ChessManiac offers many features to nonpaying members. The membership fees that turn off the advertising is expensive in comparison to other sites.
Users may choose among fifteen chess sets, several color schemes, and eight board sizes. In-game conversation is enabled through a small window below the playing board, as is a section for private notes. Any number of days from one to fourteen may be set as the time control. The interface is designed as numerous windows, and the menus are paired down for many of the windows. Navigation can seem cumbersome at times.
The site maintains active forums on chess and site related topics, as well as a variety of non-chess issues. Live online chat also continues in a window that is visible in most areas of the site. Several teams are active on the site.
Downloading a player's games as a PGN file--whether one's own or another's--works smoother on ChessManiac than most other sites. Unfortunately, however, the whole site crashed several months ago, and the game archives were corrupted upon restoration. The games currently available for download are substantially fewer than what existed prior to the crash. A small number of annotated games are available through a link from the main hall. Database search features are not enabled.
Frequent play and participation in the chess forums are the best offerings for chess improvement at ChessManiac.
The site is sluggish, probably due to the multiple independent windows inherent in the design. Downtimes appear infrequent, but an unexpected and nearly disastrous crash caused many active players to abandon the site.
The screenshot highlights both the clarity of the playing board and the cumbersome advertising.