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Chess for Free
You don't have to be a cheapskate to enjoy chess, but you don't have to be a millionaire either.

(August 2004) Who said, 'The best things in life are free'? We have no idea, but whoever said it could have been talking about chess.

It's possible to play chess without any equipment at all. If both you and your opponent know chess notation, a chess conversation might go something like this:

White : 'Pawn to e4'
Black : 'Pawn to e5'
White : 'Knight to f3'
Black : 'Knight to c6'

And so on, until checkmate or until one of you is no longer able to visualize the position.

It's hard intellectual work to play a game like that and having a chess set makes the match a lot more fun. You can construct a nearly free chess set using inexpensive materials that you might be planning to throw away.

Make your own set

Follow the links under Elsewhere on the Web (see the link box at the bottom of this article) for a half-dozen pages on how to construct chess sets from different materials. They range from the almost free to the not-so-free. The last link ('Variants') even contains tips on how to construct other games similar to chess.

If you don't have the time or the inclination to make your own set, you can buy one for a very reasonable price. The link 'Inexpensive sets' under Related Resources (see the link box again) leads to a page from the About Shopping site. There you'll find a list of chess sets costing from a few dollars to many hundreds of dollars. The list is sorted to display the least expensive sets first.


Since you're probably reading this article with the help of your computer, we assume that you're interested in freebies related to computer chess. Along with About Chess, which is a free site, you'll find hundreds of other free resources available for the price of an Internet connection and a few mouse clicks.

Free software

Free software has been widely available since the early days of computer networking and electronic bulletin boards. Our list of 'Shareware/Freeware' directories (link box again) will lead to you hundreds of programs to play chess, to manage chess data, to play chess online, or to improve your chess through programmed training.

Free game data

When we say 'chess data', we're talking about the scores of finished games in digital format. There are dozens of resources providing free chess data, sorted by opening, by player, or by tournament. See 'Game Data Downloads' for a list of resources.

Where to play

Our 'Where to Play' page gives some practical buying advice for chess computers and commercial chess software. If you're only interested in freebies, then you can ignore these links and skip to the tips on how to find a club or a local tournament.

In the past, this was the only way to play against a real opponent, but things have changed dramatically in the last decade. It's now possible to play chess against in your own home against players from all over the world.

Online servers

If you're interested in playing a game that's over in a few hours or a few minutes, see the links under 'Crossboard Servers '. These are sites which connect you with another player who is online at the same time that you are.

If you're interested in playing a game that gives you the time to study positions in depth, see the links under 'Email Servers'. These are sites which connect you with another player who may take hours or days to complete a game.

Many of the online play sites are subscription only, but some are absolutely free. The best known of the free crossboard services is undoubtedly the 'Free Internet Chess Server', known as FICS to its many loyal fans.

Other online play services are free up to a certain level. Their business models are based on providing premium services, like offering prize tournaments, at a price.


The word is out : chess is for cheapskates! You don't have to be a cheapskate to enjoy chess, but you don't have to be a millionaire either.

 Related Resources (offsite)
• Inexpensive Sets
• Shareware/Freeware
• Game Data Downloads
• Where to Play
• Crossboard Servers
• Email Servers
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Building Chess Sets
• Kid Crafts
• Handyman Set
• Origami Set
• Chainmail Set
• Patio Board
• Craft Projects (Variants)