Chess & Learning

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Samuel SonningFounder of
  • Chess Learning

Why You Should Play Chess Against The Computer

Think back to when you learned how to ride a bike.

Chances are, you didn't start off racing in the Tour de France. More likely, you began with training wheels, little aids that kept you balanced and allowed you to focus on the basics.

Imagine if learning chess could be similar, and you had a kind of 'training wheels' system that allowed you to learn at your own pace, free from the pressure of competition.

Good news! It's called playing chess against a computer.

A scroll through any online chess forum like Reddit, however, will unveil a flurry of arguments against computer opponents. They are too rigid, play inhuman moves, make forced, artificial mistakes, or they don't really adapt to your skill level.

Indeed, this is true for most chess bots (but not all of them – see end of this article). Yet, playing chess against a computer brings a bunch of benefits, too important to overlook. Here’s a few:

1. Targeted Practice

Picture a soccer team focusing on penalty kicks during their training session because they want to perfect that skill. Chess with a computer opponent allows you the same luxury.

Want to crack the Sicilian defense? No worries – you can set your computer opponent to play that opening over and over again.

Tired of losing equal rook endgames? Just set up a bunch of different rook endgame positions and start drilling

2. Choose Your Time Control

Sometimes during a blitz chess game you just wish you could pause the game and really think about the position.

With a computer, you can do just that. It waits patiently, allowing you to study the board, explore different strategies, without a ticking clock adding stress.

Personally, I love being able to take my time in endgames, rather than rush through them due to being low on time. But except for these few situations, I still prefer the pace of a blitz game to a slow correspondence game.

Playing against the computer gives me the best of both worlds.

3. Maintaining a Beginner's Mind

When playing against a human, you’re bound to experience emotions: anger at making a mistake, competitiveness to win.

A personal observation is that these feelings, while addictive in their own way, interfere with my learning mindset.

When I make a mistake I’m more focused on the risk of losing, rather than learning from my mistake. And after the game, rather than take the time to analyse it, I just want to play another one, so that I can win this time around.

With a computer, these emotions are largely taken out of the equation, allowing you to focus solely on improving.

4. Learning-Friendly "Cheating"

Sometimes you need a bit of help to maximise your learning.

Made a stupid blunder that threw away an otherwise interesting game? Just take back the move and learn from your mistake. Need a hint? The computer can offer suggestions to guide your learning.

Especially when learning openings as a beginner, I often wished I had an opening manual beside me to guide me through that jungle – but in human competitive play, this would give an unfair advantage. Not so against the computer!

5. Instant Feedback

Here’s an amazing possibility that is available when playing against (some) computers: instant feedback after every move.

Imagine learning to play the piano with earplugs, only finding out if you went wrong by the audience’s reaction – that’s kind of how it is to learn chess today.

Quick, accurate feedback and error correction is crucial for the brain to learn, yet unavailable when playing chess against humans, at least today. Using computers, we can change that.

6. Practice Secretly

Did you hear about the prep leak scandal from the latest world championship between Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi?

Apparently, Ding and his second had been practicing their opening repertoire in publicly visible games on and lichess, which were discovered while the match was still ongoing.

A nice plus of practicing against the computer is trying out different openings and themes without anyone knowing about it.

So, should you ditch human opponents entirely? Absolutely not! In the end, most of us want to play chess for social reasons, whether that means enjoying the game together with a fellow human or satisfying that competitive itch.

Yet, a computer opponent brings certain benefits in terms of learning that are difficult to match, unless you have a coach and group of skill-matched friends eager to practice with you 24/7.

And what about the concerns raised in those Reddit threads?

There's a solution to those too: Noctie is designed to play like a human, adapt to your skill level, and give instant, humanly intuitive feedback after each move, addressing the common criticisms of computer opponents.

So, why not give computer chess a shot? Like a bicycle with training wheels, it might be the tool you need to move to the next level of your chess journey.