• Current Version: 4.1.0

Getting started with ChessJam

Table of contents


Welcome to ChessJam! If you're looking for a straightforward guide to help you understand ChessJam, its features, and its community, then you've come to the right place. This guide covers everything from installation and registration, to exploring the castle, playing your first game, and finding someone to play (it's not hard!). It also explains ChessJam ratings, tournaments, and other features.
House rules
If you're new to ChessJam and you haven't played much online chess, you can use this guide as a reference to help you get started. If you're already familiar with other online chess sites, and you prefer to learn by trying things out rather than reading, then by all means explore the castle as you wish. Before you go though, here are a few quick pointers to help you get started quickly:
  • Games against Robots do not affect your rating.
  • Games terminated in the first six moves do not affect your rating.
  • Once a game is over, you need to leave the table and then rejoin a table (it can be the same one) to play another game.

Installing ChessJam

The easiest way to install ChessJam is to click the install badge at the top of the ChessJam website. This will automatically download the application and prompt you to start the installation.

If the install badge fails to install ChessJam, follow these steps: ChessJam works on Windows, Mac OS and Linux

Creating a user account and logging in

Once you've installed ChessJam, you'll need to create a user account before you can start playing. Follow these steps to create your account:
  1. Start ChessJam and on the main screen, click Register.
  2. Begin by typing your preferred username. If the username you've selected is already in use, ChessJam will notify you.
  3. Type a password to use for your account, and then retype the password to verify it.
  4. Type your first and last name and your email address.You must provide a valid email address in order to complete later steps in the registration process.
  5. Fill in the rest of the required entries on the form, and click Save. ChessJam will notify you that your account has been created and that a verification email has been sent to your address.
  6. When you receive the verification email from ChessJam, follow the steps outlined within it to activate your account.
  7. After your account is activated, simply type your username on ChessJam's login screen and click Login.
Note: If you click Remember Me, ChessJam will automatically save your username and password so you can simply click Login next time. Using this option is not recommended if other players will be using ChessJam on your computer.

Exploring the ChessJam castle

When you first login to ChessJam you'll see the castle. On this screen you'll see announcements and news, as well as two banners hanging from the castle's main tower.

The larger banner with the star shows how many players are currently logged in. The smaller banner with the target shows how many players are in the ChessJam Courtyard.

Note: As the ChessJam community grows more towers in the castle will open. But for now, there is only one tower available.
A brief tour of the application window
Before you go into the tower, take a minute to look at the rest of ChessJam's application window.

In the upper-right corner there are controls you can click to edit your profile, see your current in-progress games, check your statistics, adjust the sound settings, and exit ChessJam. In between the Profile and Games controls, ChessJam displays your current location: either the Castle, the Tower, the Courtyard, or a Room.

In the lower center is a navigation bar that is active after you enter the tower. You can use this bar to move to the Castle, Tower, Room, or Courtyard.

In the lower-right corner is a control for sending and receiving messages directly to other players.

In the upper-left is a small circle, which reflects your online status. Green means online; red means offline.

Nearby is an arrow you can use to minimize ChessJam.
The Tower
To enter the Tower from the Castle, simply click the large banner with the red star.

When you enter the tower, you can see several doors that lead to various Rooms. The door in the middle of the lower level leads to the Courtyard.

Above each door is a banner displaying information about the room including the name, number of seated players and robots and the time parameters

In addition to the standard rooms with varying time limits, you can see other special rooms for the Big Dog Tournament, Survivor Sunday Tournament, Turbo Tournament, and Crazy Games. You'll want to check these rooms out after you've played a few normal games.
The Rooms
To enter a Room from the Tower, simply click the Room's door. For now, click the door marked Casual 30 Min. Chances are you'll see several players already seated at tables, playing games.

Each player seated at a table is identified by his username. Below the username, you'll find the player's ChessJam rating, the flag of his country, and the number of wins, losses, and draws (in the format W/L/D) against other human players on ChessJam.

