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Chess Ratings


Welcome to my discussion of chess ratings. Today, I want to take a look at a number of ratings systems.

Firstly, what is a chess rating? I am often compelled to explain this when I talk to my non-chess-attuned friends. Chess ratings are a way to judge the strength of a player; the rating is comprised of a number, and the higher the number, the stronger a player is estimated to be.

FIDE Rating

The FIDE rating (also known as Elo, after Arpad Elo, creator of the rating system) is the international standard for judging the strength of a player. In Australia, where I live, this is the only rating that technically "matters", as it is the only system that can earn you titles.

The highest rating ever achieved under this system is 2851, by 13th World Champion Garry Kasparov. At the time of writing, only five players have ever broken the 2800 barrier.

I was already quite experienced when I acquired by first FIDE rating, which was 2029. Some players only get a FIDE rating when they are already grandmaster standard, whereas others get it very early and annoyingly, very low.

My rating chart is not very interesting, but let's look at it anyway:

Now, let's also take a look at Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen's rating chart. Currently number 2 in the world with a rating of 2801, this Norwegian Superkid started "small" (I call it small because it was close to my first rating) with a starting rating of 2064.

Here is a chart of estimated FIDE ratings in comparison to their titles:

Title FIDE Rating (Elo)
Elite/Super Grandmaster (non-official) 2700
International Grandmaster (GM) 2500
International Master (IM) 2400
Woman International Grandmaster (WGM), FIDE Master (FM) 2300
Woman International Master (WIM), Candidate Master (CM) 2200
Woman FIDE Master (WFM) 2100
Woman Candidate Master (WCM) 2000

Take a look at this article for a breakdown of FIDE chess titles (such as Grandmaster).

Internet Ratings

Now I want to discuss the rating system on the Internet Chess Club (ICC), which is one of the strongest and most popular chess servers in the world.

The ICC formula for determining ratings is:

But let us dispense with the pleasantries and get straight into it!

Normally, I play the 5-minute autopairing rating system on ICC (of which I have played over 7300 games). This is where a player goes into a "pool" and automatically finds a game with another player in the pool, i.e. the player cannot hand-pick his opponents. The games are always blitz games with 5 minutes each side. This system makes ratings more accurate. The ratings are quite realistic and in fact, probably a bit "pessimistic". An immediate check on the server shows the highest rated player to be 2626 (compared to the highest FIDE rating ever of 2851). Of course, the top 30 are almost all GMs and IMs, with some freakish non-titled blitz players in the mix.

For no particular reason, here is a graph of my 5-minute rating over the past three years (taken 14/09/09). I often stay around 2200 and occasionally I peak over 2300, with my best ever 5-minute rating being 2335.

There is also a blitz rating system on ICC (of which I have played over 1100 games). In blitz, you can hand-pick your opponents in a custom time limits ranging from 3 0 (three minutes each side) to 14 1 (fourteen minutes each side plus 1 second extra time per move). You can even choose some strange increments such at 5 14 (five minutes each side plus 14 seconds per move). You can choose your own opponents, which makes this system inaccurate, e.g. you can choose only to play higher-rated opponents. The top rating is a highly recognisable American-Japanese GM rated at 3625 (compared to a top of only about 2600 for the 5-minute autopairing rating system). Even my own rating is severely inflated at about 2570 at the time of writing (of course, my 5-minute autopairing rating is much lower). This is not a bad thing if you enjoy high ratings and it won't affect the level of your opponents, but if you want accuracy, go with the 5-minute autopairing system.

Australian Chess Federation Rating

Now for a treat for Australian readers. The Australian Chess Federation (ACF) rating system is very similar to the FIDE rating system. Typically, Australian ratings are somewhat "pessimistic" in that they are around 100 points lower than their FIDE counterparts; that means a person who is rated in both rating systems might have an ACF rating of 1800 and a FIDE of 1900. Of course, there are many exceptions, including myself.

ACF ratings also include "reliability indicators". This is done by either putting !!, !, nothing, ? or ?? in front of the rating, e.g. 2160!. '!!' means very reliable; 'nothing' means the rating is, according to the website, "neither reliable or unreliable. It's just a rating."; '??' means very unreliable. Your reliability indicator contributes to how easily your rating fluctuates. As far as I know, this does not exist in the FIDE system.

Concluding Notes

Good luck on improving your rating!

To purchase products, I recommend Wholesale Chess. They provide the highest quality chess products at the lowest prices (especially for US and Canadian players). They even offer to match prices with other chess websites! Even though I live overseas, this is where I choose to purchase chess goods.

For chess opening training and repertoire maintenance, I highly recommend the software I use, Chess Openings Wizard. This software was approved by Grandmaster Peter Svidler (FIDE rating 2744 as of January 2010) many years ago.


Posted by Proabffmm on Friday, November 6, 2009.


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