Multiplayer Chess

Playing chess online with friends is fun, but if you have any difficulties, find your answers right here.

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. We use Cloudflare for quick delivery, firewall and DDOS protection. 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 and we’ve been this way since 2012.

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 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.

Can SparkChess work behind firewalls?

Yes, if you can browse the web, you should be able to use the multiplayer service.

SparkChess uses websockets for multiplayer. This technology allows for quick, lag-free interactions between players. It is theoretically possible for it not to be available in some very restricted environment or maybe through the Tor network but we haven’t received any such report in 10 years.

How do you handle abusive users and cheaters?

We do not tolerate bullying, cheating or any other abusive behavior. If you have knowledge of such actions, please report the user’s name and their behavior. We may penalize their score, ban them for a limited time or, in extreme cases, remove their account and ban their IP. At least once we banned an entire IP range. Your safety trumps any pursuit for profit.

In chat, you have a Report action button for the chat messages that you receive. We receive a copy of the message and determine the appropriate actions. For example, abusive players may have their chat privileges revoked.

You can also block annoying opponents and they won’t be able to invite you anymore.

Is it safe for a child to play SparkChess online?

We are parents ourselves and we’ve taken precautions to make SparkChess Multiplayer a fun and safe environment for kids. Children under 16 do not provide any personally-identifiable information and don’t have access to the Chat feature. We believe this is the safest way to ensure that they are not exposed to inappropriate language (filtering is done for English only). However, we cannot make any guarantees. We recommend parental involvement in all online interactions. If you notice anything offensive used in usernames or profile pictures, we encourage you to submit them to our attention.

Players are also able to block unwanted interactions with a block list.

Filtering the players by subnet will only show players connected from the same network – usually the same physical location. Use this option to have your children see only opponents from the same household or nearby area.

For schools and chess clubs we can offer a complete separate environment. Please contact us and let us know your requirements.

How is the multiplayer score calculated?

SparkChess uses an Elo-based scoring system. Elo may be a bit confusing for beginners but is well-understood by chess players and it’s used by chess federations worldwide.

The Elo system awards points based on which player is more likely to win based on the existing scores. Two players with equal scores should be equal in skill and are expected to win 50% of the time. In contrast, a player with a much lower score is expected to lose. Let’s use an example:

Player A has 2200 points and Player B has 1600. Based on the formula, Player A is expected to win 9 out of 10 games, so if he/she wins, there’s no big achievement and will be awarded just 1 point. In contrast, Player B is expected to win just 10% of the games, so of he/she wins, he or she receives 19 points. In fact, player B would receive 9 points just for a draw!

You can see how this system is fairer. Someone can’t accumulate score by playing only with other lower-ranked players. Also, scores don’t grow indefinitely, they tend to stabilize after a number of matches. Therefore, the best way to increase your score is to play (and win) against someone with similar score.

Here’s the formula we use:

S_{A}{}' = S_{A} + 20\left (R-\frac{1}{1+10^{\frac{S_{B}-S_{A}}{700}}} \right )

where S’A is Player’s A new score, SA is Player’s A old score, SB is Player’s B old score and R is the the game result: 1 for Player A winning, 0.5 for a draw or 0 for Player A losing.

Compared to FIDE’s formula, we use different factors: 20 instead of 15 so players get more points for each win and 700 instead of 400 so players get at least one point even when playing against weaker opponents.