Players identified with BOT:: at the start of their usernames are not human players, but rather Robot players that are always ready for a game. Note that Bots have a rating and a skill level. You'll find that the Bots in rooms with longer time limits have higher skill levels.
The Tables
You're probably eager to get started playing a game, but before you do, it pays to familiarize yourself with what it looks like when you're seated at a table. The easiest way to do that is to observe a game that is already in progress.

Pick an active game in the room you're in and click Observe to see the chess board and the pieces as they are moved.

Above the board you can see the usernames of the two players participating, their national flags, and the time they have remaining. Below that are the pieces they have captured.

In the upper right are controls to toggle showing the last move and to switch between 2D and 3D mode. You can try either of these controls without interfering with the game in progress.

There is also a control to ask for a draw (this is disabled when you are observing) and a control to close the game window (that is, leave the table).

To the right of the board is a record of all moves made in the game. Immediately below that is a console window that shows notifications such who has entered the room to observe, changes to ratings after the game has completed, and chat messages from players and observers.

To chat, you simply type a message in the box below the console window and press Enter/Return.

There are several chat commands that you should be aware of:
  • /block username -- Block any further chat messages from username for the remainder of this game
  • /unblock username -- Unblock a previously blocked player
  • /silent -- Silences the chat message "dings"
Etiquette note: You can test the chat feature later on when you create a table of your own -- no need to disturb the players you're observing. When players are embroiled in a game, keep chatting to an absolute minimum and never suggest possible moves. Such kibitzing is strongly discouraged.

If you close the game window, you'll return to the Room that you're in and you'll again see all the tables. For now, however, leave the game window open so you can see how ChessJam supports multiple simultaneous games.
Multiple simultaneous games
In ChessJam you can observe more than one game at a time. You can also play more than one game at a time. You can also observe a game at one table while playing in a game at another table -- you get the picture.

To see how this works, you'll need to start by having one game window active. (Click observe on an active table if you're not already at a table.)

Now, click ROOM in the upper-right corner of ChessJam. This returns you to the room you were in, but leaves the game active.

Next, click Observe on a different game.

The display will be the same as before, but with new players and a new game in progress.

At the bottom of the screen, note there are now two tabs, one for each of the games you have open. You can click these tabs to switch between the two tables. The pawn and text balloon icons in the tabs blink when a player has moved or when a new console message appears, respectively.

Click the Heads Up Display (HUD) button to the right of the tabs. You'll see both games displayed in 2D view. The views are updated when a player moves. Up to six games are supported.

You can click either table to return to that game.

Now that you know your way around the ChessJam Tower, Rooms, and Tables, you're ready to play a game.

Playing a game

The easiest way to familiarize yourself with playing online chess on ChessJam is to jump right in and play a game. You may want to play your first game against a Robot (or even your first few games) so you can get warmed up for real (human) opponents. Games against Robots don't affect your rating; they're for fun and for practice.
Sitting at a table
Follow these steps to start a game:
  1. Log into ChessJam and click the Tower.
  2. Once in the Tower, select the Room in which you want to play. (See The Tower for a description of the various Rooms you can enter from the Tower.) For example, to play a game in which you have 10-minutes total to make your moves, click the door marked "Rapid 10 Min".
    Note: Robots are harder to beat when they have more time to think. So if you give yourself more time by selecting a room with a higher time limit, be prepared to play a tougher Robot. On the other hand, if you select a room with a shorter time limit, you'll play a less skilled Robot but be prepared to make your own moves faster.
  3. In the Room, look for a table with a Robot that is not across from a human opponent. If the Robot is white, it will play the white pieces in the game. If the Robot is black, it will play the black pieces.
  4. Click the half of the chessboard across from the Robot to start a game.

