After arriving at velocitychess.com, I signed up through my Facebook account and was up and running in less than a minute. Immediately, the site will take new users on a “tour” that demonstrates some of Velocity Chess’ unique offerings. Some items on the tour that I found worthwhile were:
1) Free chess play for everyone who signs up
2) The use of Virtual chips(more on this later)
3) Personalized “Friends Lists”
4) Instant Messaging
5) Chat Lobbies
6) The ability to use time or material handicaps to create competitive games
Velocity chess’ interface seemed very familiar from the start. Games can be sought or found using a “search graph” which is pretty much standard on all the major chess servers. Unfortunately, on March 20 at 12:30 pm Pacific Time, the only opponents available were five computer accounts. Being that there were no other humans open for challenges, I chose to play the computer account named Blazing Bishop which was supposed to be rated 1600. It is worth noting that all of the computers were only seeking unrated games so their ratings may not be accurate. I will leave it to the reader to determine what they feel the relative strength of my opponent was from the game at the bottom of the post.
One way in which Velocity Chess seems to have a potential advantage against its opponents is in the way it is attempting to socialize online chess. When it comes to being “social,” Velocity Chess seems to be positioned ahead of the ICC and at least on equal footing with chess.com. However, for any social network to succeed it needs a large number of active accounts. Perhaps Velocity Chess can gain a big enough user base from the gambling aspect it also offers.
The addition of virtual chips makes it clear that Velocity Chess is intending to spice up online chess by adding a gambling aspect. Velocity Chess players have the opportunity to bet chips on their own games or on the games of other players. Virtual Chips can be redeemed for prizes in the Velocity Chess store giving them an aspect of real world value. Because there were no human players when I test drove the site, I did not have a chance to try betting virtual chips on the outcome of an online chess game. I doubt many chess parents will be rushing to sign their children up so that they can gamble on chess games. Still, I can see tremendous upside potential for adding wagering to an online chess site geared for adults and especially so if Velocity Chess used bitcoins rather than Virtual Chips.
In conclusion, my impression of velocity chess is that it seemed very professionally done but lacks the player base necessary for its success. I doubt its smooth interface and the concept of Virtual Chips will be enough to draw the crowds necessary to make this online chess venture a success. Velocity Chess has potential to become a major player in the world of chess servers but it will either have to drop the virtual chips to become more kid friendly or double down on its gambling efforts by adding bitcoin wagering.
[Event “Trying out Velocity Chess”]
[Site “Velocity Chess”]
[White “Blazing Bishop”]
[Black “Chris Torres”]
1.Nf3 d5 2.a3 Nf6 3.d3 Bg4 4.Bf4 Nbd7 5.Nc3 c6 6.d4 Qb6 7.h3 Bf5 8.Ra2 e6 9.Qc1
Ne4 10.Nxe4 dxe4 11.Ne5 Nxe5 12.Bxe5 f6 13.Bf4 Qxd4 14.Be3 Qd7 15.c4 e5 16.Ra1
Be7 17.Qc2 O-O 18.g4 Bg6 19.Bg2 f5 20.Qd2 Qxd2+ 21.Bxd2 f4 22.Bb4 Bxb4+ 23.axb4
a6 24.Ra3 Rad8 25.b5 cxb5 26.cxb5 axb5 27.Ra7 f3 28.exf3 exf3 29.Rh2 fxg2
30.Rxg2 Rf7 31.Rg3 Rfd7 32.Re3 e4 33.f4 exf3 34.Rxf3 Rd1+ 35.Ke2 R1d2+ 36.Ke3
Rxb2 37.g5 Bh5 38.Ra3 Bxf3 39.Kxf3 b4 40.Ra1 b3 41.Rg1 Rc2 42.Rb1 b2 43.Rxb2
Rxb2 44.Ke3 Rb4 45.h4 Ra8 46.Kd3 Ra3+ 47.Kd2 Rb2+ 48.Kc1 Rh2 49.Kb1 Rg3 50.h5