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Chess Rating Explained (Chess Rating Calculator Included)

how to get a chess rating

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What is chess rating and how is it calculated? All the chess players want to know what their chess rating is. These ratings help in determining the chess ranking of a player and are most widely used to analyze the performance of a chess player.

What is a Chess Rating?

Chess Ratings are numbers used to represent a player’s playing strength. Ratings allow players to compare themselves to their peers. There are many types of chess ratings. Most rating systems are based on the work of Arpad Elo, a physics professor and chess master, who invented the system and now one is named for him.

The workings of chess rating systems are generally quite complex, but they are based on one simple concept 

  • results of games between players — usually, games played in chess tournaments 
  • if a player wins games, her/his rating will increase 
  • if a player loses games, her/his rating will fall

What Does a Chess Rating Mean?

Ratings vary depending on who is issuing them. Consider the following example of United States Chess Federation (USCF) ratings

  • a beginner who has just learned the rules of chess would likely earn the minimum rating of 100 
  • An average scholastic tournament player has a rating of around 600
  • A “strong” non-tournament player, or a beginning tournament player who has gained some basic experience, might have a rating 800 to 1000 
  • The average adult tournament player in the USCF is rated around 1400
  • Very strong adult tournament competitors — the top 10 percent — have ratings greater than 1900

A Chess Rating is a number typically ranging from 400-2000+.  It is an estimate of a person’s tournament playing strength. You receive a rating after playing in a rated tournament once your name is entered into the database of players. The number will go up or down depending on how well you do against other rated players. Here is a list of sample ratings and how they typically correlate to chess skill:

400      Rating assigned to you before your first tournament
800      A player who knows some basics and sees a fair number of threats/opportunities
1200    A developing chess player who is understanding some chess strategy
1600    A player among the top scholastic players in the state of WA and perhaps in the nation
2000    Expert Level – very few players reach this level while in grade school
2200    Minimum rating to be considered a “Chess Master”
2400    “Senior Master”
2500    Minimum rating as part of requirements to earn the  “Grandmaster” (GM) title
2900    The World Champion is typically rated close to this
3000    No human has yet attained this in standard tournament competition

Ratings of top 25 chess Grandmasters as on June 2022

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Classical vs Rapid vs Blitz Game

There are basically three types – Classical, Rapid and Blitz.

1. Classical

Classical chess games are defined by the international Chess body FIDE as being chess games where each player’s thinking time is at least 60 minutes.

There are various ways Tournaments and Leagues determine their time-control: 

  • One fixed time of say 90 minutes for all moves each, or to have a time-control for a certain number of moves followed by a fixed ‘quick play finish’ (QPF) to complete all remaining moves (example: 36 moves in an hour and 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes each QPF to complete all remaining moves).
  • Fixed element plus increment: each player has a basic amount of time, but every move they make gains extra time on the clock, say 5 seconds a move; digital clocks are necessary for this.

2. Rapid

Rapid-play is defined as being a game where players’ thinking time is more than ten minutes but less than 60. Some tournaments now have games where the players have 25 minutes each to start with, with an increment of say 5 seconds a move: these games do not usually go beyond one hour in all.

3. Blitz

Blitz is where all moves are played in 10 minutes or less each per player. If a game time is under 3 minutes, that is defined as Bullet.

What is the General Range of Ratings?

Prestigious titles are available to the strongest players.These titles are usually awarded partially or entirely based on ratings. 

  • Experts are players with ratings over 2000 
  • Masters are players with ratings over 2200
  • Earning the International Master or Grandmaster title requires more than just a high rating, but these players are typically rated over 2400 and 2500, respectively
  • The best players in the world are rated over 2700; the highest rating ever achieved was 2851, reached by former World Champion Garry Kasparov

How Do Wins, Draws, and Losses Affect Your Rating?

The rating of a player’s opponents also affects how that player’s rating will change. 

  • Defeating a much lower-rated opponent will cause a gain of​ few, if any, rating points, while defeating a much higher-rated foe will earn a large number of rating points. 
  • Losses work the same way, though in the opposite direction; losing to a much stronger player won’t affect a player’s rating much, but losing to a weaker opponent will cost quite a few points. 
  • Draws also affect ratings in a similar manner; drawing a higher-rated player increases a player’s rating while drawing a lower-rated player decreases it, though not as dramatically.

How do You “Earn” Chess Ratings?

A player can earn ratings in many ways. By playing in sanctioned tournaments, a player can get officially ranked by a national chess federation like USCF or FIDE. After each tournament, the results are sent to the federation rating the event, where they are processed and updated.

Once a player’s rating is established, it can fluctuate anywhere between 0-60 points after each rated game. In case of a draw, change in ratings ranges from (0-30). To get a general idea, you can refer to the table below.

