Online Chess vs. OTB Chess

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

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Online chess and OTB (over-the-board) chess are two very different things. 

Most players prefer one or the other, but some aren't affected at all. 

The difference between having an opponent sitting across from you or having a computer sit across from you may not seem like much at first, but in reality, it means everything.

OTB chess:

Over-the-board play is my preferred way of playing. All of my rated tournaments have been played on a physical chessboard, and I only have rating and skill level goals associated with OTB chess.

Of course, I am biased toward tournament play but I have listed the reasons why below. 

1. Cheating isn't likely

          In tournaments, there is a low likelihood of cheating. Cheating can still happen, but using an engine when playing online is much easier and much more common.

2. Games are longer

          Games played over the board tend to have longer time controls. Tournament games can be as long as g/2 or even longer, which results in high-quality games where both players play there finest. Online chess hosts more quick games than slow.

3. More learning

          Due to the slower games, players play the best they can. Consequently, the lessons learned from those games are much more valuable and can be used to target the player's real weaknesses.

4. Usually, the better player wins

          It is quite unlikely for a much lower-rated player to upset a much higher-rated player in a tournament game. In slower time controls, luck and quickness play much less of a role than they do in a fast time control.

5. More social

          When playing online chess, your opponent may as well be a computer screen. Playing OTB chess, your opponent is sitting directly in front of you, which adds a whole other dimension to the game. 

6. Intimidation and psychology exist

          When your opponent is sitting across the board from you, their expressions and body language can reveal a lot about them, their position, and the game. Also, players may get more intimidated when sitting across a master or GM rather than staring at a username. 

7. Ratings are more meaningful

          This point is personal and controversial. Of course, to some, online ratings mean a lot. I don't have goals for online ratings. All of my chess goals are with OTB chess. 

8. Easier to focus

          Playing via internet and computer provides numerous distractions. Whereas at a tournament, everyone is quiet in a meeting room with the only focus being on the game at hand.


9. Difficult to play on a 2D board

          This point is also subjective and dependent on the player. I don't visualize or calculate as well on a 2D board as I do on a 3D board. 

In light of everything said above, there are pros to online chess as well.

Online chess:

1. Quicker games

          The majority of online games are blitz games. This allows for many games (and more fun!) to be played in a short time frame.

2. Enjoyable

          Online chess seems to be more easygoing than OTB chess. There is less pressure to win or draw and more games are played strictly for having fun rather than reaching some new goal. Again, this is all subjective, but from experience, this is how I see it. 

3. Good practice

          Games via internet are an excellent way to get practice for openings or tactics without spending 4 hours per game. Playing 20 blitz games can give you the necessary information about the style of an opening and if you like it. 

4. Ability to play anyone, anywhere

          This is an incredible feature of internet chess. People from everywhere in the world can play you at any time. It's awesome.

5. Immediate pairings

          For top players, pairings may not be immediate, but for the majority of players out there, you click the "play" button and you have a game in milliseconds. Features like this simply aren't possible with OTB chess.

6. Instant analysis

 has a live analysis and computer analysis available after every game, You can easily see what went wrong in minutes. 

In the end, online chess and OTB chess are two completely different beasts. Though, online chess popularity has taken a massive leap due to OTB tournaments being canceled, Hikaru, and Pogchamps.

I've made my point clear about which I prefer, but the decision is entirely up to you.

Post what you think in comments. 

I am offering chess lessons to anyone who is interested (and below my skill level of course!).

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