We all love Chess Stack Exchange, but there is a whole world of people out there who need answers to their questions and don't even know that this site exists. When they arrive from Google, what will their first impression be? Let's try to look at this site through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before, and see how we stack up against the rest of the 'Net.

The Site Self-Evaluation review queue is open and populated with 10 questions that were asked and answered in the last quarter. Run a few Google searches to see how easy they are to find and compare the answers we have with the information available on other sites.

Rating the questions is only a part of the puzzle, though. Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not? Questions or answers that could use an edit? Anything that's going really well? Post an answer below to share your thoughts and discuss these questions and the site's health with your fellow users!

  • Thats right. We do love Chess SE.
    – user8213
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 1:22

4 Answers 4


When they arrive from Google, what will their first impression be? Let's try to look at this site through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before, and see how we stack up against the rest of the 'Net.

It all depends from the attitude of the person viewing the site.

If they are beginners, they will see a lot of useful content and will learn indeed a lot. We have done good job covering some tricky endgames ( B vs R or N vs R, many pawn/rook endings etc ), popular typical pawn structures ( Carlsbad / Isolated Queen's pawn etc ) and we have very good general coverage of the openings. This is all good to point the beginner in the right direction by giving him/her the basic principles and then providing literature and other sources to further improve. Beginners will also highly appreciate friendly and highly educational quality of our answers, regarding analyzing their positions. We did not ridicule anyone here, and have upvoted basically everything which serves well to "break the ice" with the newcomer. As far as 1400 u to 2100 ELO, this site is probably the best they can get.

If the viewer is a professional, then things get grim for him/her. First of all, we completely lack in standard. We do not have clear definition of what questions are allowed here and what are not ( this was mentioned on Meta before ). This is the consequence of not having highly skilled players in our team. Our highest reputation users are mere amateurs or FM at best. Because we are in danger not surviving Beta status, we get extra pressure and allow a lot of bad questions, like "What are some chess songs?". This question is not regarded to chess and should have been heavily downvoted and closed. The reason is that it asks about a song, which is not what this SE site is about. We massively upvoted it, which degrades the seriousnes of this site in my opinion ( what is next? "What are some chess snickers?" / "What are some chess cars?" / "What are some chess..." well, you get the point ). The lack of consistent review and standard will deter serious players from this site. PGN viewer is riddled with bugs and has limited capabilities. For a site that is a part of the best programming site online this is a joke! StackOverflow is packed with professionals who work for famous companies or are in the very top of the computer industry ( e.g. they own their own companies ). You can't tell me that you can't implement quality PGN viewer, that is bullcrap! This degrades the value of this site even more, and deters possible new user to join because nobody will "suffer" with comments for free which must be kept in mind -> we are free of charge Q&A site. Eventhough we have no clue what we are doing ( chess songs will not kill anyone I guess... ) and eventhough we experience technical difficulties ( crappy PGN viewer is still very useful ), the worst problem we have is lack of questions that should attract highly skilled players ( IM onward ). Without GMs in our pool of high reputation users, we have no ability to answer such questions and new users become quickly aware of this. Some "high quality" questions were asked in the past but the answers to those were ridiculous if we objectively look at it. We just can't cope with this and it is a painfull fact.

In short, if you are new and you're a beginner, this is the place for you. If you are FM, there is a slight chance you to find something useful, but if you are IM or GM just skip this site, it is a waste of time. Sadly, this is the truth at the moment.

Rating the questions is only a part of the puzzle, though. Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not? Questions or answers that could use an edit? Anything that's going really well?

I have asked here on Meta a question regarding getting GMs to join and in return got the Tumbleweed badge ( for those of you who don't know, this means in short that nobody cared about my question ). Since nobody here gives a damn about raising the quality of this site to the highest possible height, I came to the following conclusion:

Chess SE team only cares for this site to pass Beta and will do anything to achieve this.

Tolerating questions that don't belong to this site, not having clearly defined reviewing standards and being overtly lenient towards crappy questions ( those questions where OP didn't show any research effort and similar ) might "save the day" in the short terms but will destroy the site in the long run.

I can already point out few crappy questions that got polluted with this type of approach, but what's the point? It seems to me that everybody already "agreed" that this should be site for players between 1400-2100 ELO and I honestly doubt that anything will change. I am very very sad because of this approach and feel like powerless "black sheep". I just don't know what to do to make people realize that we need GMs in our pool of top ranked users.