ScenarioRatings changes ( tentative)
If you win against a player rated +300 than you+60 Points
If you win against a similarly rated player+30 Points
If you win against a player rated -300 than you+0 points
Second loss against a player rated +300 than you-0 points
A loss against a similarly rated player-30 points
A loss against a player rated -300 than you-60 points
A draw against a similarly rated playerVery Minor Change
A win or a loss against an unrated playerNo Change

Different Types of Chess Ratings

Following are the different types of chess ratings

1. Ingo System

This was created and published by Anton Hoesslinger in 1948. It was used from 1948 until 1992 by the West German Chess Federation, replaced by Deutsche Wertungszahl, an Elo-based system.

It has influenced other rating systems. This is where the players’ ratings are the benchmark rating of the tournament, and one point will be deducted for each percentage point above 50 that they got from the competition. Unlike the other rating systems, the lower the rating, the better is the player it indicates.

2. Harkness System

Kenneth Harkness was the man behind the Harkness System that was made in 1956. It was used from 1950 to 1960 by UCSF and by other organizations.

The average rating of the competition is calculated when players play in a competition. If a player scored 50%, they would get the benchmark or average rating as the performance rating.  But if they got above 50%, they will get a new rating, which is the competition average with an additional 10 points per percentage point above 50. If the score is below 50%, they will be given the competition average as their rating 10 points less for every percentage point below 50.

3. Elo Rating System

The Elo rating system is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of players in zero-sum games such as chess. It is named after its creator Arpad Elo, a Hungarian-American physics professor.

how to get a chess rating
Arpad Elo

The Elo system was originally invented as an improved chess-rating system over the previously used Harkness system, but is also used as a rating system in association football, American football, baseball, basketball, pool, table tennis, Go, board games such as Scrabble and Diplomacy, and esports.

A player’s Elo rating is represented by a number which may change depending on the outcome of rated games played. After every game, the winning player takes points from the losing one. The difference between the ratings of the winner and loser determines the total number of points gained or lost after a game. If the higher-rated player wins, then only a few rating points will be taken from the lower-rated player. However, if the lower-rated player scores an upset win, many rating points will be transferred. The lower-rated player will also gain a few points from the higher rated player in the event of a draw. 

This means that this rating system is self-correcting. Players whose ratings are too low or too high should, in the long run, do better or worse correspondingly than the rating system predicts and thus gain or lose rating points until the ratings reflect their true playing strength.

Elo ratings are a comparative only, and are valid only within the rating pool in which they were calculated, rather than being an absolute measure of a player’s strength.

Formula used for finding the rating is

Chess Rating List

Based of their Elo ratings the players are categorized as:

CategoryRating Range
NoviceBelow 1200
Class D or Category 41200 – 1400 
Class C or Category 31400 – 1600 
Class B or Category 21600 – 1800 
Class A or Category 11800 – 2000  
Candidate Master or Experts (in the US)2000 – 2200  
FIDE Candidate Masters, mostly are National Masters2200 – 2300  
FIDE Masters2300 – 2400
Most International Masters and some Grandmasters2400 – 2500 
Most Grandmasters2500 – 2700 
Super Grandmasters2700+

Elo Rating Calculator

The first step is to compute the transformed rating for each player or team:

R(1) = 10r(1)/400

R(2) = 10r(2)/400

This is just to simplify the further computations. In the second step we calculate the expected score for each player:

E(1) = R(1) / (R(1) + R(2))

E(2) = R(2) / (R(1) + R(2))

Now we wait for the match to finish and set the actual score in the third step:

S(1) = 1 if player 1 wins / 0.5 if draw / 0 if player 2 wins

S(2) = 0 if player 1 wins / 0.5 if draw / 1 if player 2 wins

Now we can put it all together and in a fourth step find out the updated Elo-rating for each player:

r'(1) = r(1) + K * (S(1) – E(1))

r'(2) = r(2) + K * (S(2) – E(2))

K-factor is basically a measure of how strong a match will impact the players’ ratings. If you set K too low the ratings will hardly be impacted by the matches and very stable ratings (too stable) will occur. On the other hand, if you set it too high, the ratings will fluctuate wildly according to the current performance. Different organizations use different K-factors, there’s no universally accepted value. In chess the ICC uses a value of K = 32.

Check your Elo Rating here.

4. USCF Rating System

The United States Chess Federation (also known as US Chess or USCF) is the governing body for chess competition in the United States and represents the U.S. in FIDE, the World Chess Federation. US Chess administers the official national rating system, awards national titles, sanctions over twenty national championships annually, and publishes two magazines: Chess Life and Chess Life for Kids. 

The USCF was founded and incorporated in Illinois in 1939, from the merger of two older chess organizations. It is a 501(c) non-profit organization headquartered in Crossville, Tennessee. Its membership as of 2020 is over 93,000.

These are the USCF ratings and their corresponding categories:

CategoryRating Range
Senior master2400 and up
National master2200 – 2400
Expert2000 – 2200
Class A1800 – 2000
Class B1600 – 1800
Class C1400 – 1600
Class D1200 – 1400
Class E1000 – 1200
Class F800 – 1000
Class G600 – 800
Class H400 – 600
Class I200 – 400
Class J100 – 200

5. Glicko Rating System

This system of rating was invented by Mark E. Glickman as a modification to the Elo system. The Glicko-2 system is an improvement and is being used by the Australian Chess Federation and most online chess gaming sites.

