Most chain repairs need the right tools and nothing else will work. Although I've heard of people using a shoelace to remove a chain master link, that has never worked for me. I have. however, used several different Master Link Chain Pliers and I can honestly say Park Tool MLP-1.2 Master Link Pliers are the best I've ever used. I've found cheaper master link pliers but not better.
These pliers work as advertised: "almost effortless" removal and replacement of master links. They're solidly built and I'm sure these will be distributed to my heirs, assuming people are still using bike chains at that point. Park Tool stuff isn't always the cheapest but I've been happy with every Park tool I own and the price is reasonable.
I have started using master links on all of my bikes. It is just so convenient to remove and install the chain for maintaining a clean drive system, especially when traveling. The Park Tool MLP-1.2 makes getting the master link, and therefore the entire chain, on and off so easy, and it is very light weight to travel with. I keep one in my garage kit and another one in my travel kit.
I thought it be really hard to remove a bike chain and install a new one. I got this thing after watching some videos on how to replace the chain on any bike and how to click it in bike together. Pretty simple and easy to use.
As others have said, I probably wasted way more than $20 worth of time and stress trying to deal with chains without the proper tool. Just get a good tool for this and spend your time worrying about more meaningful issues like how to cut and extra 10-20 grams of weight on your bike... :)
Removing the link is almost effortless. But installing a link requires some serious force. If I were in charge of the design, I'd make the handles a couple inches longer to increase your leverage.
The value is pretty good. Some Park tools are incredibly overpriced but these hit the mark. There are some slightly less expensive pliers available. But I went with Park because I can trust the quality and, well, it matches my other Park stuff.
If you have a masterlink in your chain, then you need these. So much easier than grabbing the chain with your hands and trying to wiggle the link to release. Keep your hands clean and your chain from getting torqued.
I always clean my chains off the bike. Pull the dirty one off, put it in the soup for a few days, and put a clean spare on. I had been using a vicegrips to open the master link. The 11 speed chains are way hard to open by hand. The tool takes the fuss out of opening the master link, and doesn't offer the threat of damage .That vicegrips approach seemed prone to damaging things.
I finally woke up to the fact that master link chains have evolved since I was a kid, and are competitive with rivet chains in quality and are much quicker to install, and can be removed and cleaned making them long lasting. It took me a little longer to wake up to the fact that this specialized tool makes the process much, much easier. Don't be like me, if you are using master link chains make your life easier and buy this tool.