I did and found an upcoming tournament in the tournament section not too far from where I live (I didn't do too badly either, came away with a 1750/06 rating but I was way overrated. Somewhere around 1500 was probably my real strength). That was not quite 4 years ago now, and presently I'm 2000 otb and playing G/15 almost every day on US Chess Live to try and improve.

I'm not sure at the basis of all this whether otb and online (even blindfold) are all that differently, really...if you concentrate equally hard at both, chess is a game of ideas isn't it?

Over the last couple years, my work hours and stress have been too nasty to play at the club regularly. On-line blitz has always struck me as a waste of time -- I have no interest in rushing through countless games just to get waxed by 16-year-old headhunters who have free time to sit around memorizing opening traps all day. Instead, I've been playing correspondence games on-line at Gameknot. I can check in on my games from work throughout the day and correspondence has the flexibility to allow me to step away for several days when work is especially hectic. On-line correspondence is a lot more fun than snail mail used to be since most players check in on their games often and the games progress quickly.

As a one-time OTB player trying to bridge the gap, I find the greatest challenge has been psychological. Somehow it doesn't feel like a "real" game, or at least the game I remember, without the feel of actual pieces, the rhythm of moving and striking the clock and how we move and strike the clock, the subtle changes in posture across the board, the hesitation or glee meeting my sacrifice or theirs; in short, a complete disconnection from what I have hitherto known as "the experience of playing chess." (Not to mention others: how different the board looks -- somehow so much less rich than a real board in perspective -- or playing in a quiet room instead of around a crowded table, etc.) These things add up: how simple to lose the thread of the game when feeling so uneasy.

At least the pieces move the same way, even if calculating from a screen is a slightly different task, which I suppose means that after a little effort one can pick up "internet chess" having known "OTB chess" (or vice versa). Regardless I doubt the former will ever replace the latter to me, simply because the human contact is verging on null, and to me chess is a very social game. I'll never hear an English professor's trash talk, or a master sternly telling me not to give bad advice to the opposition (possibly being me: "you shouldn't do that to yourself" etc), playing blitz on the internet.

I definitely experience "disconnection" during internet games. I never fully engage when playing on-line (at best I'd guess I play around 75% of my real strength). It's just too hard to take the game as seriously and to focus without sitting across from your opponent. It's similar to the difference between playing with and without a clock. Using a clock is my internal signal to take a game seriously and really try.

I retired from OTB in 1988, but I still get the magazines from USCF and my state organization (Michigan). The reason for my retirement was, I had remarried, and put my two kids together with my new wife's one, and it suddenly struck me that it wasn't really fair to leave her with all that responsibility for several weekends a year, let alone a two-week US Open.

To compensate, I threw myself into postal chess, and started investigating the newly-hatched ChessMaster opposition, since this was WAY before the Internet. I'd like to say, I've never looked back; but I do, a lot.

I play exclusively e-mail chess these days, except for the once- or twice-a-week foray into FICS. E-chess has increasingly become the exclusive domain of people who not only use their PCs to communicate, but also to play for them. I miss that about OTB - the sure and certain knowledge that it was just me against him, not one silicon brain crashing against another. What I don't miss are the lonely nights and mornings in the motels, the bad food on the road, and not being able to see my kids.

I can see myself eventually - probably once the youngest goes to college - restarting with the OTB, but just for local Saturday or Sunday rapid tournaments. And if my West Michigan burg ever resurrects its old chess club, I might find myself hanging out there, too, one night a week. For now - too much to do, too little time, too much to miss.

Mig and others,
i first started playing chess on the internet. i found that to improve my game i had to play longer games. as i began to enjoy classical time controls, i then decided to find a local club. the biggest difference i have found as been the stress. when i am on the computer i am more disconnected and can more objectively make decisions. my internet rating is many points higher than otb rating because i can think w/out emotions of being in person. i also find looking at the peices otb more difficult than on the computer screen. so, i have begun studying otb instead of the computer. my game has gotten better, but only noticably over the internet. when playing otb i still continue to have troubles.

I play almost exclusively on the internet because otherwise I wouldn't play much. No clubs and I'm only allowed to play at tournaments where there is a scholastic division. No weekends away from the kids for tournaments!

But, I got into chess because the kids were getting into it, so I guess this makes sense.


I play unrated classical chess at 25.0 and 15.0
on Chess Net and Play Chess because there isn't
a chess club close enough to where I live the nearest club is a 2 hour bus and metro ride downtown and in the winter time the weather is lousy 46 below zero, icy roads nasty blizzards getting around is hard. Playing only standard
online has improved my game alot but it's hard
to find players to play with who won't cheat
with a computer engine there isn't a night I
don't catch at least 2 or 3 guys using a computer and Internet Chess is not social like OTB I have to block all my tells because players online are very crabby and extremely rude especially guests
so there is no chance to talk about a game in a
civil fashion or analyse like OTB.

