The Internet Chess Club (ICC): Why I still pay to play

I’m an Internet Chess Club (ICC) dinosaur, I guess.

There are a lot of popular chess-playing sites nowadays, many of them free. The biggest at the moment seem to be chess.com, chess24.com, and lichess.org. These “big three” are free.

Still, I happily pay $69.95 each year to play on ICC, the Internet Chess Club.

Internet Chess Club logo

Internet Chess Club logo

The former industry leader (established in 1995) keeps losing market share to other sites, but there are two huge reasons I haven’t switched.

ICC’s Barrier to Entry

I like the fact that to play on ICC with anything but a guest account, players need to make a financial commitment to do so.

I believe a person is less likely to “fool around” or cheat when they have real skin in the game. There’s no incentive to do so.

This means I rarely encounter players who let their clock run out in hopeless positions. I also can’t ever remember facing someone I felt was using computer assistance. Players give their best effort, and the games are very “professional.”

I don’t like to chat with my opponents. I have set an auto “Thanks for the game” message to appear after each game, and no talking allowed during play. It’s rare I get a rude comment after a game, even if I win in a time-scramble — I get such comments less than ten times a year.

Part of this “professionalism,” I’m sure, has to do with who I’m facing.

The Pool of Players (Literally!)

ICC has “pools.” When you join the 1-minute, 3-minute, 5-minute, 15-minute, etc. pools you are automatically paired against another player in the pool. Pools aren’t unique to ICC, other sites have them too.

The thing is, I nearly always get a worthwhile game. True, ICC occasionally pairs me against a player with too few games to have an established rating. Overall though, I don’t feel like I waste my time when I log on, having to face players far below my skill level or who may be using computer assistance.

I’m not saying no one cheats on ICC, and I’m not accusing other sites of having lots of cheaters. My point is, I see no need to change what works for me. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for everyone.

Caveat Emptor…ICC isn’t perfect

One of the increasingly annoying things about playing on the Internet Chess Club is that it can take some time to be paired in the pool, sometimes around a minute. No doubt this is because of the decreasing number of opponents available to play. It’s not too big of a deal, though.

A 1500 player probably wouldn’t get the same value from ICC compared to one of the big free sites. And for many years, I have only recommended ICC to players roughly 1000 or more. So if you’ve finished Chess School 1a, give it a shot!

My current USCF rating is 2075. Not enough to get perks on other sites (or on ICC either, for that matter), but too strong to be mixed in a giant pool with a lot of weaker players. At least I think so…maybe I’m wrong. The hypothetical 1500 player I mentioned earlier isn’t bumping against the top of the scale.

Perhaps my read is incorrect and I’m just being stubborn? I’d love to hear what other people think about this topic!

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