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Who Is A Good Chess Player?

Who Is A Good Chess Player?

CoachJKane
| 127 | Fun & Trivia

Who is good chess player? It sounds so simple, but this question from Neal Bruce, the founder of ChessPunks, generated a lot of discussion on Twitter recently. Lots of people offered their thoughts and conflicting opinions.

Podcaster Daniel Lona offered a thoughtful response.   

Cleomina had a relatable take.

Fortunately, I’m here to give you the definitive answer to find out if you’re a good chess player!


A Good Chess Player Is The Best Player In The Family

You’re the best player in your family! Congratulations! For many of us, it’s a lifetime goal to beat our mom, dad, grandpa, or whoever taught us the game. You’ve probably learned from many defeats at the hands of your elders and finally earned bragging rights at the next holiday gathering.

Counterpoint: Has anyone in your family actually worked to get good at chess? If all of you only play against each other, no one is likely to get much better. Let’s wait a bit before crowning the family champion a good chess player.

Hikaru Nakamura bot Chess.com
If no one at the family gathering wants to play chess with you anymore, you can always challenge the Hikaru bot.

A Good Chess Player Is Anyone Rated Over 700

The average blitz rating on Chess.com is 645. If you’ve broken 700, congratulations! You’re in the top half of all online chess players in the world! You are better at chess than many millions of possible opponents! I bet you’ve put in some work on your game, and you’re doing great!

Counterpoint: A 700 rating is a nice achievement, but there are definitely some people who will argue that you can’t brag about your chess accomplishment unless you’ve played a tournament.

Look at what IM Levy Rozman has to say about 700-level chess:

A Good Chess Player Competes In Tournaments

Most chess players only play casual games in person and online. Once you’re confident enough in your game to play a tournament, that’s a great step to take. There are tournaments all the time on Chess.com. There are also in-person tournaments all around the world. It’s a great way to get serious competition and meet new people. It’s safe to say that just about all tournament chess players are pretty good at chess!

Counterpoint: Anyone can sign up and play a chess tournament. Are we really going to give credit to someone as a good chess player just for showing up? 

Beth Harmon at her first tournament in the Netflix series Queen's Gambit. Photo: The Queen's Gambit/Netflix.

A Good Chess Player Is Rated Over 2000

Most chess players will never reach a 1000 rating, much less 2000. It seems pretty safe to say that anyone who can reach a 2000 rating in any time control must be taking chess seriously, and we can safely call that person a very good chess player! Come on, someone rated over 2000 at blitz is among the top one percent of players on Chess.com.

Counterpoint: 2000 is pretty cool, but let’s be serious. A 2000 player would lose nearly every game against a grandmaster. A 2000 player doesn’t get a title—you don’t get the cute little FM, IM, GM, or anything else next to your name at 2000. We need to raise the standards just a bit higher.

A Good Chess Player Is A Grandmaster

OK, let’s make a safe bet. There’s only one highest title in chess: grandmaster. Out of perhaps 600,000,000 people in the world who play chess, only 2044 of them have ever become grandmasters. I dare anyone to make the case that grandmasters aren’t good at chess.

Counterpoint: There are more than 2000 grandmasters in the world. The vast majority of them would get absolutely demolished in a match by someone like the current world champion, GM Ding Liren, or former champion, GM Magnus Carlsen. Take a look at the results of a blitz match between IM Lawrence Trent and Carlsen, where Carlsen started each game without a rook. 

Keep in mind, Trent has a peak FIDE rating of 2487 and two GM norms. He’s practically a grandmaster, but he can’t beat someone who's playing without a rook. Clearly, you can be at a GM level without being a truly good chess player.

Hikaru watching normal GMs play chess. Photo: Eric Rosen

A Good Chess Player Is A World Champion

Finally, something we can all agree on. If you’re literally the best chess player in the world then you’re by definition good at chess! Congratulations to Ding, a good chess player! I think we can be generous and call some former champions like Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Garry Kasparov, and their great predecessors good players.

Counterpoint: Are we really going to say that someone like Ding or Carlsen is good at chess when they can’t even win one in ten games against the chess program on my phone!? Magnus gets concerned when his opponent shows up wearing a watch because there’s a tiny chance that it has Stockfish running on it somehow. 

Let’s be real. The only good chess player in the world is Stockfish 16. Congratulations to our AI overlords!

PS: Are we sure that Stockfish is good? When is the next version of AlphaZero coming out?

How would you define a good chess player? Let us know in the comments.

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