Discover Your Chess Rating: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Chess is a game of strategy and skill that has been enjoyed for centuries.

We will explore what chess is, how it is played, and the importance of knowing your chess rating.

Understanding your chess rating can help you track your progress, set goals, find suitable opponents, and identify your strengths and weaknesses.

We will also discuss how to find your chess rating and provide tips on how to improve it.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced player, read on to discover how knowing your chess rating can benefit your game.

What is Chess?

Chess is a two-player strategy board game played on an 8×8 board designed with 64 squares in alternating light and dark colors. Each player begins with 16 pieces; one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king. This is when the king is in a position to be captured and cannot escape from capture. Chess has been enjoyed for centuries by people around the world and remains popular today.

How is Chess Played?

Chess is a two-player board game. The game is played on a 64-square game board, which is organized as 8 rows (ranks) and 8 columns (files) with alternate squares colored white and black.

The initial arrangement of pieces on the board is as follows. Each player begins with 1 king, 1 queen, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 2 rooks and 8 pawns. Each player has his or her own pieces which are distinct from the pieces of the other player. When set up correctly, the queens face opposite one another on the central square, with white on the white square and black on the black square.

The objective of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king by placing it under direct attack (in check) while minimizing the opportunity for escape. In simplest terms, this means that the king is under direct attack from an opponent piece which he cannot escape because the attack cannot be blocked or the attacking piece’s move cannot be captured by another of the king’s defenders.

What is a Chess Rating?

A chess rating is an estimate of the playing strength of a player calculated relative to other players in a chess population. Ratings indicate how strong a player is, allowing them and tournament organizers to know how well they will fare against particular opponents. Example chess ratings include the Elo rating system, the FIDE rating system (used in their official global events), and national rating systems such as the USCF.

How is a Chess Rating Calculated?

A chess rating is calculated based on the following 4 formulas according to the US Chess website:

  1. Performance Rating (PR): 16 points per game change formula.
  2. Achievement = Performance + Upset if PR >= Player. Adjustment to Performance = Performance + Upset if PR < Player. Calculation made for both 50 and 74 point upsets. Adjustment made for floor and ceiling ratings, as necessary.
  3. New Established Rating (NER): Until a player has played at least 22 games, his or her Established Rating is updated every game played.
  4. Once this threshold is reached, only every 2nd, 3rd, or fourth established rating are used to calculate the New Established Rating. Approximation of the new established rating by the formula multiplied by the performance rating deviation.

The formulas were more complex in the past before the computer made it more straightforward to calculate. The illustration will provide a visual on the relationship between the four ratings.

Why is it Important to Know Your Chess Rating?

Your chess rating is important as it is a tool to help you understand your level of play. Research has suggested that for chess players, stable rating values are associated with the complexity of the game, so knowing your rating informs how much room you have to grow.

Knowing your chess rating is advantageous as it helps you to identify strong or weak areas in your game and enables you to work on strengthening these areas. Though winning is entertaining, in an educational context, chess ratings also indicate educational success or failure.

Helps You Track Your Progress

Knowing your rating in chess helps you track your progress. This is especially true in the context of chess ratings such as the Glicko rating system or the Elo rating system, although you may still make estimates if not directly measuring these systems. The idea behind these ratings is that even if these rudimentary ratings are inexact, they nonetheless provide an objective metric by which you can gauge your improvement in performance over time. This is the key to the rating system – providing a reflection of reality that you can believe in and orient your training based on. If these ratings were broadly reflective of reality, they wouldn’t be effective tools for the thinking chess player.

This is most significant in the world of tournament chess, where players understand the playing strength of opponents that they will face by an objective measure, and also easily track their progress in the context of improving and adapting to the competition. This is best exemplified in the equation for Expected Score in the Elo rating system, where you can find the Expected Score for player A against player B, that player A should score, based on their Chess Ratings. The expected score strongly correlates with the actual score where chances of victory, draws, or defeat are equitably split between the two players. In general, you can expect a player to score an extra 32 points for a win and lose 32 points for a loss over the long run if they are outside +/- 200 Elo points of their opponent.

