Free Internet Chess Server

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A chess game on FICS using an interface named Jin.

The Free Internet Chess Server (FICS) is a volunteer-run Internet chess server. It was organised as a free alternative to the Internet Chess Club (ICC), after that site began charging for membership.[citation needed]


FICS Banner.

The first Internet chess server, named the Internet Chess Server (ICS), started in January 1992. The software was coded, supported, and operated entirely by volunteers until 1995, when administrators began charging players for membership and changed the name to ICC.[1]

Many of the ICS programmers saw the commercialisation of ICS as an exploitation of their work. This group, led by Chris Petroff, developed FICS as an alternative to the paid model, giving users free, unrestricted access. The server debuted on 3 March 1995.[2][3]

In 1998, the Free Internet Chess Organization (FICS) was organized as a nonprofit organization.[4]

In 2007, the legal entity was involuntarily dissolved [5]. However, the server is still maintained and administered by volunteers. It continues to have an actively operating and growing its user base.[citation needed]

In 2013, over 80,000 players were active, playing a total of over 29 million games.[6]

As of August 2014, FICS had over 650,000 registered accounts.[7][8]



FICS using BabasChess interface.

Playing chess on FICS requires connecting to the server either through a web-based applet on the FICS website or else by using a client program, which could be as simple as a telnet client, but is usually an interface designed specifically for playing Internet chess.[9] Users can log in either as an anonymous guest or else by registering for a free account.[10] In theory, each user is permitted only one account. The server maintains game statistics and ratings for registered users. FICS uses the Glicko rating system.[11]


Users can watch for seeks, game requests other users broadcast, or put out their own seeks and wait for someone else to respond. Seeks can include the proposed time controls as well as an optional ratings limit. Seeks can be set to manual, so that the requestor can screen potential opponents before starting a game. Users can also challenge a specific player to a game by using the match command.[citation needed]

Moves are made with the mouse on an image of the chess board. However, the user also has the option of typing in moves in algebraic notation, ideal for laptop users with only the built in touchpad as their mouse.[citation needed]

All games are recorded by a bot and made publicly available for viewing and download at the FICS Games Database (Chess and all variant games except bughouse) and FICS Bughouse Database (bughouse games).[12][13]

Time controls

Since the mechanics of play are simplified, chess games played online (e.g., over the Internet) tend to use faster time controls than is usual in over-the-board (OTB) play. Longer games (i.e., usually 15 or more minutes per player) are called standard and are also common on the server. Separate ratings are maintained for lightning (under 3 minutes), blitz (usually 5 or 10 minutes), and standard (over 15 minutes). Irregular variants, such as Fischer Random, are grouped together into a handful of formats like Wild, and these are not further classified by time controls.[citation needed]

Fischer delay is popular: the time control is specified by two numbers, the minutes each player is allotted at the start of the game, and the seconds added to a player's clock after making a move (the increment). For example, in the popular 2–12 time controls, each player receives 2 minutes at the beginning of the game, and 12 seconds are added to a player's clock after they make a move. Since all games are assumed to last 40 moves for format classification purposes, 2–12 is grouped with 10-minutes-per-player (10=2+12*40/60).[citation needed]

Timeseal is a utility which allows the server to account for the effects of lag. Each move entered by the user is timestamped locally, and the time spent for the move information to travel to the server is not deducted from the clock. This program can be helpful for people with poor connections, but it can also annoy opponents if extreme lag occurs, and large delays occur in real time but not on the clock. Unlike the Internet Chess Club and other pay servers, FICS does not track lag centrally, nor permit user preferences that exclude persistent laggers.[citation needed]

Format Popular Controls (minutes and optional increment)
lightning (x<3) 1
blitz (3<=x<15) 3, 5, 2-12
standard (15<=x) 15, 45-45


Mobile Interface

A chess interface is an application specifically designed to connect to and interact with Internet chess servers. FICS does not require a particular interface; many are available for download at the FICS web site download area.[14]

Interfaces are developed independently of FICS. Accordingly, FICS does not have an official interface, nor does it endorse any particular interface. According to the current login statistics, the most popular interfaces for Windows are BabasChess, Jin,[15] XBoard, Thief, and Raptor. Mobila Chess is the most common platform for mobile operating systems Android and IOS.

