Welcome to my introduction to the Internet Chess Club.
The Internet Chess Club is one of the world’s largest online chess clubs and by strength, it is in the top two of the strongest chess clubs in the world. ICC features the ability to play opponents 24 hours a day, a trackable rating system, lectures from grandmasters, tournaments and live coverage of international events.
Today, I want to go through some of the basic features of ICC to get you started. Unless you already have membership (which is unusual since you won’t be reading this article), you can get a free trial of ICC. The 7-day trial gives you full features of ICC.
Now that you’ve registered, there are two main interfaces you can download – BlitzIn and Dasher. I personally have a preference for the BlitzIn interface, since it has a cleaner interface and provides excellent facilities to accommodate fast chess. I find the Dasher interface a bit clumsy when moving the pieces on the chessboard. However, Dasher has one significant advantage in that you can use the chess engine Crafty or Junior (the latter only available if you have purchased it) to analyse your game afterwards. Since I pretty much only play 5-minute games, analysing my games is not that important.
After you have downloaded and installed your selected interface, log in with your trial account. You can customise your interface to your preferences by looking through all the pull-down menus. If you encounter any significant problems, you can click the “ask a question” button. Now, I will show you some basic commands. To use a command, type it in the bottom of the main console and press enter.
Use the tell command to talk to others, e.g. /tell Fred Thanks for the game! will deliver the instant message “Thanks for the game!” to the person with the username Fred immediately (unless he is logged off). If the person you want to talk to is offline, you can use the message command, e.g. /message Fred Thanks for the game! will deliver the message “Thanks for the game!” to the person with the username Fred next time he logs in (unless he deliberately chooses not to read his message bank).
Now, on to playing chess! The simplest way to play a game is to use the “5-minute” or “1-minute” command. Simply type /5 or /1 and press enter. This will enter you into a pool of players, the server will pair you with another player and the game will start automatically. My favourite time limit is 5-minute, as I find that it provides the most realistic ratings and has more strategy than in 1-minute which is often a time scramble for me. Note that ICC also has a rating called “blitz”. 5-minute and blitz receive different ratings. Blitz is different in that you can choose your opponent and this drastically inflates all the blitz ratings on ICC. This can be illustrated by checking the best ratings for each category (ratings checked on 27/08/09). For blitz, the best player is Smallville (GM Hikaru Nakamura) with a rating of 3600. For 5-minute, the best player is DSquared (GM Dmitry Andreikin) with a rating of 2727. As you can see, the 5-minute ratings are far more realistic.
Just for interest sake, here is a graph of my 5-minute rating over the past three years (taken 14/09/09). I often stay around 2200 and occasionally I peak over 2300, with my best ever 5-minute rating being 2335.
To check your own rating history, click on the the “info window” on the top bar of your BlitzIn interface (it has the icon of a house). Click “My ICC” and then click on “rating graphs”.
To see your own details (including your ratings), use the finger command. Type /finger and press enter. To see other people’s details, type /finger (username).
You can also use the tell command to talk in channels. To deliver a message into the relevant channel, type /tell (channel number) (message). ICC has hundreds of channels, e.g. channel 1 is the help channel and channel 66 is the Australia channel.
Of course, there are many more advanced functions to ICC, but I hope I have given you a good overview. For further information, ICC have made an introductory manual for BlitzIn.