This is a more modern way that builds on the above concepts but uses a way more complicated formula. This makes sense as computers can now help with the computation, unlike the Elo method, which is using paper.

6. Deutsche Wertungszahl

The DWZ was introduced by the DSB (Deutscher Schachbund, ger. German Chess Association) after the German reunification in 1990. On January 1, 1993, the DWZ was introduced nationwide and replaced the Ingo-System of the DSB in the Federal Republic of Germany and the NWZ-System of the German Chess Association in East Germany.

The DWZ is similar to the Elo rating system of the FIDE, but was enhanced further over the years. In development, the experiences of the Ingo-System and the NWZ-System were respected. The scale goes from about 500 (beginners) to over 2800 (world champions), but is, in theory, open at the top and bottom. 

In contrast to the Ingo System, a higher DWZ represents a better playing ability. The DWZ consists of an evaluation number as a measurement of the playing ability and an index number which is separated from that by a “-” sign. For players who do not have a DWZ, but have a FIDE-ELO, the FIDE-ELO is used, marked with the index 6 and resumed as DWZ. For players who neither have a DWZ nor a FIDE-ELO, but have a national evaluation number, this number is used and translated if necessary. In this case the index is set to zero.

7. Chessmetrics

Chessmetrics, created by Jeff Sonas, is based on computer analysis of a large database of chess games and is meant to be more exact and precise than the Elo System.

The formula used for this type of rating system is as follows:

Performance rating adjustment after the tournament:

Performance Rating = Average Opponents’ Rating + [(PctScore – 0.50) * 850]

The weighting of past tournaments (age in months):

100% * (24 – age)

There have been debates and criticisms regarding this rating system as the formula or calculation only measures the player’s success in competition alone and not the quality of the game played.

8. Universal Rating System

The Universal Rating System, developed by Jeff Sonas, Mark Glickman, Maxime Rischard, and J. Isaac Miller with the support of the Kasparov Chess Foundation, Grand Chess Tour, Scholastic Center of St. Louis and the Chess Club.

The unique thing about the URS or Universal Rating System is that it incorporates both the slow and fast-plays which gives more accurate data on a chess player’s overall ability and strength, which is quite impressive.


We hope you enjoyed the article about what is chess rating and how it is calculated. If you are looking for similar articles to read, then we would also recommend you to read our following articles.

Recommended Reading


What do FIDE and Elo mean?

It’s a French acronym pronounced as “fee day“, for the Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation is an international organization that connects the various national chess federations around the world and acts as the governing body of international chess competition. 

Elo is not an abbreviated form. It is named after its creator Arpad Elo, a Hungarian-American physics professor.

What are live ratings?

Live ratings are daily updates of the chess ratings of top players. Usually such ratings are updated within 1 minute of a game finishing, if it is played in a top tournament. Live Ratings are based on official ratings (FIDE ratings) which are updated once a month.

What is the average chess rating?

There’s no such thing as an “average” chess rating, but a solid club-level chess player might be rated somewhere around 1500 – 1700.

What is the highest ever chess rating?

Gary Kasparov had the highest FIDE and ELO rating of all time.  His FIDE rating was 2851 at one point and his ELO rating was 2790.  In the women’s category Judit Polgar is by far the best female chess player of all time.  She recorded the highest FIDE rating in women’s chess history of 2735.

What is a good chess rating?

Any rating above 1600 is considered good. 1600 generally represents a strong player. 2000 is an excellent player.

What is the difference between a grandmaster and an international master in chess?

The difference between both titles lies in the difficulty of meeting their requirements: earning the GM title is far more difficult than the IM title. Thus, there are far more IMs than GMs in the world.

Usually, a player earns the International Master when he/she has had a live rating of at least 2400 Elo at any point of their career and  for a Grandmaster a live rating of at least 2500 Elo is the minimum requirement.

What is the average rating of grandmasters?

Most of the grandmasters in the world have a rating between 2500 – 2700 and with some between 2400 – 2500.

How is chess rating calculated?

A chess rating is based on your opponents’ ratings and your results against those opponents. It is usually calculated after an event (a tournament or a match) has completed and is based on all the games played against rated opponents in that event. Refer to the calculator included in the article above.

How do ratings work in chess?

The higher the number, the better the player… the lower the number, weaker the player. The lowest possible rating is 100. The highest possible rating (in theory) is 3000, although the highest rating any chess player has managed to achieve was 2851 which was held by the World Champion at the time, Garry Kasparov.

Who is the youngest ever player gaining a grandmaster title?

Abhimanyu Mishra, at 12 years and 4 months old, is the youngest chess grandmaster ever with a rating of 2535.

Quiz on Chess

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