ChessJam will display the chessboard, all the pieces, and the players' clocks (see The Tables for more details on this view). If you're playing the black side, the Robot will move first in a few moments. If you're playing white, the Robot waits for your first move.
Moving pieces
Once the game starts, making moves is straightforward:
  1. When it is your turn, click the piece you want to move. ChessJam will highlight the piece and the chessboard squares that are valid destinations for that piece. (If the piece cannot be moved nothing will be highlighted.)
  2. Click where you'd like the piece to move. ChessJam moves the piece.
  3. If you change your mind after selecting a piece to move, click it again to deselect it and then click another piece to move.
That's really all there is to it. Continue to make moves until you win or lose, or until you're ready to end the game yourself.
Ending a game
Games end automatically under any of these conditions:
  • One of the players is checkmated.
  • A player's clock reaches 0:00.
  • The same position is repeated three times (the game is declared a draw).
You can end the game yourself by resigning or asking for a draw that your opponent agrees to accept.

To resign, click the white flag in the upper-right corner, above the list of moves. ChessJam will ask you to confirm. If you click Yes, the game ends.

To ask for a draw, wait for your turn and then click the star to the left of the white flag. ChessJam will ask you to confirm; if you click Yes, your opponent will be given the opportunity to accept or decline your offer. ChessJam Robots always accept draws. Human opponents are not always so accommodating, especially if they're winning.

Etiquette note: During an active game please do not close the ChessJam application without resigning or requesting and receiving a draw first. If you simply close the application window, ChessJam will keep your game active for five minutes, and will return you to it if you log back in within that time. This feature enables a game to be continued in the event that one of the players experiences a temporary network outage.

No matter how the game ends, ChessJam will notify you that the game is over, and at that point no more moves can be made. If the game was between two human players -- and it lasted more than six moves -- then the console window will display each player's new rating.

Click the X icon in the upper-right corner to close the game window (leave the table) and return to the Room.

Finding an opponent

When you're ready to play a human opponent, there are several ways for you to find someone ready to play.
Sit across the table from a player
One of the easiest ways to start a game against another ChessJam player is to simply sit down at a table across from him. See Sitting at a table for detailed instructions; but instead of selecting a table with a Robot, select one that has a player with a username, flag, and rating. See The Rooms for a description of the banners you see for players seated at tables.
Wait at a table
You can also sit at table by yourself and wait for an opponent to join you. Simply choose an empty table and click on the side of the board you'd like to play: left for white, right for black. You may have to wait a while, or you may find an opponent right away. When someone sits across from you the game will start automatically.

Although it is possible to sit at multiple tables simultaneously (even in different rooms), be careful of sitting at more than one -- you may find yourself engaged in multiple simultaneous games, which can be difficult even for the most experienced players.
Challenge a player
You can also challenge a player to a game directly from the Courtyard (see The Courtyard for more details on getting there).

Follow these steps to challenge a player:
  1. Once in the Courtyard, click on the envelope icon next to the player you'd like to challenge.

  2. In the dialog box that appears, select the color that you'd like to play and the room in which you'd like to play.

    3. Click OK.
A Challenge notification will be sent to the player you selected. If he accepts, you will both be seated at a table in the room you selected. If he declines, you will see a notification immediately. If he does not respond, your challenge will remain active for 45 seconds before automatically timing out.

Etiquette note: Repeated challenges to a player who has declined or ignored previous challenges is discouraged.
Accepting a challenge
If you are challenged by a player, you'll see a challenge notification pop up in the lower-right corner of the ChessJam application window. If you ignore the notification, the challenge notification will go away on its own.

To decline or accept the challenge:
  1. Click the challenge notification.
  2. In the dialog box that appears, click Accept to play your challenger, or Decline to refuse the offer.
  3. You can also add the challenger to your Buddy list before you respond.
If you accept the challenge, you will be seated at a table with your opponent in the room cited in the challenge.

The Courtyard

The Courtyard is a great place to see what's going on in ChessJam. You can find out who's logged in, issue challenges, chat with other players in the Courtyard (using the center panel), and monitor general ChessJam activity. The Activity panel on the lower right shows recent logins, logouts, and games that have started.

To enter the Courtyard, click on the target on the main Castle when you first log in, or the target in the navigation bar along the bottom of the ChessJam application Window.
Checking who is in the castle
On the left of the Courtyard is a list of all players currently logged into ChessJam. Each entry in the list includes the player's username, their national flag, an icon representing their current status, their rating, and icons that you can use to challenge that player, send a private message to him, or add him to your buddy list.

