GameKnot was an early leader in turn-based chess, but has lost its edge. It offers a rich array of features to guest members (non-paying), and several levels of paid memberships. Their membership prices range from double that of comparable sites to nearly five times as high.
GameKnot also offers an Internet Explorer toolbar designed to facilitate online chess play on their site. Some users that shun IE have reported browser incompatibility issues, most of which seem to have been resolved. GameKnot seems to require more cookies than comparable sites. They have been known to ban non-paying members for using anti-spyware and pop-up blockers, although they recommend these in their FAQ.
The board is clear, although small, and users have a choice of four different piece designs. A pop-up analysis board facilitates testing variations. A window for typing messages for the other player is incorporated into the standard view, and a separate pop-up window provides space for private notes. Seven available time controls allow three to fourteen days per move. Among the email notification options is a warning when only 24 hours remain in a game. Vacation time must be kept with an allotted number of days per year (more for paying members); when a vacation is set, the clocks stop. The menus remain on the left through all areas of the site, but several important areas require a second link from the subordinate menus on certain pages. Player names are always available as a link to that player's profile page.
The site had a social chat forum at one point, but it was closed before I began playing there. The chess and site related forums are occasionally active, and most posters contribute with courtesy, respect, and concern for quality. Changes implemented in 2006 now make it possible to post diagrams in the forums. The forums are well-hidden, however.
Team play is active, and not limited to paying members. Only full members may start teams.
Paying members may download their completed games, as well as the games of others. Guest members, however, are limited to their own recent games. The online database contains nearly a quarter million games, and may be navigated through a move tree that the scoring percentages for each previously played move from each position.
The chess forums, database, list of recommended chess books, and tactics problems posted by members all offer opportunities for personal improvement in chess skill.
The server is usually fast. A couple of unexpected downtimes were mitigated by time added to everyone's game clock.
The screenshot shows the menu along the left that is always visible.
Updated 7 March 2007