I said it once and I will say it again: without questions that cover problems of the master skilled player we can't seriously hope for healthy, respected, strong site.

Some people are willing to come here and "give a try" but they believe that they will not get quality response they expect. Many friends of mine who are masters did me a favor and "checked out" this site but ultimately said that "it can't help them." This is the second thing I have said before: we need highly skilled chess players as top users. The last thing is good PGN viewer. If we manage to fulfill these tasks the Internet is ours, there will be no chess force to compete with us because we offer free advice. The only thing missing is high quality. Helping FM /IM users would attract GMs and they could come to the same conclusion as I did: that this place has a great potential to become central place for the online chess world. It could unite chess fans all over the world thus raising overal chess quality in the world just as ChessInformant did in the 1960s when it first came out. this is my "ace in the sleeve", this is the potential I see for this site that might attract GMs.


  1. Get high skilled users;
  2. Ask questions that address problems of high skilled players;
  3. For the God's sake make a good PGN viewer and stop embarassing yourselves ( StackExchange has StackOverflow, they should "eat" this task "for breakfast" IMHO );

Just my two cents... Hopefully it will help in changing things towards better...

  • 3
    Your contrast between the lack of GMs here on the one hand, and the presence of world-class programmers at SO on the other, is of course accurate, but I think there is a very good reason why one simply shouldn't expect this site to come in line with SO in that regard. Top-flight programmers can answer questions for free at SO and not eat into their earning potential one iota. But with very few exceptions, those who manage to make a living at chess face a much starker financial situation than software developers, and a free lesson given here is one they will never get paid for.
    – ETD
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 0:32
  • @ETD: +1. But if we can make this place central point for chess discussion we could attract GMs. At the moment I am doing a research for the Scandinavian defense. The same line I am looking at is analyzed by GMs. They publish their analysis on different places but I believe that they would welcome the thought of having one place where the analysis would be published. Especially if it can be corrected or if they could get help in their analysis. Top-flight programmers can answer questions for free at SO and not eat into their earning potential one iota. True, I will reply in separate comment. Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 11:06
  • @ETD: The questions I had in mind regard typical problems FMs or IMs face that could be solved through experience. If one plays frequently enough then they will eventually solve the problem because they would reach the required level of strength at some point. Example would be to draw technical rook endgame -> at the moment OP wouldn't have required skill to do that, but through time would gain it. GM could help OP to learn faster. Why would this jeopardize GMs income? This would turn Chess SE into gold mine of instructive positions which will attract many book writers. Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 11:18
  • 1
    As I have suggested before, the very nature of the subject is ill-suited for SE. Let's suppose a GM did contribute content (not trivia-related) that is of "GM calibre", only those whose playing strength is within a certain threshold can appreciate and benefit, and such content is likely to be "localized" - a concrete line that a weaker player could not reproduce on his own. The playing strength of GMs and analysis skill that sets them apart from other players cannot be imparted through Q&A. Thus, there is no need for even stronger players to exist here as it would not make any real difference.
    – prusswan
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 1:46
  • 2
    @prusswan, so what if only a certain segment of users could appreciate and benefit from GM content? That sort of thing happens in any subject. For instance, there are plenty of arguments produced by the Fields medalists participating at MathOverflow, where a user like myself who may not even be familiar with the exact subject at hand can't begin to appreciate or make use of what has been produced. But some users will find great value in it, even if the Q&A format can't magically turn them into Fields medalists themselves. I don't follow how our setting is so different.
    – ETD
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 14:45
  • @ETD: +1 for the comment. SE should serve all its users, not majority ones. That is my official point of view. Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 19:13
  • Well, you don't need to be a fields medalist to be an expert in math. But chess expertise at the highest levels has more to with raw ability than logic or arguments that can be laid out. Even if there are a pool of really strong players, I don't believe their participation will lead to a significant higher standard of Q&A than what has already been seen. Tactics-related questions don't require GM/IM input (their playing strength only means they should get them mostly right consistently). Then it is the same old for career/training/practice questions.
    – prusswan
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 5:18
  • You perceive there is a lack of more expert participation (particularly from GMs), but in reality this site already has its fair share of experts, just that it will continue to be dominated by non-experts. With stricter policing, there might be a slight improvement but I won't be expecting Chess Informant-styled content. "Do strong players ask better chess questions? No, they just stop asking dumb ones"
    – prusswan
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 6:18
  • 1
    I agree with @AlwaysLearningNewStuff, higher rated users mean higher quality questions and answers. Chess is a logical game, and cannot be categorized as an "ability game" excluding logic. Every move has its reason, and if GMs make better moves than the rest, it's because they have better reasons. And these can be explained. Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 0:41
  • @pablo: +1! Every move has its reason, and if GMs make better moves than the rest, it's because they have better reasons. And these can be explained. -> this! Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 0:50
  • GMs see things that most people don't. If these can be "explained" then everyone would be a GM by now, isn't it? The kind of stuff that needs explaining (don't hang your pieces, but this is hyperbole of course) to the unwashed masses, do not warrant the presence of a GM.
    – prusswan
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 10:16
  • @prusswan: As someone who has strength of an IM, I can tell you that everything can be explained. The difference is that you need to be in shape and in good physical fitness in order to play constantly at GM level. I haven't played actively for more than 10 years and my tactical skill nearly perished, not to mention that I have harder time to play blindfold now. Still, plan is a plan, it can be explained. Concrete calculation is what "separates men from the boys". For skilled players it would be enough for GM to tell them "to combine minority attack with typical f5 push"... Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 14:10
  • @AlwaysLearningNewStuff That is precisely my point, in that you don't need a GM to explain "plans" or "ideas". They can't "explain" concrete calculation any more than you do. If expert participation is what this site is lacking, GMs are not a silver bullet to this problem.
    – prusswan
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 0:34
  • @prusswan: you don't need a GM to explain "plans" or "ideas" -> yes you do, because my evaluation of position differs from theirs and that is the only thing at the moment that is different. You should try sometimes to observe their live post-game analysis and see just how easily you could understand their moves after you know their plans. Once at FM level of skill or higher, the "only" thing that differs from a GM is the evaluation of the position. As for calculation you are right, it depends on physical fitness and practice and is irrelevant as this can be improved on your own. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 14:25
  • Isn't the evaluation a direct result of calculation? I don't believe plans are unique to having a specific title. Any player is certainly capable of coming up with the same plan as a GM, but will likely opt for a weaker one because it is the calculation that sets them apart. In fact GMs can make a wrong "plan" too when they lose to other GMs.
    – prusswan
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 2:57

