About Chess Ratings

About Chess Ratings

| 28 | For Beginners

About Chess Ratings

 by Bruce Till  

 The United States Chess Federation (USCF) has instituted a rating system for chess players which allows them to know their relative strength among other rated players, as well as facilitating the pairing of players in tournaments.  The table below describes the ratings and titles:

Here are the titles/ratings in order of prestige (Grandmaster is the highest):

International Titles

Current regulations are at FIDE handbook.

  • Grandmaster (GM)
    title awarded by FIDE for GM norms
  • International Master (IM)
    title awarded by FIDE for IM norms
  • FIDE Master (FM)
    minimum FIDE rating of 2300 after 24 games
  • National Senior Master (SM)
    e.g., USCF Senior Master--USCF 2400+
  • National Master (Master or NM)
    e.g., USCF Master--USCF 2200+
  • National Expert or Candidate Master (E or CM)
    e.g., USCF Expert--USCF 2000+

National US Amateur Classes

  • National Class A (USCF 1800- 1999)
    top amateur class
  • National Class B (USCF 1600-1799)
    above average tournament player
  • National Class C (USCF 1400-1599)
    average tournament player
  • National Class D (USCF 1200-1399)
    a strong social player
  • National Class E (USCF 1000-1199)
    social/scholastic players
  • National Class F (USCF 800-999)
    novice/scholastic players
  • National Class G (USCF 600-799)
    beginner II/scholastic players
  • National Class H (USCF 400-599)
    beginner I/scholastic players
  • National Class I (USCF 200-399)
    early beginner/scholastic players
  • National Class J (USCF 100-199)
    minimum rating

(Thanks to Jamie Duif Calvin at )

A table comparing BCF (British Chess Federation), ELO (international rating system named after inventor Arpad Elo), USCF, and the category system used in former Soviet bloc countries is given below:


LEVELBCF gradesELOUSCF classEastern European category
{D} Minor BCF 75-100 ELO 1625-1750 Class D or C category 4
{C} Intermediate BCF 100-125 ELO 1750-1875 Class C or B category 3
{B} Major BCF 125-150 ELO 1875-2000 Class B or A category 2
{A} County BCF 150-175 ELO 2000-2125 Class A or Expert category 1
Top county players BCF 175-200 ELO 2125-2250 Expert or NM Candidate Master
    ELO 2200-2300 US NM or SM National Master
    ELO 2300-2400 US SM (USCF 2400+) National Master
International Master BCF 220-240 ELO 2360-2520    
Grandmaster BCF 240-250 ELO 2520-2600    
Super-GM BCF 250-270 ELO 2600-2700+    

Thanks to Dr. Dave at 

Remember, though, that an average tournament player is much better than most chess players in the world, and would probably be the best at their local cafe or even in a school club. A starting rating of 900 or 1100 shows that you're a good solid player at a nontournament level, and you're ready to start learning the intricacies of The Royal Game.  

Visit the Maryland Chess Association website, .

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