In a word, no. There are several major differences between playing chess on the Internet and playing chess over the board, in person. These differences may or may not seem important to you now, but a seasoned tournament player knows that they are.
While there may be the occasional cough or time scramble excitement at a real chess tournament, there really isn’t much else to catch the attention of the players. However, at home, there is plenty to pull us away from our game. Dinner plates clanking, televisions yakking, telephones ringing, pets, kids – all these have a profound effect on the intensity of play and our concentration levels.
Internet Chess is Less Risky
Although you may pay for a membership on a chess playing server, there is not necessarily something riding on each game like there is at a real chess tournament. Real tournaments cost money to enter, which means that each game is worth something to the chess player. Also, Internet chess ratings are not as important as your real chess rating, which gauges how strong you actually are, not necessarily how you happen to be performing on any given day.
In real chess tournaments there are often cash prizes, which is something rarely done with Internet chess tournaments. Unless the tournament is held in your home, there are also travel costs, and even hotel fees for the longer tournaments.
There are also psychological risks involved in a real chess tournament that are not at stake on the Internet. For instance, if one was to play a 20 minute game on a chess server, and lose, that person can just play another game and hope to win. No bigee. However, when you lose a grueling six-hour game against someone who is sitting right in front of you, it is a whole different ballgame. You feel that loss. One is likely to remember a game like that for years to come. Likewise for a well-deserved and hard-fought win.
Cheating is not as common Over the Board
While it does happen from time to time, the chances that your opponent is using Shredder or Rybka right in front of you are much more slim than with any given chess opponent on the Internet. The only real way to guarantee you aren’t playing a strong chess program today is to play people in person, face to face. You may get disgusted after losing a game to a lower rated opponent on a chess server, but it’s possible you played a strong engine and don’t realize it. Unless someone in a live chess tournament is very inventive and successfully sneaky, it’s probable that you are playing a human the whole time. I’ll take man vs. man any day.