Multiplayer Chess

Playing chess online against other humans is fun, but if you have any difficulties, head here and find answers.

What is the meaning of the Connection Quality icons?

We have added Connection Quality Indicators for the multiplayer service. At this time they are experimental and are shown at the bottom of the Invitation Window.

They look like this:

SparkChess Multiplayer Connection Quality Indicator

From left to right, here’s what the icons mean:

  1. The bars show the network latency (also known as “ping time” or “round-trip time”), which means the amount of time needed for information to travel from your device to the SparkChess multiplayer servers and back. 4 green bars indicate a fast and stable network connection, while 1 red bar shows a slow and potentially unstable one. The number of bars you get depend on your physical location (users in North America are more likely to get 4 bars) and connection type. A laptop Ethernet connection will always be faster and more stable than a slow 2G cellular one.
  2. The Socket icon indicates whether your connection is through a web socket or by HTTP fallback. A green socket connection indicator means there’s a dedicated communication channel open between your device and the SparkChess multiplayer server. They are very fast but if the connection breaks due to your internet connection, you may get quickly disconnected from the server. HTTP fallback is much slower; it may not be affected by intermittent issues but this also means it may not detect immediately when your network is down. 93% of the connections to SparkChess are made via socket connections. HTTP fallback is used only if, due to peculiarities of your network, a socket connection cannot be established.
  3. The Lock icon indicates an encrypted connection. If you play SparkChess online through a secure HTTPS connection, the connection to the multiplayer server is required to be SSL-encrypted as well. Otherwise we don’t encrypt connections because encryption slows down the communication a bit. Given the nature of a multiplayer chess game, we believe encryption is not necessary. If you think we should always encrypt connections, please let us know.

How does filtering work in multiplayer?

Because the number of available players is changing constantly, Full Version owners may filter the Invitation list based on their preferences.

Currently the following filters are available:

  • by score: with this filter enabled, only players within 10% of your score will be shown. So if you have 1000 points, you’ll see only players with at least 900 points and at most 1100 points.
  • by subnet: The filtering is done by IP address. Only players with IP addresses from your “virtual neighborhood” are shown (technically speaking it’s a Class-C subnet). This usually means only players from the same building or block, although it depends on your Internet provider. This mode is perfect when you want to play with a coworker or at home with another person in the same house.
  • by country: only players determined to be in the same country as you are shown. This method may not be always available. Players who’ve just created accounts may not have their country determined yet.

We should mention that your location (both the IP and the country) are safe. Another player cannot learn your location.

Did my account disappear?

Free accounts may be removed if unused for prolonged periods. From time to time we purge inactive accounts. The “grace period” is dynamic and calculated based on many factors. We do want to reward active users and we need to conserve resources (storage is not free and having a few Gb of unused accounts doesn’t help); we also need to backup the databases and maintain them, which requires more CPU power.

Accounts may also be removed if they contain offensive names.

I get disconnected unexpectedly, why?

SparkChess Multiplayer Service is powered by leaders in cloud services. We have load-balanced live servers located in New York City with automatic  failover in Atlanta. We take daily offline backups. We monitor the service 24/7 at 1 minute intervals. We have an uptime of 99.99%. You can check the public uptime stats.

If you get disconnected, the most likely cause is an instability of your internet connection – wifi issues, mobile data connectivity and so on. The multiplayer service requires constant connection and if the connection is lost for 30 seconds, you get disconnected.

Users who use torrent (or any other P2P) software may also experience issues, especially when there are many connected peers.

If you get disconnected, you can use the Multiplayer Service Status to see if the service is down. That page is updated every minute.

How reliable is the multiplayer service?

Over 25,000 people use the SparkChess Multiplayer service every day. There are between 300 and 1000 players online at any given moment.

SparkChess Multiplayer is built using Union Platform by User1 and hosted by leaders in cloud services. We have load-balanced live servers located in New York City with automatic  failover located in Atlanta and DDOS filtering. We take daily offline backups. The quality of service is monitored 24/7 at 1 minute intervals.

Unlike many other MMO’s we do not take servers down daily or weekly. We apply rolling updates on the servers so that there’s always at least one server running at any time. We have 99.99% uptime.

I can’t connect. Help!

SparkChess Multiplayer was designed to connect through firewalls. Generally speaking, if you can browse the web, you should be able to use the service.

Check the Server Dashboard – if it reports that it’s up and there are people connected, the problem is local.

  • If you have the free online version, the most likely cause is that you’ve exceeded the maximum number of daily matches or that there are too many players connected (users of SparkChess Premium have priority).
  • if you have the Premium desktop version, some Antivirus programs include overzealous firewalls that may block SparkChess. You must grant access for SparkChess to access the Internet via port 80 (HTTP) or 443 (SSL). If you’re unsure, temporarily disable any antivirus and firewall you may have installed and see if you can connect.
  • if you have SparkChess on a mobile device, we noticed that DNS resolution seemed slower in some instances leading to timeouts in extremely rare cases.