On other operating systems (mainly Unix-type boxes based on Linux or macOS), eboard, XBoard, PyChess, Jin, JavaBoard, and Raptor are popular choices.[citation needed][clarification needed]

JavaBoard, JinApplet, and QXBoard[16] are web interfaces; they run in a web browser and have fewer features than other clients.[citation needed]


FICS has a number of very conservatively censored chat channels, structurally similar to IRC, but the number of channels (numbered 0 through 255) is much more limited, and many are reserved for particular uses.[citation needed]

Some of the more popular channels include:[citation needed]

  • channel 1 - general help; questions asked in channel 1 are usually answered by FICS admins or Service Representatives (SRs)
  • channel 4 - helping guests
  • channel 50 - general chat
  • channel 53 - guest chat

Registration is required for all channels except channels 1,4 and 53.

Some channels are used for FICS staff and cannot be seen by regular users[5]:

  • channel 0 - the admin channel
  • channel 5 - the service representatives channel
  • channel 48 - the mamer manager channel
  • channel 63 - the chess advisor channel

A user can listen and send tells to up to thirty channels simultaneously. Besides channels, another form of mass communication available to users is shouts, which can be seen by all users connected who haven't turned shouts off.[citation needed]


Currently, the following chess variants are available on FICS, besides regular chess:

  • Suicide – capturing is compulsory, a player wins by losing all his pieces; the king has no special significance
  • Loser's chess – like suicide, but with additional rules pertaining to the king and check
  • Atomic – pieces "explode" when captured, removing all adjacent pieces except pawns
  • Wild – Nine different variants similar to regular chess but with different types of starting positions, including Chess960
  • Bughouse – fast paced, four player game, in which two teams of two players face each other on two boards
  • Crazyhouse – two player version (like in regular chess) of bughouse, where captured pieces reenter the game

Tournaments on FICS

Tournaments are regularly organised and relayed on FICS. Below is a summary of the most important of these.[citation needed]

Mamer tournaments

Mamer tournaments are organised by Mamer, an automated Tournament Director. Mamer is run by Mamer managers who have the designation (TM) beside their handles and who are there to supervise tournaments and assist users participating in the tournaments. The channel for mamer tournaments is channel 49, and tournaments are announced through tells to this channel as well as through tshouts. Tournaments organised by Mamer range in time controls from 1 0 to 90 30, and include all variants.[citation needed]

Other tournaments

Other regular tournaments on FICS mostly include tournaments featuring slow time controls (STC) of typically more than 45 minutes. Two of the most popular of these are FICS Teamleague,[17] which uses 45 45 controls, and the Online Chess League (OCL),[18] which uses 60 15 time controls. Both are team events with teams of 4 competing against each other, and each player typically plays one game per week. In addition, the STC Bunch,[19] or the Slow Time Control Bunch, organises several tournaments with slow time controls.[citation needed]


FICS also relays top flight chess events. A bot, programmed by volunteers, learns the moves in ongoing games and relays them to special demo accounts on FICS, that are shown playing each other. These demo accounts bear the names of the grandmasters playing in the event. Thus, users and guests on FICS can watch the games in progress as they might watch any game between ordinary FICS users, and chat about the game with each other. The relay has covered every single World Chess Championship since its inception. Other major relays include the yearly relay of Wijk aan Zee, Morelia-Linares, Amber Melody, and any World Championship/World Cup events that take place.[citation needed]

Hacking attacks

In July 2013, the FICS main server was unavailable for a period of ten days after an administrator account was compromised.[20]

Just weeks later, on 25 August 2013, another attacker defaced the official web site and took the server down for several hours[5][clarification needed].

See also


  1. ^ Brad Stone. "Pawns Call King a Rook". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  2. ^ Chris Petroff (5 March 2009). "History of the Internet Chess Server – Part I". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  3. ^ "FICS 10th Anniversary Celebrations". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c "Free Internet Chess Server". Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  6. ^ "FICS Games Database – Statistics for 2013". Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  7. ^ Template:Telnet 5000 and execute totals command
  8. ^ "Free Internet Chess Server". Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  9. ^ "FICS QuickGuide : Graphical Interfaces". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  10. ^ "Register on FICS". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  11. ^ vek/glickman. "Vek-splanation of the Glicko Ratings System". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  12. ^ FICS Games Database. Retrieved from
  13. ^ FICS Bughouse Database. Retrieved from
  14. ^ FICS web site download area. Retrieved from
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "FICS Games Database". Retrieved 2013-07-25. 


External links