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Do professional online players always prefer to play on a chessboard oriented with the Black pieces on the top or with their own pieces on the bottom? Is there a consensus on this, and has there ever been a formal or informal poll?

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  • By 'professional players' do you mean GMs and such?
    – CoolCoder
    Nov 24 at 5:41
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    Surely everybody prefers to have their own pieces on the bottom?
    – TonyK
    Nov 24 at 13:49
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Since over the board chess is played with each player's pieces starting on the side closest to them, the natural board orientation is with your own pieces on the bottom. This is the default orientation when a game starts on all the major chess-playing sites and is how all the top players like Nakamura, Carlsen, etc. play when they stream on Twitch. It is not common to play in the other orientation unless it for a specific reason, like as a challenge.

There are occasions where flipping the board can be helpful still, presumably even at the top level, such as when trying to remember opening theory that you play as one color but not the other. However, most grandmasters could visualize the flipped board in their head just as easily as flipping the orientation.

As a ~2000-rated player on Lichess, I occasionally find it helpful to analyze positions from the opponent's orientation before my move, especially when I'm making a choice between attacking moves. Having lost so many games when the opponent made a strong move into my position that I had not considered, I am usually better able to judge whether a move will be crushing or defendable from the defending orientation. However, this is also not so relevant for professionals since they are skilled at analyzing the board from any orientation. Part of the reason they are strong players is because their ability to see the best moves on the board is not directional.

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  • If you have a plan to get better at OTB, flipping the board for analyzing is a bad idea because you won't have that chance in OTB (unless you stand up and get near to your opponent which ... is a bit strange :) )
    – Minot
    Nov 25 at 8:52
  • @Minot At least if we are talking about classical OTB, it's not uncommon to stand up and walk around, e.g. to have a look at the other games played around you (1 on 1 matches are rare). You might as well do that on your own board just as any other spectator would.
    – Annatar
    Nov 25 at 9:15
  • Thanks! This is looking like consensus, and (having only started playing seriously during the pandemic) I hadn't thought of the obvious ATB rationale for wanting your own pieces on the bottom. (For beginners, black-always-on-top is nice since the square names become invariant.)
    – hunter
    Nov 26 at 1:37
  • @Minot Actually I find flipping the board while playing online to be good training for flipping the board in my head OTB!
    – Jackson H
    Nov 26 at 7:28

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