Tips for games in various ICC rating categories

This is a page with some quick tips on playing the different types of chess on ICC.

The rules for each of the ICC wilds is here:
ICC also has its own page with tips for playing wild:

Wild 29 is chooses a wild from random, but some wilds are weighted more heavily than others. According to MACTEP:
Wilds 3, 4, 8, 9 and 18 have 1/24 chance of being chosen, wilds 5 and 22 have 2/24 chance, and wilds 17, 23, 25, 26 and 27 have 3/24 chance of being chosen.
The entries in grey are not real wild variants which are meant to be played competitively, but serve some other purpose on ICC.

If there are any comments or suggestions please either leave me (ElScorcho) a message on ICC or email me at

You know that 'sweep the pieces off the board and see it in your mind' thing? Doesn't work.
(Taken from XKCD -

Just look for safe moves and play them fast. Cheap threats are encouraged provided they're not weakening.
When your opponent plays a move your brain should simply run through 'Did he blunder anything?' and 'Is he threatening anything?'
If the answer is no to both questions, you should just find a solid move and play it. Then use your opponent's time to think about your next move.
Use premove when:
1. You expect your opponent to capture something (recapture it).
2. Your opponent's move is forced.
3. You get low on time (very important)
When time-scrambling and premoving at the end, make sure you keep your king safe and keep your pieces protected.

Knowing your openings well is really helpful. Not just the theory moves, but also the plans and tricks that are possible after the book moves have been exhausted. You should aim to play solidly for most of the game. Don't go into any tactics that you haven't calculated confidently. Just play a safe move instead; you'll probably get another chance for a tactic later anyway. Always look at your opponent's last move and make sure you've covered any possible threats. Blitz is about solidity. If you lose a pawn, don't panic; just keep playing strong moves and wait for your opponent to blunder something back. On the other hand, as soon as you get up material, you need to solidify your position and make sure you have no hanging pieces or pawn weaknesses. When you both get low on time, you need to up your intensity; find safe moves fast and try to pose problems for your opponent (i.e. treat it like a bullet game).

Wilds 1-4:
Try cheap opening tricks. For example, if you have a bishop on b1 and there is an undefended pawn on h7, play 1.c3.
After your opening tricks are exhausted, don't be flustered by the abnormality of the position; follow the normal opening principles about developing your pieces and controlling the centre. You just need to make sure if you move pawns to the centre that they don't become targets for enemy diagonal pieces.
Develop your knights to squares where they won't be harrassed by pawns.
That's about it. Fianchettoing bishops is quite a safe strategy, as long as you look for pawn breaks to break up any enemy pawns that are blocking your bishops.

Wild 5 (Reversed):
If white, 1.Nf6 Nc3 2.Ng4 Nd5 (all forced) 3.g8=Q followed by Bh6, f8=Q threatening Qxd5 already creates uncomfortable pressure.
Promoting queens and protecting the pawns/diagonals around your king is more important than gaining material.
Cheap threats on the c7/c2 squares are useful.

Wild 6 (Empty Board):
Empty position for use in examine mode. Not to be played.

Wild 7 (KPPP vs KPPP):
a4/h5 are good first moves.
A white king on g4 vs black pawns on f7, g7, h7 (and any translation of this setup down the board) is a zugzwang position; if you get this with black to move, then he's forced to make a move on the other side of the board.
It's often a good idea to have pawns on a5 and b4, leaving a pawn on c2 so you have the choice of moving it one square or two when you need the extra tempo.
Apart from that, calculate! This game is about 90% calculation.

Wild 8 (Advanced pawns):
At the start of the game take as many pawns as you can.
1.cxd5 followed by 2.Bxb5+ is a good idea for white. As black, the best way to counter this is to do the same thing (cxd4 and Bxb4+).
After a few pawns get taken, you should be looking for ways to take pawns with developing moves, e.g. Qxd4. You should even look for ways to sacrifice pawns to develop pieces and drum up some threats against the opponent's king.

Wild 9 (Two kings):
I am relatively stronger in normal chess than wild, so I prefer to castle one king queenside, and then use the other king for charging. One you get experienced in wild 9 you may want to adopt the opposite strategies, i.e. keep the two kings on or near the same file and use them together to create confusion for your opponent. Of course, this creates the opportunity for weird tactics which may work or which may backfire.

