Hi chessfans and all others,
we spend so many time on https://lichess.org/ without spending a single word about this great site!
Recently I saw an interesting talk about Lichess from one of their developers, held at the Big Techday conference in Munich, July 2022. From this and another one (see below) I took some of the following infos.
Lichess is the second most commonly used online chess program after chess.com. 2 years ago it had over 5 mio. registered users (I guess now it would be quite more) and even despite Lichess is way better 😄, simply the perfect domain name will make sure that chess.com keeps a huge market share. Also supposedly chess.com pays chess professionals for NOT playing on Lichess (one reason more to not support them)!
It was founded already in 2010 by French programmer Thibault Duplessis.
Funnily, his initial intention was not to create a decent chess software for the (at that time not even existing) online chess community but he used chess only as an example to experiment with real-time interactions. You can view an entertaining talk by him from 2017 about the origins of Lichess and its features here:
As you know Lichess is open source and free to use, which is today already quite rare. If you think Facebook or Twitter are also free, then you are wrong. In Facebook YOU are the product and those companies earn a fortune with the collected data of their users. Not so with Lichess, they don´t use or sell user data. They also don´t beg for donations, like Wikipedia does frequently!
Not only is it free but it also does not show any ads or has a paywall or any other restrictions for using additional or improved features (like so common nowadays, even in many games on Hive)! This is also the main reason I prefer Lichess over chess.com. True, chess.com does have some advantages, but the constant ads and begging for membership puts me off.
So how do they pay then their developer and server costs (app. 34000$/month, details here)? To 95% with donations (e.g. I voluntarily donate 5€/month) and 5% via their merchandise shop.
Lichess serves app. 5,2 million chess games per day (all time record was 5,5 million on a Sunday in Jan. 2022)!
Quite interesting is this graph on the number of games over time. You can see 2 spikes, one due to the Covid lockdowns and another one, after Netflix released "The Queen´s Gambit", a TV miniseries that became very popular!
To act against cheating apparently is very important. Lichess uses 50(!) metrics which constantly are checked in the background to give hints if a player uses chess engines as an illegal help. One of them is that Lichess compares the time used to make a Queen vs. a King move. It turns out that on average players spend more time before they make a move with the Queen, as this happens typically in more complex positions. King moves are made more often in (simpler) endgames. If engine help is used, there is no such difference. I would never had thought about this! Would be interesting to learn about the other 49 metrics, but I guess it is better if not all are revealed to the public! Lichess detects also if users switch windows/tabs regularly during the game (in case having an engine running in parallel) and use neural networks to datamine all aspects of the play bahavior to identify potential cheaters.
Lichess also fights against "sand baggers" - users who voluntarily lose games in order to lower their ratings, e.g. to qualify for rating restricted arenas.
Here is a look at one of the Lichess-internal monitoring dashboards.
As you can see there is a daily fluctuation pattern in no. of players online, on average in this case 66K players were online. And of course latency is an important aspect, too, especially for bullet players. There is a code written, so that network delays should not affect the move lag even in hyperbullet games. Otherwise a person located nearer to the Lichess server would have a minimal time lag advantage. Due to this code a premove costs exactly 0 time. By the way, Lichess is not going to implement multiple premoves, like chess.com does.
All in all quite impressive, what a completely free software is capable of, isn´t it! And I didn´t even touch the topic of player´s database, statistics & analyis/insights. There is a lot more which Lichess covers!
pics taken from this video: https://twitter.com/alexanderlystad/status/1557342424728571904?s=20&t=6QwqDQGTYC3DG2aTQRb9Zw
By the way, Lichess did recently also run an open Fischer Random Chess World Championship Qualifier - i.e. everybody could participate to get a seat at that World Championship match taking place in Oct. 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland! More info here.
To have a seat among seven others there including Wesley So and Magnus Carlsen - that would be quite a dream 😄.
Well, I didn´t even pass the first (of multiple) stages. In order to pass, one needed to end up in the Top 50. I landed on rank 164 from 1827 players. I didn´t play bad for my circumstances, but it was - of course - not enough.
Did you participate?
Lichess is surely my favourite chess app. I was initially into chess.com but after I found out about Lichess in 2018, I didn't look back. With all the features from puzzles to studies, all for free. It's my go to chess app. I don't go by a day without logging in.
I hated online chess when chess.com came out because alot of players were good online but terrible on the board. Lichess changed my perspective, it was really appealing when I saw people use it. I had no choice but to join. Today I spend all my free time playing there.
Would be great to see you once also in our Hivechess tournaments on Lichess.
Starting next weekend!
Can I get notified when it starts? Here or through lichess is fine by me. Would be nice to finally play.
Sure, watch out for the reminder around Wed. or Thursday!
You didn't include that the tournament would be hard.
For me it was also the worst result of all time! Let´s see if the next rounds will be equally tough!
I was playing on redhotpawn.com for years but lichess looks great.
Cool! I should check out Lichess more and not just use chess.com
I appreciate the reminder :^)
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Yes, Lichess is great. For us coders, it brings extra fun since we can interact with its system more "intimately" to put it that way.
Lichess is really great, I made the switch from chess.com and haven't played a game there is years.
The Fischer Random qualifier are still available, I play several time every day. You should enter now with some qualifier tournaments less than 400 hundred players I am sure you can qualify. My best finish to date is 95 without playing the whole tournament.
Of course you won't get the same pairing as me averaging less then 1450 but I easily defeat 1800s players and of course lose most to 1300s players :).
note: (Give it another try)
Oh, I was not aware that they are still ongoing.
next qualifier games in one hour ...
Too late! Need to go to sleep!
Chess.com had bid difficulties with our server. We couldn't play online chess without internet problems. Lichess came in and solved it all.
One more thing I would like to add was that I benefited financially when lichess came out as I reported bugs to @utopian back then on steemit.
If my contribution was okay, I was upvoted well. Lichess being an open source helped me alot.
They have been great ever since, Thanks for writing about them. You are right, we just play and forget them :)
Yes, it has excellent training tools also, @stayoutoftherz. I have only one objection to their programming job:
Yes, I know, this is a big weakness ☹️.
There is a workaround, just download all games into a free database programm and search for yourself.
Then import the results back into lichess.
Thanks for this super impressive insights! I saw some of the developer streams in the past, always a well invested time, specially for organizers like us both :)
Cheating: Every rule which becomes public finds some devil persons to overcome them, so it is best to not let them be public. One day I had one member which let play the children with the same account, and boom, they got banned! So be careful if you are totally drunk and use lichess, better then to go to chess.com :)
So nice overview! Fir sure lichess is what I call a "technological miracle"
They keep everything free but at the same time provide an extremely developed technology, it's really impress the way can get support and keep the machine ongoing. I think we can't compare chess.com and lichess, of course both of them with to play chess games but the philosophy is totally different. Chess.com has an stunning business model and of course they make good money but lichess I feel is more like for enthusiasts and people who want to create a keep a huge chess community.