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The Art of Playing Chess Alone or by Yourself: 29 Things You Need to Know

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

For many, the thought of playing chess alone seems obscure. It’s a turns game designed for two people, but now you want to play it alone. What skills would you need to play a good chess game against yourself? The good news is that anyone can play chess alone, whether a beginner or a Grandmaster.

Playing chess by yourself is an excellent way to practice tactics in a comfortable setting. You can be as strict as you want or make some adjustments to fit your strategy. Alternatively, you can play against others on a chess server or hone your skills with chess-related games.

Depending on your goals, you can play opposing sides aggressively or leniently. You might want to take a few hours, days, or weeks to play a game. Solo chess offers you that flexibility and an excellent opportunity to learn more about the game in a relaxed environment.

These are 29 things you need to know about playing chess by yourself:

1. There Are Different Ways You Can Play Chess By Yourself

You can use a traditional chess board and pieces and play on both sides, or you can digitally play on a chess server. Alternatively, you can play variants of chess that have different rules. For example, solo chess or Solitaire chess.

Playing chess by yourself means finishing the game can take as long as you like. If you have the board set up in a place that’s out of the way, you can play a move or two and then carry on with other things.

2. You Can Practice Your Tactics When Playing Chess Alone

Playing chess alone allows you the freedom to “bend the rules” a bit for the sake of practice. You can place the pieces in different scenarios and practice your tactics. The best way to practice tactics is through learning, understanding, and mastering the patterns in chess.

3. Use The Purdy Fine Method To Play Chess Alone

To make your chess game more interesting, you can use the Purdy Fine Method to spice it up. First, you would need a quality source of annotated Master Games. Then, print out a copy without looking at the annotation and cover it up. Pick a side and play through the game slowly, guessing the move of your chosen side before revealing it.

After you’ve done this, you can read the source’s comments on the annotations and compare your notes and thoughts. You can also try your ideas against a chess engine and see if it likes them.

4. Annotate Your Own Chess Games

Annotating your own games without the help of a computer is a great way to analyze your tactics. Once you have assessed your game, you can put your annotations into an open-source chess website like Stockfish and get feedback.

5. Many Grandmasters Play Chess Alone

Grandmasters often sit solitary at a chess board, playing a tactical game alone. They might not be challenging themselves, though. For instance, they could be using a game of alone chess to study their own game, go over other people’s games, practice openings, and solve problems.

6. You Play The Role Of Both Competitors In Single Chess

Even though chess is a turn-based, traditionally considered a two-player game, it can be modified to suit your needs. If you’re sitting at a chess board and playing by yourself, you must play both competitors. The adage that “you are your own enemy” comes into play, and you must be as objective as possible.

7. Your Moves In Solitary Chess Should Be Purposeful

When playing solo chess, your moves should be purposeful – even if you are playing against yourself. Don’t just make a move to see what the “other person” will do; mirroring moves won’t give you an advantage. So, you can plan each move to be offensive or defensive and anticipate what your opponent will do next.

8. You Can Play Aggressively Or Leniently In Solitary Chess

If you’re playing a game to relax, you can be lenient with yourself and end in a draw if you like. However, if you really want to challenge yourself, you can play aggressively. With each move, you can look for flaws and take no backs. When playing aggressively, you should do so for both sides. The battle will be challenging, but you will learn something new.

9. Throw In A Random Move To Spice Up A Chess Game

If your game against yourself becomes boring or predictable, you can do something random. For example, play an unanalyzed speculative move like an exchange or pawn sacrifice. Doing something sporadic helps you re-evaluate the positions and your tactics and adds excitement.

By creating an imbalance on the board, you can practice both your attack and defense simultaneously. 

10. You Need A Token When Playing Solitary Chess

A game of solitary chess can last a very long time, and it becomes easy to forget whose turn it is. You can use a token to help you remember whose turn it is by moving the token from side to side. Another way to help you remember whose turn it is is to flip the board around after each move. 

11. You Need To Be Unbiased In Solitary Chess

If you’re playing a chess game against yourself, you should aim to be as unbiased as possible. The more neutral and objective you are in the game, the more aggressively you can play. For example, when one “side” makes a mistake, the other side (still you) can capitalize on it. 

12. Many Chess Players Struggle To Be Unbiased

Many players who play chess alone find it difficult to not favor one side over another. They pick a favorite color and then play the opposing side less tactfully. Sure, it might bring joy to see your side win, but deep down, you know you rigged the game. Besides, it doesn’t really sharpen your skills when you set a side up for failure.

13. Chess Games Against Oneself Often End In A Draw

A typical action in solo chess games is that they often end in a draw. There’s nothing wrong with it since the lone player has only himself to impress. However, for chess players wanting to play aggressively, it’s better to push through until there is a winning side.

14. Solo Chess Allows You To Swap Pieces

You can swap out pieces when playing chess by yourself to fit your strategy. It’s only you who is playing, and no one is going to report you to the chess authorities (maybe). You can use the opportunity to try something new and think about things from a different angle.

