Do Ratings Really Matter?

GM KaydenTroff
Aug 31, 2010, 2:37 PM |

In one of my previous blogs, someone made a comment basically saying that if you play for rating points maybe you should quit chess.  He goes on to say that you have to play for yourself and the results will come.  And though I agree 100% that you can’t JUST play for rating points, working to increase your rating is not bad.


I have seen people who work only to increase their rating and get really frustrated when they can’t progress because they can’t get the only thing they are working towards—their one goal.  Many times chess players will stop playing once they reach their goal because they don’t want to risk the thing they’ve worked so hard for.   Often they stop when they reach their goal because they see no more point in playing.  I slightly understand this.  There was a time when my blitz rating was at number 1 for Under 13 in the country.  I really liked knowing that I was number 1 and so for a while I stopped playing in any tournaments that might affect my blitz rating.  But then I realized that I was missing out on something that I really enjoy so I started playing again.  In one tournament, I fell 50 rating points because the tournament went until 3:00 in the morning my time and I don’t even know if I can tell you about the tournament because I was half asleep (if not 75%).  But I played in several more tournaments so I could get my rating back up and even got it higher than it was before.


Okay, but that is not really my point of this blog.  I am not trying to knock those who have protected a rating that they have worked really hard for.  And I am not even really talking about if you should focus on ratings or not.  It is more about (as the title says), do ratings matter. 


My opinion personally is that if we didn’t have a rating system, tons of people wouldn’t be playing chess as they are today. Or more importantly, they wouldn’t have something to work towards.  My dad sent me a quote that says, “That which is measured improves.”  So without some way to measure it, we can’t tell how much we have improved.  It is like looking in the mirror and saying that you’ve grown.  You can guess that you have grown, but without any way to measure yourself you can’t know for sure or how much you have grown.  The rating system in chess is like a measuring stick.  It helps you measure your progress.  If you don’t know how much you are progressing, then you don’t know if you need to work harder, make changes, or if you are just fine.  If you are not trying to progress, it makes it harder to put a lot of work into it.  It is kind of like building muscles.  If you put a lot of hard work into it and you are feeling the pain, but you don’t see the progress, then you probably won’t have as much enthusiasm or desire to work at it.  


There are lots of examples of this.  School is probably one of the biggest.  How many kids would probably slack off or not do it at all if there was no grading system?  And it is not just that there is a grading system, but how much you put in determines what grade you get.  There are rewards for getting good grades: scholarships, good jobs, recognition awards, etc.  Can you imagine if someone put in D work and someone put in A work and they got the same results?  The D person may be very happy, but it may make the person who put in the A work not want to put in the A work again.  Those of you who know that I am homeschooled may wonder about this.  Trust me, my mom does not let me slack off J!!  Just like in school, there are rewards for those who have high ratings.  There are lots of things I wouldn’t be doing if I hadn’t got the rating I have.  Greece is a big one!!  And I happen to know that GM coaches make A LOT more money coaching than I do because their rating is a lot higher!!


Another point is that working towards different rating goals gives you a lot of things to work for along the way instead of just one big goal like “become a GM” or “World Champion” (because technically without ratings, there would be no GMs so you are basically left with World Champion).  Having small goals along the way makes things more fun!!!


Obviously, sometimes ratings are not a true reflection of someone’s chess ability and sometimes people abuse the system and get their ratings unfairly.  The rating system is not perfect, but it is a good way to judge your chess abilities and make it more fun!!  It is also a good way to measure your progress.


And for those of you who just play chess for fun then the answer to the title of my blog for you is, “No! Ratings don’t matter.”  So just go have fun!!  For me, having a rating is fun!!!!  And playing chess is also lots of fun!!!!


Here is a cool game: