When learning to play chess, it is difficult to know who to play chess against. After friends and family, I started playing on FICS the Free Internet Chess Server, but I found I play well below almost everyone who played on FICS on a regular basis.
Playing the people I normally would play was no fun for them because they lose. There is little luck in chess, you are either the better player or you are not. There are not too many people who are willing to play you and lose most of the time. Neither are there people who want to play you and win with little effort.
This left me with built in chess games on my desktop. On both Windows and IOS, I found the lowest levels played to low. The computer made really stupid moves. The higher levels of course played to brutal. I never finished the opening as the computer was into the end game. Setting above the lower levels play ok for my skill level.
There is a general agreement that to improve one should play someone at a slightly higher skill level than themselves. While this is true for someone wanting to improve, I am not sure this is good beginner advice. I found for myself that playing computer chess at about the same level I am at was appropriate for me.
I also my play chess against someone better than myself part of the time. Whether that opponent is human or computer chess does not yet seem to matter too much, although computer and human players seem to play differently.
I think the level we play at is determined by our understanding, our ability, and the number of mistakes we make per game. I think in humans we make different and more creative mistakes, where the computer players make more or less the same mistakes every game.
When I started only playing opponents who play better than myself, I found was, I was learning how to get beat, or block a move or two, but I was rarely given the opportunity to explore using how my pawns and pieces function.
Playing a computer opponent at slightly worse play than my own level of play, allowes me to make moves, set up combinations with two or more pieces, and learn how to manage so many pieces on one small board without struggling to maintain a crumbling defense.
I wonder if perhaps chess coaches were available or affordable this would not be the case. I thought it important to learn how to walk on the chess board before I started to run. Fortunately there are a lot of chess resources on the net to help me improve.
How well this plan of action works is hard to tell as I am my own student. For now however it seems effective. One are I do find I am weak in is tactics, as I am sure every beginning player has problems with. If I were tactically proficient I would be playing speed chess, and not clumsy beginners chess.
Chess is a dance of sorts, and like dance, one has to learn the basic steps and become competent with the basics before moving on to more intricate learnings. How well we do and how long that takes depends on time, circumstance, and want.