Hover your mouse pointer over a player to see his current status, or hover it over an icon to see what it does.
Issuing a challenge
You can issue a challenge to a player from the Courtyard by clicking the envelope icon next to his name. See Challenge a player for more details.
Sending (and receiving) a message
The Chat panel in the center of the courtyard is a convenient way to chat with everyone in the courtyard, but all of your comments there are public. If you want to send a message directly to another player without anyone else seeing it, click the carrier pigeon icon next to his name, and then in the dialog box that appears, type your message and click send.

When someone sends you a message, you'll see a notification in the lower right corner of your screen. Click the notification to read the message. The dialog box that appears displays the messages. You can click Reply to send a response, Delete to delete the message, or Close to simply close the dialog box and retain the message.
The Buddy List
As you play games on ChessJam, you're likely to come across players that you'd like to play again. You can keep track of these players on your Buddy List, which you can see from the Courtyard. The Buddy List is a convenient way to find out which of your ChessJam friends is online and what they are doing.

To add someone to your Buddy List from the Courtyard, click the shield icon next to his name.

When you're playing a game you can also add your opponent to your Buddy List by clicking on his username (next to his game clock).

To remove someone from your Buddy List, click the X icon next to their name in the Buddy List and then confirm the removal.

You can send a message to anyone in your Buddy List at any time by clicking the + icon in the lower-right corner of the ChessJam application window.

Ratings and statistics

Ratings provide a fun way to gauge your progress as a chess player. Your ChessJam rating is based solely on the games you play against human opponents on ChessJam. Games against Robots do not count, nor do Crazy games.
How ratings work
ChessJam ratings are based on the ELO system, with each player starting at a rating of 1500.

Put simply, your rating will go up when you win and it will go down when you lose. How much it changes depends on the rating of your opponent and how many games you've played on ChessJam.

During your first 20 games, your rating will change more from game to game as the algorithm seeks to get you from 1500 to a closer approximation of your true rating quickly. After 20 games, your rating changes more gradually.

Once you're rating is established you'll be able to find opponents that are in line with your current level of play. If you play an opponent with a rating 200 points higher than your own, you're likely in for a challenge. Likewise, if you play someone with a rating 200 points lower, you're likely to have an easier game.

Etiquette note: Don't take your rating too seriously -- it's just a number. If you're too focused on your rating, you'll lose sight of what likely brought you to ChessJam in the first place -- having fun playing Chess.
Checking ChessJam stats
ChessJam maintains extensive records of each game played. To access these statistics, click Stats in the upper right corner of the application window.
Take a moment to explore the following areas:
  • Live Map: This map provides a good sense of the international scope of ChessJam by showing the location of players as they make moves in real time on a global map.
  • Top Users: This list shows the top 20 rated users on ChessJam. You must have played at least 15 games, including one game in the past week, to appear on this list.
  • Streaks: These two lists show the longest currently active winning and losing streaks on ChessJam.
  • Countries: You can use this menu to see the top players from your country, the top countries on ChessJam (ranked by winning percentage), and a list of all countries represented by ChessJam players.
  • Robots: This list ranks ChessJam's Robot army.
  • Colleges: This list shows the top colleges on ChessJam (ranked by winning percentage).
  • My History: This menu provides access to all the games you've played on ChessJam as well as a chart that shows how your rating has changed over time. See Replaying a game for more details.
  • Tournaments: This menu shows the top performers in the various tournaments on ChessJam.
Replaying a game
Follow these steps to review any of your past ChessJam games:
  1. Click Stats and then click My History > Game History. You'll see a list of all your games. For each game, ChessJam shows the room in which it was played, the time and date it was played, your opponent (along with their rating and the side they played, B for Black and W for White), who won, how the game ended, what your rating was after the game, the game's duration, and the move count.
  2. Click the Review link in the leftmost column of any game to review the moves from that game.