15. It’s A Logical Battle Against Yourself

When you’re playing an intense game of chess against yourself, it becomes a hot battle against your own logic. You’re trying to outthink yourself on two sides, doubling the tactics requirements. While many chess players play solo chess, a few think it’s not a great idea from a psychological point of view.

16. Take Your Time When Playing Chess By Yourself

When playing against yourself, the logical battle can become exhausting or overwhelming. It is best to not overdo it when playing a chess game by yourself. Instead, take a break between moves to contemplate your “opponent’s” move.

17. Find A Suitable Spot In Your Home For Your Chess Board

If you’re planning a game of chess against yourself that can take a few days, find a suitable spot in your home for your chess board. Perhaps it’s on your study desk or on a coffee table. If your chess board is out of the way, you won’t need to pack it up between moves. Instead, it will be more convenient to continue the game with the help of the token.

18. Playing Chess Online Can Be Fun If You’re Alone

Chess servers and apps are excellent online facilities for playing chess when you’ve no one to play with. The chess servers are open-source, and you can play a game against the computer, friends, or random people from anywhere in the world.

19. Playing Chess Against A Chess Engine Is Difficult Work

It is difficult to win a game of chess against a computer, but possible. Even though chess engines have a rating of over 3000, they are designed to err as human players would. Their blunders may seem artificial for the rating and not necessarily helpful for improving your game.

20. Playing Chess Alone Boosts Your Cognitive Skills

You’re employing your senses and flexing your thinking skills when you play chess. Playing chess alone helps you to improve your concentration, spatial awareness, math, memory, and recall skills. It has also been shown that playing chess might help prevent or minimize degenerative brain diseases like dementia.

21. You Can’t Really Play Cheap Tactical Tricks

Playing chess by yourself means you probably won’t play a cheap tactical trick…on yourself. Of course, this isn’t a problem if you have multiple personalities. Since your moves will be of a better standard, there’s a fair chance of improving your game.

22. Solo Chess Allows You To Challenge How You Think

Solo chess allows you the opportunity to analyze how you think. You can ask yourself why you make certain moves, your style of play, and how you’d like to improve. Playing chess against someone doesn’t always allow you the time to be introspective, so solo chess is helpful in this way.

23. Playing Chess Alone Increases Your Creativity

Playing chess against someone or alone is bound to increase your creativity. The nature of chess boosts convergent and divergent thinking. It teaches you to be creative in the way you solve problems. So, playing chess alone gives you the space and time to ponder your next moves and how you will outwit yourself. 

24. Solo Chess Is A Good Introduction To The Game

If you’d like to learn to play chess, solo chess is a great way to start. You can familiarize yourself with the various pieces’ moves and challenge yourself with a game like Solitaire chess. Online you have tutorials and can play against other people equally matched in skill.

25. Solo Chess Is Great If You’re A Shy Person

It’s excellent that chess doesn’t exclude shy or introverted people. Solo chess, or playing on a chess server, are great ways for shy people to enjoy the game without the stress of socializing. You might even find that a shy person plays chess more aggressively when they play alone. While conversely, it’s likely that they would be more reserved if playing in person.

26. You Can Set Up Different Scenarios In Solo Chess

Say you don’t want to play a whole game of chess. Maybe you just want to play the opening, middle, or end game. The great thing about playing solo chess is that you can set up any scenario you like. Additionally, you can stop whenever you want, and it doesn’t need to be called a draw.

27. Solitaire Chess Is Not Really A Chess Game

Solitaire chess is not really a chess game. Instead, it’s a recreational, single-player logical puzzle or “chess task.” It uses a smaller board with sixteen blocks. Each chess piece moves as a standard chess piece does, but exceptions exist. With each challenge, solitaire chess helps you plan and challenge your strategy.

28. All The Pieces In Solo Chess Are “White”

Solo chess is a variant of chess where some rules have been adapted to suit a single player. All the pieces in solo chess are white but can turn black under certain conditions. Additionally, the pieces in solo chess can capture any other piece. 

29. Solo Chess Has Five Simple Rules

The purpose of solo chess is to move the pieces to capture each other until one piece remains. Here are the three basic rules of Solo Chess:

  1. Every move you make must capture a piece.
  2. Pieces can’t capture other pieces more than twice. If they do capture twice, they turn black. After that, the black pieces can be captured but can no longer capture.
  3. Should there be a king on the board, it must be the remaining piece.
  4. The pieces can move as they would in a regular chess game.
  5. No special moves are allowed (e.g., pawn promotion or En passant).

The following video tutorial shows you how to play solo chess.

In Closing

Playing chess on your own allows you to improve your chess skills. When you play against yourself, your game can last as long as you want. It would help if you were unbiased, playing each side to win. However, you can use solo chess to practice any part of the game. If you want to play against an opponent but are alone, you can play online on a chess server.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.