There are several ways to start playing. The easiest are the Find Opponent and Offers Graph widgets.
Click on the Find Opponent button and you'll see a dialogue from
which you can challenge other players for a game.
Select how long you'd like to play for, and other options, then
press the Make Offer button.
The Offers Graph button shows all current game offers. Hovering your mouse over a node will show it's details, and clicking a node will request a new game. Sometimes you'll have to be quick though, as FICS can be quite busy. Middle clicking FICS will hide/display the Offers, and 'Escape' dismisses thm.
On the graph itself, The y-axis shows the ELO rating of the opponent -
higher number means stronger player , while x-axis of the graph plots the time
allowed for the game. The first grey line marks standard
Additionally, the offers use the following coding:
Note FICS also offers a bunch of chess variants like bughouse or crazyhouse. Playing these games is not supported, but they can be observed and examined.