  3. You can then use the controls below the board to replay the game move-by-move.

Tournaments and Crazy Games

ChessJam offers a variety of tournaments and interesting chess variants to keep things fresh and keep the community active.
Big Dog Weekly
The Big Dog tournament runs from midnight Saturday to midnight Saturday. You can enter at any time and play as many games as you like. The Big Dog Tournament is point-based and encourages players to challenge more advanced players to win bonus points. Here's how it works:
  • Each time you win a game, you get a point
  • If your opponent has a higher rating than you, you get bonus points (1 bonus point for every 100 higher rating)
    • Example 1: If PlayerA (1500) defeats PlayerB (1850), PlayerA wins 4 points (1 for the win and 3 bonus points for the rating spread of 350)
    • Example 2: If PlayerA (1310) defeats PlayerB (1950), PlayerA wins 7 points (1 for the win and 6 bonus points for the rating spread of 640)
  • The loser's points remain the same. You never lose points.
  • There is a leader board in the room that shows everyone's standings.

Survivor Sunday
Typically run every Sunday from midnight to midnight (GMT-5), the Survivor Sunday tournament has a simple objective: Win as many games as you can before you lose twice.

During the tournament, simply enter the Survivor room, which currently has a 15-minute game clock, and play games as normal. At the end of the 24-hour tournament the player with the most wins is declared the champion.

Once you lose two games, you can no longer participate in that day's tournament, but you can still observe other players in the tournament.

There are a few other rules in place to encourage participation at all skill levels:
  • You cannot sit at a table across from an opponent that is rated more than 200 points below you.
  • If you haven't lost any games you can sit at two empty tables to wait for opponents; if you've already lost a game you can sit and only one empty table.
  • You cannot directly challenge a player to a game in the Survivor room.
Turbo Tournaments
Turbo tournaments are run periodically throughout the day in the Turbo-8 room.

To participate simply enter the room when the tournament starts and take a seat at one of the first round tables. Don't hesitate though, the seats fill up quickly. If you miss out, you can still have fun observing the tournament games as you make plans to participate in the next tournament.

Winners of each round are automatically seated at tables in the next round. For example, if you win your round 1 game, ChessJam will assign you to a round 2 table automatically.

Each player has a 10-minute game clock for each game. In the event of a draw, the player with the most time remaining on his clock will be advanced to the next round (or declared the tournament winner if the draw occurs in the championship game).

If you leave a table after ChessJam automatically seats you, you will forfeit that game. (You can, however, switch tables or sides in round 1 until another player sits across from you.)

Crazy Games
The Crazy Games room on ChessJam is unique. Instead of starting in the standard starting position, in each board in the room is set up in a different position. Some positions are derived from classic games between grandmasters; others are chess variants that are likely new to you.

Games in this room do not count towards your rating, nor do they count to your overall ChessJam win/loss/draw record. The leader board in the room tracks players' success in Crazy Games only.

Three Robots circulate randomly throughout the room, changing tables every minute.

The Crazy Games room is about having fun and trying new things, so the positions used in the Crazy Room tables will change from time to time. You can even suggest your own starting positions to be included in this room.

Facebook integration

It is now possible to have ChessJam post your game results to your Facebook wall! First, you need to enable Facebook integration by going to your profile and clicking the Facebook icon. Then click the LOGIN button. You will be prompted for your Facebook login information. NOTE: ChessJam does not store this information. The dialog prompting for the information is generated by Facebook, not ChessJam.

Once you've granted permission for ChessJam to post to your wall, you can post your next game! When the game-over dialog is displayed, you will see an option to post the game to your wall. You can modify the default text that will be displayed.

The results:

Where to get help

If you have any problems or questions with ChessJam, please contact us at chessjam@gmail.com. You can also reach us at:

What's Next?

We are constantly working on new ways to make ChessJam even more fun and entertaining. We are already hard at work on new tournament types as well as new rooms, towers, etc.

ChessJam is Cross Platform: Windows, Mac and Linux