There are lots of opportunities to play chess now that the entire world is online. Let’s explore:
1. On-Demand Chess Games
There are a bunch of really great sites that players can visit to play chess any time of the day. I call them Mega-Portals and there are hundreds like these:
These sites also provide static learning content, at very low cost, ad-supported or in some cases, free.
You can play an abundance of Anonymous Games on a Mega-Portal, with every game matched to your individual level of play.
The downsides of these sites are mostly Cultural. Online, on-demand games are a commodity - you can play an unlimited number of them free of charge, any time at all. The culture which gets created is that more is better, so games get faster and faster and are rarely taken seriously. Concentration can be an issue and many bad habits can be formed.
Anonymity of self and of opponents can create a culture of unsportsmanlike behaviour, plus parents may have concerns around cyber safety (anonymous chat).
But, it's a lot of fun! :)
Generally, the younger the student, the less well suited they are to this mode of playing chess.
2. Scheduled Chess Events
Is going to a live concert better than listening to the same music on a CD?
Everyone would agree that it's certainly different! The perceived value allows a concert ticket to be priced at $250 for an hour or two, compared to $0.99 for a lifetime of listening. What does that mean for chess events?
Mega-portals deliver on-demand chess games as a commodity.
A Scheduled event requires an organiser, arbiter, coach, mentor or teacher to manage the event. Scheduled events provide real opportunities for high-level performance, consolidating learning and improvement.
The adage of expertise coming after 10,000 hrs is about Dedicated Practice, not "play". Playing fast, on-demand games online for 10,000 hours won’t help you improve a single rating point.
It's the quality of the practice which determines improvement.
Much of the practice quality comes simply with proper framing.
It's the reason sportspeople perform better in The Finals than they do in heats or training. It's why more world records are broken in Finals, and more again at higher prestige events such as the Olympics or World Championships.
Many of your BEST games are played against opponents that you'd never have played on a Mega-Portal, because they were either too highly rated, or too lowly rated. You can only get these games in Scheduled Events.
It's loads of fun to play chess online every day, but you need scheduled events to improve.
Chess played online or over-the-board makes little difference, it's whether those games are on-demand or scheduled. Scheduled events, led by an arbiter are always perceived to be more serious and this framing drives the players’ concentration and application of effort.