Wild 10-14 (Various piece odds games):
I'm not experienced with odds games, but I think in general the player with the handicap should try to keep pieces on the board and look for tactics. The other player should try to trade off and simplify as much as possible, in order to minimise the chances for his opponent to save the game.

Wild 15 (KBN v K):
The ICC command "play kbnk" will get you a practice game against an ICC bot if you need to train. Basically you need to force the king to the edge of the board, and then use a special technique to force the king step by step into the 'right colour corner'. For the first part, you need to be quite co-ordinated with your pieces, but one tip is that having the knight on the same colour as your bishop is helpful to prevent the enemy king running away. For the second part, there are a few good youtube videos that will teach you how to force the king into the appropriate corner and checkmate him.

Wild 16 (Kriegspiel):
You cannot see your opponent's pieces, but the ICC server will give you messages which should provide many hints.
'X pawn tries' means you have X legal pawn captures. In this case you should try all of your pawn captures until you find one that is legal.
If you get checked, moving your king is the last thing you should do. You should first try capturing the checking piece on every square possible.
(For reference, short-diagonal check means a check is coming from the shorter of the two diagonals on which your king is placed.)
Towards the end of the game, refer to your scoresheet and count how many captures you have made, and deduce how many pieces your opponent has left. This will help you to decide whether to play safe moves to protect your pieces, or to try to hunt down his last piece, etc.
Towards the end of the game, or even in the middlegame, it's sometimes a good idea to try to push pawns forward as far as you can with support from your pieces. You will often figure out that something is blocking your pawn(s) and you can consider capturing on that square with your other pieces.
Apart from that, there are numerous strategies you might like to adopt in kriegspiel; it's mostly a matter of taste and there is no universally correct strategy - it depends on how your opponent plays.
Also, don't play Kriegspiel without increment if you have lag, as illegal moves will take a while to register and come back to you, putting you at a big disadvantage.

Wild 17 (Loser's chess):
Beware of some opening traps where one player forces his opponent to checkmate him by dragging a rook to c1/c8, for example 1.c3 e6 2.a3 Bxa3 3.Rxa3 Ne7 4.Rxa7 Rxa7 5.Qa4 Rxa4 6.c4 Rxc4 7.h3 Rxc1#.
Once you learn to avoid the opening traps, the strategy in loser's chess is mainly to lose your pawns without losing your pieces. This is because even if you sacrifice all your pieces but are left with a solitary blocked pawn, your position is still usually lost. It's often a good idea to make your opponent sacrifice his pieces for your pawns, build up a material advantage that way, and then you have more flexibility to try to block your opponent's last pawns and restrict his options.
The procedure to win when playing against a lone blocked pawn is to promote all your pawns to rooks, force his king somewhere convenient using your rooks (obviously taking care not to attack his last pawn), and then sacrifice all your pieces in succession.
Of course if the game isn't tactically sound then there are occasionally opportunities to sacrifice all your pieces by some 10-move-long combination even when your position has blocked pawns, so when you sense such an opportunity may be present, you should take the time to calculate it properly.

Wild 18 (Power chess):
Don't be deceived; the position usually won't simply liquidate into an equal QvQ with pawns ending. Having a queen majority in one area of the board is often sufficient to overpower your opponent. Try to target weak pawns, and stack up queens on open files or open diagonals.
Regarding the opening, you could either adopt a straightforward approach (e4, d4, c3/f3 if needed, followed by developing your queens behind the pawn centre) or you could try the fianchetto approach (b3, c4, Qb2, Qc3, etc). They both seem to be sound ways of playing the opening.
Most tactics in this game rely on exploiting a pinned queen, and using another queen to attack the king. So you should be extra careful to avoid weakening your king, and to be alert to any attacks your opponent is trying to launch on your king.

Wild 19 (KNN v KP):
I have no idea how to do this.

Wild 20 (Loadgame):
Allows you to load any position from an ICC game list or a FEN string. See "help loadgame".

