Happy Birthday, Playchess server!

by ChessBase
9/17/2006 – Some of you, the older readers, will remember the time before online chess (BOC). Those were harsh times, when you could not play a game whenever you liked. Five years ago we launched our Playchess server. Since then 158 million games have been played by over 200,000 members. Here are some interesting statistics.

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Five years of Playchess.com

On September 14, 2001, we switched on what we called our "Fritz Server". Insiders knew it was coming, and within a few days there were more than 50 members playing there. The number grew quickly – soon there were many hundreds of players online. Today, five years later, the Playchess server has moved to a new dimension. At prime time (evening in Europe) on days where there are no world championship soccer matches, and the weather is also not too paradisiacal, then the number of visitors simultaneously logged on in the different playing rooms is usually around 4,500. During the world championship in San Luis a record number of over 7000 visitors was registered, of which 4000 were following the games. One of them was Garry Kasparov, who occasionally provides the audience with a comment, usually predicting the continuation and outcome of a game with uncanny accuracy.

So these days about 20,000 players log in during any 24-hour period, and they play around 200,000 games against each other. The total number of registered accounts is 203,430 (as of Sunday, September 17, 2007), who had to come up with 203,430 different names. Some did not invest the necessary care into thinking of something they could live with, and now are playing under embarrassing pseudonyms.

Since Playchess was launched the total number of games played on the server has reached 158,358,452 (as of Sunday, September 17, 2007, at 14:21h CEST). That is one hundred and fifty-eight million games. Incidentally, since we started writing this report there have been two new registered accounts, bringing the total to 203,432. And almost 1000 games have been completed. And one more number: since the server was launched a total of 76,195 tournaments have been staged here.

If you want to check these stats just log into the server and use "Tools – Server statistics" to get a display like the following:

Server statistics for Playchess.com on September 17, 2007, at 14:21h CEST

To date there are members from 180 countries registered on Playchess. Which contries have the largest number of registered members. Hardly surprising that Germany is on the top of the list, since the server was developed here, but also because Germany has the largest number of rated players of any country in the world. This is a list of the top ten continues:

1. Germany
2. USA
3. France
4. Italy
5. Spain
  6. Netherlands
7. Austria
8. England
9. Turkey

Players logged in on the Playchess server. Each red dot is a player, whom you can right-click to identify or challenge. It is early morning in the US and night in the Far East. In Europe it's a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, but still plenty of players online.

There is one player in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, one in Eastern China and two in South Korea

How about Iceland? There are a number of people online. Moving the mouse onto one reveals his handle, "Rossib"

Right-clicking Rossib produces his personal info: Runar Svavar Svavarson has been a member since 25.1.2003, and is obviously quite popular, having received 381 applauses from other members. He writes with funny characters, though.

Naturally you can retrieve statistics on the ratings and recent games of any member on the server. There are also top lists for bullet, blitz, slow games, etc. This is what the list currently looks like for blitz:

Some of the players are clearly recognisable: Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk, Gata Kamsky, Michael Adams, Rustam Kasimdzhanov. But who are Raffael, Trudodyr and Arres? Their identities are their own secrets. Hundreds of visitors have followed their games carefully, and come to the conclusion that these are not computers, or computer assisted games (Playchess has extensive algorithms to prevent cheating anyway). They are top level human players. In recent weeks Trudodyr, who many believe is Alexander Morozevich, worked his way to the top of the list. But then his greatest adversary, Raffael, went online and got the place he has owned for over a year: number one with a record-breaking 3300 Playchess rating. The games between the top players are a joy to watch, the highest level of blitz chess ever seen by ordinary chess enthusiasts.

The incredible record of the player named Raffael. About 90% of the Playchess visitors are 90% sure he is Garry Kasparov, about five percent think it is Svidler, some think it is Anand, Vaganian or even Bobby Fischer. By far the most common chat line seen on the server is "Who is Raffael?"

There are also quite a lot of women players on the server. The second highest rated female is Than Thrang Hoang, who was born in Vietnam but now lives in Hungary. Close behind is Kateryna Lahno, who is just two points below Nigel Short, the winner of the European Union Championship 2006. Than Thrang is very good at bullet chess (one minute for the entire game) and second only to "Star Wars" on the bullet list. Star Wars is Hikaru Nakamura, one of the best blitz players in the world.

Lady Malshun, a.k.a. Ana Srebrnic of Slovenia

The top female player in blitz is "Lady Malshun", number 23 on the top 100 list. She is the Slovenian WGM Ana Srebrnic. Another player is called "Lord Malshun" and has entered the following in his personal notes: "I love Lady Malshun!" Is there a romantic connection? Would be great, since we would then have the most potent blitz couple in the history of the game. Lord Malshun is the Serbian GM Róbert Márkus, whose rating is 3020 in blitz. Lady Malshun is rated 3057. [Ah, we are told by our spies out there in the field, the two are actually married.]

Wake up Bob, she's ahead of you!

Those were the strongest. How about the most persevering, the players with the greatest standing power? How many games do you think the most diligent players have managed in sum total over the years? It is a player called Janos, who created his account on October 31, 2001, six weeks after the server was launched. Since then Janos has played 113,821 games. Work it out: it averages out to 60 games per day, if he played on every single day since his first logon. Second in the most games ranking list is Tomebrasil, with 95,114 games, followed by Güko with 87,427 games. About 20 players have over 60,000 games.

Playchess has many rooms, for broadcasts (with video and audio feeds), training, lessons, tournaments, computer play, etc. There are also variants of chess:

Nations, chess federations countries, federations and chess clubs can get their own rooms, where they can meet, hold tournaments or give lectures.

Chess clubs in their own rooms

So our chess server has turned five, and is still growing prodigiously (currently 203,453 members, up by 23 since we started writing this article). If you are not a member you can become one in a matter of minutes: just download the free client for a 30-day free trial, after which you have to purchase a serial number, which will cost you €29 (US $31) per year. You will find all necessary information at www.playchess.com.

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