I'm 20 and took up online chess to kill time in college. I love OTB chess though. I played it as a kid, and I won about $200 this summer playing it (all that online play basically made me look like a sandbagger too since I gained 350 points in one tourney). But during the school year, I can't afford a weekend's time to travel and play in a OTB tourney.

Online play has it's drawbacks too. I don't care about time controls since I'm a flashy tactical player (I get to finish more beautiful games).

If you let me swear here, I would, but what I really care about is the 'misbehaving' online. If somebody spoke to me the way some of these kids did online OTB, they wouldn't be speaking again without significant pain for a week.

The generation below me really has no class or concept of respect and they compose probably 75% of the players online.

I guess I'll just stick to my indefinite two-board match with my roommate.

I started to play online chess with kasparovchess.com.
I just wanted to try out new openings to get a feeling for them before using them otb.
After some years of playing online chess, I still see it just as some sort of training for me. I play lots of games in order to try new openings, find systematic errors in my play and so on. I also like to watch games of strong players because sometimes I notice some interesting concepts or patterns. All for improving my otb play.

Beside that I like very much the variety of people you meet while playing online chess. It's nice to meet people from all over the world.

The only way of playing "real" or "serious" chess is playing otb for me. I don't think that will ever change. The problem of cheating is not the main reason for that. Concerning chess, I seem to be very conservative. I wished there would have never been a Fide KO "world championship" and I prefer time controls which start with 2h/40.

Obviously a player can never become strong just from online play... he needs to do the serious analysis and study as well as serious tournament play. However, for those that cannot reach tournaments that often, Online play can be a good way to prepare. For example, what better way to test the latest line in your repetoire than 30-50 blitz games. This in my view is especially useful for openings if a book line finishes with +/= is it really an easy +/= for white or does black have good chances to equalize ? How well known is the theory of the variation. Also online blitz significantly sharpens tactical prowess. It is no surprise that players who play alot online are generally known as excellent tacticians.

I've been playing OTB ever since my dad taught me. I was always a blitz player so when I started playing at online servers, that's what I gravitated toward. I'll always prefer OTB just because I like watching my opponents and spectators. Also, I'm pretty good at judging at what move they'll play, not necessarily because they're good or bad or the move is good or bad, I just seem to have a slight knack for picking which move they'll make. Course my percentage decreases once I get to 2000+ players but only slightly. I'm just not so good at picking up the line of thought, etc.

I'm no good at watching other games though. Once I see something, I wanna blitz through and see how things would work out.

On the other hands once I've blitzed myself into a tough position, I'll love spending 20-30 mins or more thinking about the possibilites.

I'm no good at tournament play, though I've played in my fair share and won the u1200 at world open one year. The last time I played in world open I basically had a chess meltdown. It was bad. So 1st round long games in a one day I'm just fine, but I crash and burn after that.

Okie enough and back to work I need to get.


i play otb in tournaments only, and i've barely played in maybe one or two in the last 6 months. Thats the only time i play otb. My school has no chess club(i'm the best one anyway in the school) and i have nobody within 400 points of me to play chess with in real life. Its not so much fun.

Online chess has a different psychological makeup. Chess is a very personal experience that you share... oftimes with a complete stranger. You put all of your defects on the board for all to see... indecision, poor organization, poor time management, passivity, overaggression. On the other hand you get to show you creativity, intensity and sometimes brilliance. You can learn a lot about yourself at an OTB chess tournament. It is a perfect tool for self-analysis. You also get to analyze with someone after the game who may show you something you hadn't considered. Ideas are more fluid when face-to-face.

So much is lost in online chess. I prefer the face-to-face combat as chess involves an intense use of psychology which is loss online. The facial expressions, clocking ticking down, the internal dialogue, the tense moments of playing "the move" are exhilarating. Try duplicating that in a room by yourself on a computer. OTB is the best! The comments about OTB being a time vaccuum are true. I'm not sure what the solution is, but mouse slips are no fun!

I refuse to play online chess simply because of how much is lost in the game. I also cannot see the board in the same way, I miss all sorts of moves and openings that I would never overlook in OTB. The screen perverts the game so much that it is NOT the same game as far as most GMs are concerned. Thankfully I can get a few excellent games in each week as there are plenty of quality players in my town. I suppose if you cannot find locals to play OTB with then I can understand going online, but if you have a good local club online should be left for the teenage scum who like to trash talk you and use bot programs to play for them.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 29, 2004 11:20 AM.

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