Chess Ratings: What It Is And Why You Should Have A Good Rating

Chess Ratings: What It Is And Why You Should Have A Good Rating

In every sport, there is a system used to rank players from top to bottom. These systems enable us to distinguish the elite players from the crowd. For example, in chess, the rating system used to rank players is the chess rating system. This article will explain in detail what the chess rating system is all about.

What Is The Chess Rating System?

A chess rating system is used to estimate a player’s strength based on their performance versus other players. To gain a chess rating, players have to beat other players in a chess game. This way, the chess ratings of the victors increase, and there is a decrease in the ratings of the losers.

The chess rating system is used by chess organizations such as FIDE, which stands for (Fédération Internationale des Échecs). FIDE is the world governing body for chess.

1200px Fidelogo.svg

Other organizations that use chess rating systems include the US Chess Federation (USCF or US Chess), International Correspondence Chess Federation, and the English Chess Federation. Famous online chess sites like and Lichess also have chess rating systems.

The chess rating system used by fide and other chess bodies is the Elo rating system. This system is going to be the main focus of this write-up.

History Of Chess Ratings

The Correspondence Chess League of America used the first modern rating system in 1939. However, the one that is most popular today is the Elo rating system.

Arpad Elo, a physics professor in the United States, invented the Elo system. It is the most common rating system in the chess world today. It is used by FIDE, the United States Chess Federation (USCF), and some chess websites such as chess24.

Chess Rating
Arpad Elo

The Elo rating system was officially adopted by the U.S. Chess Federation in 1960 and by FIDE in 1970.

Arpad Elo once stated that the process of rating players was rather approximate and did not totally capture the player’s strength. He compared it to “the measurement of the position of a cork bobbing up and down on the surface of agitated water with a yard stick tied to a rope and which is swaying in the wind.”

According to Elo, any attempt to merge all aspects of a player’s strength into a single number will inevitably miss the picture.

According to the FIDE Elo rating system, players are ranked into categories based on their ratings. These categories are:

2700+ = No formal title, but sometimes informally called “super grandmasters.”

2500–2700 = most Grandmasters (GM)

2400–2500 = most International Masters (IM) and some Grandmasters (GM)

2300–2400 = most FIDE Masters (FM) and some International Masters (IM)

2200–2300 = FIDE Candidate Masters (CM), most national masters (NM)

2000–2200 = Candidate masters (CM)

1800–2000 = Class A, category 1

1600–1800 = Class B, category 2

1400–1600 = Class C, Category 3

1200–1400 = Class D, category 4

Below 1200 = Novices

The Elo rating system has been a yardstick for ranking the most skilled chess players ever recorded.

Aside from FIDE, another chess body, the United States Chess Federation (USCF) has its own Elo rating system. The USCF Elo rating system is:

Senior master= 2400 and up

National master= 2200–2399

Expert = 2000–2199

Class A = 1800–1999

Class B = 1600–1799

Class C = 1400–1599

Class D = 1200–1399

Class E = 1000–1199

Class F = 800–999

Class G = 600–799

Class H = 400–599

Class I = 200–399

Class J = 100–199

Regardless of what level you fall under, there’s an effective chess training plan to help you progress to the next phase of your development.

Reasons For Chess Ratings


Chess ratings serve as a means of distinguishing players according to their strengths. Thus, a chess rating system in a tournament will help pair players of equal strength to decide winners and not make unfair matches that would give the higher-rated players an easy time.

An example is where a 2200+ player is paired with another 2200+ player.

This is a fair match-up as both players are evenly matched; the reason for this satisfactory match-up is because of the chess rating system; without it, a 2200+ player might be paired with 1400 rated players throughout the tournament.


Chess ratings also serve as a ranking system that helps us know the top players. For example, in the Elo chess rating system, the player with the highest Elo rating is considered the strongest.

Rankings For The Top 10 Male and Female Chess Players For December       Image: FIDE

Skill level (titles)

A player’s skill level and titles are also determined by their chess rating. This is because to attain a certain skill level and win titles; a player must have obtained a certain amount of rating points. For example, a minimum rating of 2500 elo is needed to become a grandmaster.

74097db80306073b52841251aef8f172 1
Magnus Carlsen: Grandmaster And World Chess Champion (2013-2023)

Elo Rating Calculations Formula

Arpad Elo designed his system assuming a normal distribution in the results achieved by the players with a standard deviation of 200 rating points. Therefore he used a logistic function to calculate the expected results by a player. The actual function is:

WEa = 1 / (1 + 10^((Rb-Ra)/400)), rounded to two decimal digits.

WEa is the expected result for player a, while Rb and Ra are the ratings of both players. Going by the formula above, you can see that in a game between two players having 400 points of difference in rating, the chances of winning the game are 10:1.

After the games expected and actual results of a player are compared, players performing better than their expected results increase their ratings, and players performing worse decrease them.

Rating Difference On Chess Platforms

Chess platforms have their own chess rating systems, which are not similar. Some are more inflated than others. Lichess and use the Glicko rating system, and although they might use the same systems, the ratings on Lichess are more inflated than on

For example, a 2100 blitz player will be rated 2200 on Lichess or even higher. Chess24 uses the Elo system and, as such, doesn’t inflate ratings like Lichess and

And there you have it, and now you know what the chess rating system is all about.

Facts About Chess Ratings

  • World Chess Champion (2013-2023) Magnus Carlsen holds the record for having the highest chess rating for the three main time controls.
  • FIDE Online Arena (FOA) is the only platform that awards online FIDE ratings.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: