Play chess online: best apps and beginners’ tips as Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit sparks surge in popularity of the game

Online chess has seen a surge in popularity following the release of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix

Chess's origins can be traced back 15000 years (Getty Images)
Chess's origins can be traced back 15000 years (Getty Images)

The Queen’s Gambit, a series charting the budding career of a chess prodigy, has become the latest sensation to roll off Netflix’s conveyor belt of original series.

This, paired with the return of strict coronavirus measures across the world, has seen many take to the checkered board to try their hand at the ancient strategy game.

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Unlike The Queen’s Gambit’s Beth Harmon, not all of us are naturals at the game which rewards mental toughness and intelligent, forward-thinking play.

Knowing where to start can be daunting, but there are some simple tips, and a host of fun-to-use apps that the beginner player can take advantage of.

What are the origins of chess?

But first, a brief history.

The origins of chess can be traced back to the 6th century, with a primitive version of the game first being played in India.

Conquerors and traders subsequently adapted the game with Persia adopting the game, followed by the Arab world. From there the game moved to Southern Europe and across the rest of the continent.

Chess developed into its current form in the 15th century, growing exponentially in popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. During it’s growth in popularity the game deviated from short-term tactical play to long-term strategic planning.

In 1997 a computer defeated a famous chess champion for the first time when IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov.

What are some simple tips for chess beginners?

Fulfilling your potential on the 64-squared-board takes years of study and play, but for those familiarising themselves with the game for the first time, here are a few simple tips.

1. Study other players

Whether it’s following the moves of your opposition or streaming games between professional players on Youtube, studying other players’ games can equip you with tools and tactics for your future games.

2. Analyse your opposition’s move

It’s all too tempting to get bogged down with your own long-term plans, but it’s only by seeing off threats from your opponent that you can progress your own strategies.

3. Take your time

Unless embroiled in a game of speed chess there’s no reason to rush your plays. Ensure that you don’t make stupid mistakes by analysing the potential consequences of each of your plays.

4. Know the value of your pieces

Don’t surrender your pieces unless you can get a good return on your investment. Over the years pieces have been assigned point values. These are; Pawns = 1; Knights and Bishops = 3; Rooks = 5; Queens = 9. Do the maths before trading pieces with your opponents.

5. Take the centre ground

Controlling the centre squares of the board can allow your pieces to make a greater number of moves, and provide routes for your other pieces to traverse the board.

What are the best chess apps?

Play Magnus

Magnus Carlsen has been a chess grandmaster since the age of 14 and has evolved into the posterboy of the sport. Play Magnus allows players to take on the Norwegian at different stages of his career, including when he was aged 5.

Chess.com

The go-to app for millions of cheese players, this easy-to-use platform allows players to find suitable opponents for a quick game with ease. The tactics trainer meanwhile allows players to sharpen aspects of their game.

Lichess.org

This app boasts 60,000 puzzles from recent games to help players fine-tune their game. Alternatively you can use Lichess to take on opponents at a variety of play modes, including three check chess and Chess960.