Let’s dive into the old debate of which chess server is best, lichess or chess.com? We will compare the popularity of the sites worldwide and within ChessGoals survey respondents, compare the features head to head, and summarize which server you should select for your own play. For this article, we will focus on having a chess.com premium membership. Check out our post Is a Chess.com Premium Membership Worth It for more information on the benefits of signing up for chess.com. Please message us if we missed any key points and we will attempt to keep this page updated regularly.
Disclosure: ChessGoals is a chess.com affiliate and I am a part-time staff member at chess.com. I recommend trying both sites before deciding, and I use both sites regularly.
In this post we will cover:
- Website Popularity
- ChessGoals Improvement Metric
- Lichess Features
- Chess.com Features
- Additional Features Comparison Table
According to Alexa 90-day search rankings, chess.com ranks 303rd and lichess.org ranks 1080th in worldwide web traffic. This serves as an estimate of the overall popularity of the websites.
Of the 386 players who have taken the ChessGoals survey, 360 (93%) play regularly on chess.com. 158 (41%) of survey respondents play regularly on lichess. Let’s look at the combination of the two sites:
There is a question on the survey asking “Which rating system do you consider the best measure for your own chess improvement?” The rating that respondents choose is the one used to compute their annual rating change. Overwhelmingly, players chose chess.com ratings as their improvement metric, followed by USCF and FIDE ratings. Lichess ratings came next followed by other remaining categories. We compare the different ratings on the rating comparisons page.
According to the lichess about page, lichess is a free and open-source site powered by volunteers and donations. A lot of players appreciate being able to play for free without advertisements, and/or are fans of the open-source design. Lichess does have an optional patron program to donate to their site to help cover costs.
The lichess website has a very minimalist and clean look to it. The board stretches vertically with the clocks and player names to the right-hand side. Players who prefer lichess often state the website feel and design are top reasons to pick the site over chess.com.
If you like playing fast games, lichess allows players to make premoves without taking any time off the clock. A ‘premove’ is when a player locks in their move prior to the opponent taking a turn. If after the opponent’s turn the premove is a legal move it will register with no time taken off the clock.
To keep chess interesting, some players like playing different chess variants. Lichess offers crazyhouse, chess960, king of the hill, three-check, antichess, atomic, horde, and racing kings.
The lichess post-game analysis is a very handy tool to get a quick snapshot of the whole game. The first tab, Computer analysis, shows the computer evaluation across the entire duration of the game and lets you know where the middlegame and endgame phases begun. The chart is clickable to immediately jump to that move in the game. Off to the right-hand side, there is a summary of inaccuracies, mistakes, blunders, and average centipawn loss.
Additional options on the right-hand side include toggling on the chess engine, checking the opening book, practicing a position against the computer, and learning from mistakes.
Across the bottom, below the evaluation chart, are additional tabs for Move times, Crosstable, FEN & PGN. Move times will show a chart with how much time was spent by each player (y-axis) by move number (x-axis). Crosstable will show a history of the two players head-to-head and summarize the results in a nicely formatted clickable crosstable. FEN & PGN has options to copy or download the game (PGN) or position (FEN).
Lichess studies are a fantastic tool for saving analysis, sharing with friends, adding notes, and much more. This is personally my favorite lichess feature, and I use lichess studies when teaching students. Traditionally, serious chess players have tended to purchase Chessbase software for their database needs. Lichess studies are not as powerful as Chessbase, but they cover many of the main features and allow you to share your notes live.
Chess.com’s free accounts will have restrictions on each of the features listed in the image below. They do offer one free 7-day trial per each account and will offer a refund in the first 30 days if you aren’t satisfied (source). I personally recommend the diamond membership to players looking to spend serious time on improving and are comfortable paying $99/year. We covered the chess.com premium options in Is a Chess.com Premium Membership Worth It.
Chess.com also has a clean interface that is aesthetically pleasing. The layout is more colorful compared to the lichess defaults, which will be a matter of personal preference. The moves are kept off to the right-hand side, with player names and clocks above and below the board.
Large User Base
Both sites are extremely popular, but if your rating falls towards the extremes of the rating distributions it will probably be easier to find an opponent on chess.com. Try both sites though and see which finds you a game quicker at your rating level and for your desired time control.
Chess.com premoves take 0.1 seconds to register. Some users prefer a 0.0-second premove, some prefer a premove to always take at least 0.1 seconds off your clock, and others wish the premove didn’t exist. This is really a matter of personal preference. IM Danny Rensch on chess.com is a big proponent of premoves taking 0.1 seconds. One thing that premove fans can agree on is the benefit of multiple premoves strung together on chess.com. If I have 0.5 seconds on the clock and a forced checkmate sequence in 3 moves, I can string together multiple premoves to secure the victory.
There are many different chess ratings out there. Common ones are chess.com, lichess, FIDE, and USCF. Each rating pool will have a different distribution of players, a slightly different system to calculate the ratings, different time controls being played. It’s impossible to perfectly map ratings between categories, but our rating comparison page attempts to give players a guide on where they stand. There is a long-standing tradition of what a rating means though. Players rated over 2200 for example are typically considered master-strength.
I did a post on chess.com titled Are chess.com ratings the most accurate. Chess.com ratings fall closely in-line with traditional over-the-board rating systems employed by USCF and FIDE. They even recently added a +150 point bonus to bullet ratings in 2020 to help keep things in check. The summary is that lichess ratings tend to be higher than over-the-board ratings by 100-300 points depending on the rating category and one’s level.
This has the benefit of adding confidence, but when you meet a new chess player it’s misleading to quote your lichess rating without adding a qualifier. For the best estimate of one’s over-the-board strength, we recommend using the rating comparison page.
Chess.com also offers the most popular chess variants: 960, 3 check, king of the hill, and crazyhouse. All of the variants we have discussed so far involve two players battling it out. What if you have a group of three friends that want to play together? Chess.com has your answer, additionally offering both bughouse and four-player chess. In mid-2020, a list of new variants were rolled out that include fog-of-war, automate, chaturanga, and a few more.
Analysis and Report
Chess.com has a very powerful analysis and game report tool that is receiving new upgrades on a regular basis. On the main report tab, there is a description of how the game flowed, in the screenshot, it was determined to be sharp. Below the chart are links to personalized training lessons.
Below the board are different charts with the move numbers on the x-axis and the other metrics (score, time, move diff, criticality, and themes) on the y-axis. There are so many features here it’s hard to describe them all in one article, so it’s best to try them out for yourself.
Chess.com lessons are one of, if not the very top, recommend resources for chess learning for players below the advanced level. For players not interested in paying for a coach, chess.com lessons are the next best option. The lessons are in video format with exams after each section. I ran a lessons study for players rated <1000 on chess.com, and the summary is that they helped players improve at a faster rate.
Chess.com has migrated its homepage to chess.com/today, which is a portal for all things chess content. Typically there is live content at any time of the day on chess.com’s TV channel. Below that you can find the latest news both in online play and over-the-board events. Recent articles, videos, and community blogs are also highlighted on the page.