Playing chess online with friends is fun, but if you have any difficulties, find your answers right here.
Does SparkChess multiplayer support crossplay?
Yes. We don’t rely on any platform for multiplayer or leaderboards and we own our entire tech stack. As such, users can play with each other regardless of the platform they’re on – PC users can play with Mac users, Android devices can play with iPhones, and so on.
Can I connect to Multiplayer if I’m using Tor or a VPN?
Now why in the world would you want to do that? Joking.
Short answer: It depends.
SparkChess Multiplayer requires WebSockets to connect. Sockets allow fast, near-instant communication and are used by most messaging apps, games, and so on. We used to support an HTTP fallback mode, but we removed it in 2018 because few players needed it and it lacked performance.
Back to VPNs, you need to check if your connection supports sockets. In our tests, we had no problems accessing the SparkChess website and multiplayer service via Tor and OpenVPN.
If you have problems with your VPN/Tor, you should disable it for SparkChess. We do not track our players and we do not block anyone. We are also not aware of any country blocking or tracking SparkChess.
What is Guest Login?
When accessing the multiplayer service, there is an alternative “Guest login” option. We added this feature many years ago when we realized that some players wanted to experience multiplayer quickly without having to spend time setting up an account. Sidenote: setting up an account is very straightforward, just enter your nickname, email (for password recovery) and password and you’re in!
Guest accounts are ephemeral. They start with 1000 points and their progress is not saved. They have no stats or game history, they can not join/manage teams and have no access to chat.
Only use the Guest login if you are new to SparkChess and want to see how multiplayer works.
Are multiple accounts allowed in multiplayer?
Multiple multiplayer accounts are allowed but not encouraged. We recognize that there are legitimate reasons for players to have more than one account. However, using multiple accounts to inflate your score or for other nefarious purposes is not allowed, and such accounts may be removed without warning.
What are playing areas?
After logging into multiplayer mode, you will be presented with a list of playing areas from which you must select (“enter”) one in order to play.
Playing areas are also called “lobbies” in multiplayer games. Simply put, they are virtual gathering places where players can meet and invite each other to play. Playing areas can have some restrictions, for example, one of them is reserved for new players.
When you enter a playing area, you will see a list of available players. So when you click on a player’s name in the list, you invite them to play. Or you can simply wait until you are invited.
How can I set an avatar (profile photo) in multiplayer?
There are two main ways to add a profile photo in multiplayer:
When you’re creating the SparkChess multiplayer account, you’re asked to “Connect to Facebook” or skip. If you do connect, SparkChess will use the email address and avatar from Facebook automatically.
Alternatively, you can use the Gravatar service to add an avatar. Gravatar stands for Globally Recognized Avatar and it’s a free service from WordPress, the organization that maintains the WordPress software that powers over a third of the world’s web sites. Gravatar works by linking an email address to a public profile picture.
To add a photo, first you need to create an account:
- Visit www.gravatar.com
- Click on the big Create Your Own Gravatar button.
- A simple account sign up form will be shown. Enter the same email address you’re using with SparkChess and a password. When you submit the form, you’ll receive a confirmation email. Click the Activate Account button on the email.
Now that you have your account, go to www.gravatar.com again and login from the top right. After login, you’ll see a page with the title Manage Gravatars and the text “Whoops, looks like you don’t have any images yet! Add one by clicking here!” Click on the link and follow the instructions.
If you’d prefer SparkChess to have its own avatar system, please contact us so we can see how much interest there is in this feature.
Why do I need the newest version to play in online multiplayer?
We are continuously improving SparkChess in all its areas: the AI chess engine, the multiplayer service, the user interface, the additional tools and so on.
The multiplayer service is particularly sensitive because of the complex interactions and also because a small number of players will always try to cheat their way into the leaderboards.
Whenever we update the multiplayer functionality, we need to consider how two players with different versions will interact. To give you a very simple example, if one player has Chat capability but the other doesn’t, what do we do? Do we let the chat-enabled player send messages to the other one, even though those messages will never be received?
Most cases are more difficult, for example when a move needs to be resent due to a client disconnect. Even more complicated, when we discover a way to stop cheaters, we may need to effectively ban all old versions.
We try to keep these breaking changes to a minimum and even then we give a few months of transition period, but we can’t support old versions indefinitely.
Why did the game end unexpectedly?
Multiplayer games may end unexpectedly due to connection issues on your – or your opponent’s – side.
The multiplayer service has an uptime of 99.99%. On any day, about 10,000 people connect and anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 games are being played. Frustrating as it may be, only an insignificant number of them end unexpectedly.
In general, a game will end abruptly when one player can communicate correctly with the server but their opponent can’t. Unlike real-time FPS multiplayer games for example, chess cannot be fault tolerant. In a real-time game one player may miss one or more updates from the server and still keep playing (often the player sees the enemy “jump” from one place to another). But as chess is turn-based, players must be in perfect sync – one player can’t just move twice or ignore a non-responsive opponent!
A player may miss a server move due to many reasons: a bad internet connection or a browser bug are just some of the culprits. For example, Google Chrome can ignore a move received from the server if the browser tab is not active. Or a player may not be connected to the internet and not realize it as the system still reports it as being up.
If a player is disconnected, the SparkChess Multiplayer Service will attempt to reconnect automatically and resend any move that might have been missed, but this must be done within a certain time window as the opponent can’t wait indefinitely.
If you receive a message that the game is out-of-sync and it has ended, it usually means that there was a miscommunication between you, the multiplayer service and your opponent. Since 2018 we decreased the chances of an Out-of-Sync to negligible values.
If you lost any points due to a game ending unexpectedly, please contact us mentioning your username, your opponent’s username, the date & time the match took place and the number of points you lost.