Final Results

Net Score: 7 (Excellent: 7, Satisfactory: 4, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 6 (Excellent: 7, Satisfactory: 3, Needs Improvement: 1)

Net Score: 6 (Excellent: 6, Satisfactory: 4, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 6 (Excellent: 6, Satisfactory: 4, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 5 (Excellent: 6, Satisfactory: 6, Needs Improvement: 1)

Net Score: 4 (Excellent: 5, Satisfactory: 4, Needs Improvement: 1)

Net Score: 1 (Excellent: 3, Satisfactory: 5, Needs Improvement: 2)

Net Score: -1 (Excellent: 3, Satisfactory: 4, Needs Improvement: 4)

Net Score: -1 (Excellent: 2, Satisfactory: 5, Needs Improvement: 3)

Net Score: -6 (Excellent: 1, Satisfactory: 3, Needs Improvement: 7)


My view is that this site is doing as good as it can with it's current direction. GMs will answer here but probably only after the site finds a way to grow faster. In an earlier post, I suggested covering the map of chess positions. Other strategies should also exist. Let's continue thinking or decide and build something.

  • One trouble is that, if I were a GM, then I might be reluctant to suffer the indignity of letting my answers be judged by players of lesser standing. Recently on another SE site, ironically, on a narrow topic on which I happened to know more than other answerers, an answer of mine got buried, outvoted by other answers that were just wrong. Now, this is fine; the voters did not grasp my answer, and also my answer was not what they wished to believe, so I can hardly blame them, but you see the problem. Upvotes are not peer review, so answering might prove to be an unhappy experience for a GM.
    – thb
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 9:50
  • 1
    The voting system here on StackExchange is way better than any other format I have seen so far. At the moment, I think that the main reason GMs and IMs including myself are not that engaged in this site is that the return on investment is unclear. I think one return on investment could be to attract students or make people interested in your books or other materials. I guess that titled players are busy with competing in tournaments, doing their daily work or playing blitz online. Being a tutor or mentor is not a call that everybody hears.
    – user2001
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 14:12

They stopped with the site-evaluations, but the questions are still relevant.

As an intermediate player I still see an over-representation of trivial questions (for my level) like #4 and #5. The second problem is that the site population is not able to differientiate content like #2 or #3 from trivia (perceived as noise for expert players), resulting in a semi-broken reputation system.

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