Queen Alice has an attractive design, tournaments, a range of forums, and a friendly environment. Although it remains free, it offers serious competition to most of the pay sites.
The playing board is better than most. The interface identifies the opening employed in games, appearing even to recognize transpositions. The site also features an "opening browser" that is easily navigated, but this browser offers no links to a database of games, and no performance data (both of which are standard features at other sites with similar browsers).
By selecting "think" players may move pieces around on the game board to test variations, but this feature is cumbersome compared to sites that open an evaluation board in a separate window. Still, it is a nice feature not found at all sites.
The player page offers nicely presented performance graphs, optional personal data, and useful links. PGN download of one's own or an opponents games is well supported for the twenty-five most recent games. Older games are available from the individual game board.
A small percentage of the players post regularly in the forums, and not every day. Nevertheless, the chess content of the sites forums is better than several other sites. Conversations on non-chess topics are rather whimsical.
The screenshot shows the position immediately after I have played a7-a6 (last move is highlighted).
Updated 7 March 2007