Wild 21 (Thematic):
The same as wild 20, except it automatically loads from the first game in Thematic's library. This is only used for scheduled thematic tournaments.

Wild 22 (Chess960/Fischer Random):
Strategies are essentially the same as wilds 1-4, except that after both sides have gotten castled, a game of chess960 will start resembling a normal chess game.

Wild 23 (Crazyhouse):
Unlike bughouse, you cannot simply sacrifice material and hope to get pieces from your partner to continue the attack. Therefore you need to play more sensibly in w23 than w24. However, keep the following general principles in mind:
Where both you and your opponent have a lot of pieces 'in hand', you should try to attack to make use of your material and to prevent your opponent making use of his. Attack either with unblockable short-range checks or with knight checks. Dumping pieces on the board with gain of tempo (i.e. without allowing your opponent to use his held pieces) is a good idea as you increase your control of the board.
Dark square/light square attacks are effective. Pawn chains near the enemy king make it tough for your opponent to mend his position.
There is no such thing as positional thinking in w23. You need to calculate a lot and be extra-alert to tactics.
Common irritating moves are N@h5 attacking an undefended g7 pawn, creating a pawn chain on d5/e6/f7 sometimes supported by a bishop on c4, and plonking connected pawns on an unprotected 7th rank and just promoting them.
Piece values: P=1, N=B=R=2, Q=4.

Wild 24 (Bughouse):
Firstly bughouse is very seldom played on ICC owing to the lack of interested players.
Bughouse is a two-board game. This means that you cannot play a good game if you only focus on your own board and rely on your partner to tell you what he wants; a glance at his board every now and then will give you more information more quickly than can be conveyed by tells.
If your partner is being attacked avoid trades as much as possible, or stall if you have more time than your partner's opponent.
If your partner is attacking, find ways to trade as much as possible, even sacrificing pieces to get your partner pieces that are useful for his attack.
Piece values are the same as in w23.

Wild 25 (Three checks):
Apart from avoiding playing obviously weakening moves like d4 or f4, there are very few three checks strategies; it mostly comes down to positional judgement and common sense, as well as concrete calculation sometimes to expose the opponent's king.
The first check is generally worth sacrificing a minor piece to achieve; the second and third checks are more valuable and may be worth greater sacrifices (if necessary, of course).
If you are comfortable with positional play in normal chess, you may want to close the position as much as possible so that the tactics are kept to a minimum and your opponent is forced to adopt slow, maneuvering play.
On the other hand if you are comfortable with calculation then you might want to play more aggressively.

Wild 26 (Giveaway):
I must admit I don't quite understand this game; it seems to me that the strategy is simply to sacrifice as many pieces as possible without restraint.
1.e4 is a forced loss so don't play that; start with moves like 1.c3 or 1.f3.
To be good at this you need to be very efficient at calculating forced lines.

Wild 27 (Atomic):
1.Nf3 must be met with 1...f6. One line of theory then runs 2.e3 d5 3.Ne5 fxe5 4.Qh5 g6 5.Qe5 and now best is Be6 in order to preserve the bishop against Qxc7.
Atomic has lots of interesting tactics which are best left to the player to discover. However, there are a few ideas which are common knowledge:
Enemy queens need to be constantly watched out for in the opening; restricting white's queen with something like ...h5 is sometimes a good idea.
Getting a rook next to the enemy king is almost always a forced win.
If losing a good defensive strategy is to charge your king next to your opponent's king; this makes it confusing for the opponent to blow up your king without blowing up his own at the same time.

Wild 28 (Shatranj):
On the whole Shatranj is slower than normal chess because many of the pieces' movement is inferior to normal chess. However, the tactics tend to be more tricky, because of our lack of familiarity with the way the Shatranj pieces move.
In the opening you should establish at least one pawn in the centre; otherwise you will find your knights and bishops harrassed (just like in normal chess).
Rooks and knights are by far the strongest pieces, and you should be looking to activate those pieces and create tactics with them.
However your weak pieces (bishops and queens) can be effective defensive pieces, covering potential squares from which your opponent might be looking to attack.
Remember that the game ends not only when checkmate occurs, but also when one player has only a king left.