# Chess Ratings - How They Work

• erik
• | Aug 23, 2007
• | 198014 views

Like it or not, we ALL have a chess rating. You may not care at all about your rating, or you may be whining every time it goes down in the slightest. You might be someone who plays a game a year, or someone who plays 1,000 a day. Still, there is a number out there that represents how well you play chess. Well, that's the theory, anyway.

To understand chess ratings you have to understand two things: #1 - that you have a TRUE rating that perfectly represents your strength of play, and #2 - that that TRUE rating will never be known and so we have to use statistics to get as close as possible to the truth. I'm writing this article in response to many people who ask about ratings and need a simple explanation of how they work. (I only know about all this because of a recent super-in-depth statistics course I took and my research in building Chess.com!)

There are two main rating systems, and each one has its merits.

The Elo System (used by the United States Chess Federation, FIDE, and many other online chess sites) is popular for two reason - it has been around for a long time, and it is simple. The idea is this: given two chess players of different strengths, we should be able to calculate the % chance that the better player will win the game. For example, Garry Kasparov has ~100% chance of beating my 4-year-old daughter. But he may only have a ~60% chance of beating another Grandmaster. So when playing that other Grandmaster, if he wins 6 games out of 10, his rating would stay the same. If he won 7 or more, it would go up, and 5 of less, his rating would go down. Basically, the wider the spread of the ratings, the higher percentage of games the higher rated player is expected to win. So to calculate a person's rating after playing a few games you calculate the average ratings of his opponents, and then how many games he was expected to win, and then plug it into a formula that spits out the new rating. Simple enough. Well, it turns out, that is maybe TOO simple.

I wish there was some simple analogy to explain all this, but there isn't. It all comes back to this: you have a theoretically exact chess rating at any given moment, but we don't know what that is and so we have to use math to estimate what it is. There are really smart people out there who work on this stuff for a living, and at the end of it all we get to put their proven methods into our code so that we can all enjoy knowing what little numbers next to our name we deserve.

If you want to read more, check out these articles (WARNING - SEVERE NERD CONTENT AHEAD):

• 22 months ago

ok

• 22 months ago

I have just lost by checkmate my opponent was rated as 858 after the game his/her rating grew to 918 yet the game was 4 point loss to me so surely it should have been only a 4 point increase to the winner

• 22 months ago

Still doesn't explain how I can be challanged, make a move, and get 0 pts. on a resignation! What the heck! An early exit shouldn't be worth less points than a win and a draw should be worth something. It is the inferior system, having played both (USCF active in the '80s) that

And really, would it kill you to add spell check to this site? I don't know anybody still in this situation...unless you want us all to look like English is our second language!

• 22 months ago

that was really useful

• 23 months ago

I don't like the rapid increase of RD with time of the Glicko ratings. When it comes to standard games, where people play a few times per week or month, ELO is superior and Glicko is a nuisance.

Glicko is okay for blitz ratings, but chess.com please switch to ELO for standard chess!

• 23 months ago

I liked the explanation of the Glicko RD. I have a stats bakground but did not know what this term meant and thought as I saw it decrease it was telling me what an idiot I was. The explanation was good. Thank you.

• 23 months ago

Recently my rating is 1500+ . Let me inform how could I play upper level rating tournament!

• 23 months ago

Geremia -- Unless I've misunderstood, I think Elo ratings and Glicko ratings should be the same. The difference is in what factors are considered when calculating how to update ratings following a win or a defeat. Glicko aims to be more accurate than Elo but at the expense of extra book keeping (if we were trying to calculate by hand).

• 23 months ago

nikhil -- I've read debate about how to convert and there is disagreement about whether it's even possible since the ratings are figured against a completely different population of players. However, there does seem to me to be a consensus that c.c ratings are generous.

If you want an easy answer then just substract 200 from your c.c rating to get an idea of what your FIDE rating might be. Just remember to take the conversion with a very large spoon of salt.

• 23 months ago

How could we convert (or approximate) Glicko ratings in terms of Elo rating?

thanks

• 23 months ago

if i had a rating of 1320 in Chess.com, would I have similar FIDE ratings?

• 23 months ago

A win is a win regardless of how you achieve it. The calculation for how much to adjust your rating following the win only cares about your relative ratings and how accurately those ratings can be estimated.

• 23 months ago

I don't know if I'm asking this on the right page but do you get more rating points by winning by checkmate over winning by resignation? Or is it the same, win is win?

• 23 months ago

The reason peoples FIDE rating is higher or lower than their Chess.com rating is because Chess.com uses Glicko and FIDE uses Elo, it clearly says that

• 24 months ago

No idea about the details, jHaygood. As far as I can gather, "Unrated" is what you get when the site has so little recent data on you that it can't be sure how good you are. Even so, it will still make a whimsical guess. In the case of totally new accounts, they start at 1200. In your case it's probably something else but the uncertainty on that is too large for the site to be willing to tell you what it is.

Basically, it has no idea whether you've spent the last year holding your own against GMs or spent it holding yourself up against a lamp post after too many stiff drinks.

• 24 months ago

Question:  The site says that I'm 'Unrated' ...I played on this site a few years ago and recently started playing again...I lost my first game so the 'Unrated' status is warranted...However, I've read in an on site forum that players start at 1200 ...Does anyone know why I'm 'Unrated' or why I didn't start with 1200 as I've read?

• 24 months ago

I have been about to win several games, and then one move away from checkmate the opponent resigns!  How does this affect my final score?

What if I am 2 moves away from checkmate, and their only way to block the check they are in is to block it with their queen, and in my next move I am going to take their queen and put them in checkmate, but they resign instead of moving their queen to block the check, will this affect my rating differently than if I had taken their queen and won with a checkmate and are pieces you take accounted for in the ratings?

• 2 years ago

I played a game and won. my rating increased by 0.00.

I think, I shouldn't be worrying about rating here.

I just play and enjoy.

• 2 years ago

Point if fact, I know people with Chess.com ratings 300 points higher than their USCF rating and I know people with Chess.com ratings 200 points lower than their USCF ratings.

• 2 years ago

USCF and FIDE ratings don't really have a correlation to Chess.com ratings or any other server ratings. The Chess.com system isn't even the same mathematical system, however it is similar. Also, there is a key difference in how ratings are acheived. To get a FIDE or USCF rating, you enter a tournament and have zero control over whom you play. Online servers offer more control.

This extra control means that some people may have higher Chess.com ratings than another person with the same USCF rating. One might just send out a seek to people of higher strength, while the other might only challenge those 200 points weaker than he/she. That will produce noticable differences in their online ratings.