Helps You Set Goals

Knowing your rating in chess helps you set goals. You are in a better position to set realistic goals when you know your rating. If you are new to chess and have a beginner rating, you can set specific goals to work towards. Similarly, if you already have an intermediate rating, you can set goals that will challenge you. Your rating in chess generally improves as you now the game more, the system itself is self-balancing. Your rating won’t change a lot when you stop playing the game, so if your rating is declining significantly, push yourself further. To see when you are doing better and when you are not, monitor your games on an ongoing basis. Track your performance in logged games and use data to project your future performances.

Incentivize your practice and improvement by setting progressive goals for yourself. For example, if your rating indicates you are playing at a beginner level, a goal of not blundering an entire piece in every game (which beginners frequently do) might be an early goal for you. If your rating is at the advanced level, your goals might include mastering a specific opening or reinforcing your endgame weaknesses. Your rating will serve as a benchmark you can use to hold yourself accountable as you work to improve your game. The most commonly accepted ratings are by the US Chess Federation and comes in the following forms:

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  • Standard: the default option for in-person matches
  • Quick: for individuals with less time
  • Blitz: for individuals looking for shorter games
  • Online (FIDE, lichess.org): for individuals playing chess from their home
  • Online (FIDE): for those who wish to partake in bigger, online tournaments 

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  • Participation in person: You will have an official published rating by the USCF (United States Chess Federation) to show for your efforts in tournaments in which you compete.
  • Participation in person + games at home: You can show the US Chess rating average for your games in person and at home once you have played enough through the Free Entry Fees for Over-the-Board Chess offered when you play officially rated games in settings other than your home.
  • Online playing imperial only: You can play chess online Imperial tournaments that give you the provisions to play other titled players with similar strengths.
  • Standard: Available in ladders, leagues, and external organizations offering blitz and rapid games.
  • Lichess.org: An online playing option that offers an all-in-one application which includes tutoring and online play.
  • Standard FIDE:Popular for non-universe players who play on the internet, the FIDE rating system enables people to play with similarly rated opponents from around the world.
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  • Participation in person: You will have an official published rating by the USCF (United States Chess Federation) to show for your efforts in tournaments in which you compete.
  • Participation in person + games at home: You can show the US Chess rating average for your games in person and at home once you have played enough through the Free Entry Fees for Over-the-Board Chess offered when you play officially rated games in settings other than your home.
  • Online playing at home only: You have no choice but playing chess at home via chess websites to practice chess and increase your rating in chess. In all, there are over 245,000,000 players who play chess at home. These individuals can participate in various versions of online chess which includes official behavior.
  • Online Blitz & Rapid: Enjoy blitz (3-7 min) or bullet (0-3 min) games. Honor your actions with official online matches. You can play against more competitive players to solve your complex calculation problems.
  • Open under United States Chess Federation (USCF): Get yourself a US Chess membership so now your games at home may count towards over-the-board ratings.
  • Lichess.org: Enjoy games, tournaments, and analysis. With or without an account, witness an open-source or free software along with a gameplay interface that is slick and smooth for chess engines.
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  • Participation in person: You will have an official published rating by the USCF (United States Chess Federation) to show for your efforts in tournaments in which you compete.
  • Participation in person + games at home: You can show the US Chess rating average for your games in person and at home once you have played enough through the Free Entry Fees for Over-the-Board Chess offered when you play officially rated games in settings other than your home.
  • Online (FIDE): You can play online with the registered federations of other countries to make the matches more competitive.
  • Online All: You can simply enjoy the game. Whether it’s casual or practice chess, play by making a loose agreement with opponents.
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    The English chess grandmaster Mike Basman, who has a career spanning over six decades from his earliest chess winners till now, provides insights into the value of goal-setting. He recounts how his chess skills grew rapidly in a span of just two years by setting immediate goals for himself, based on comparison of his games and their analysis. He aimed at a new goal every two months. He worked with representatives in chess clubs and had access to game records, and applied his understanding to bring improvements in his game. Experts in the game are of the view that there should not be fixated or too high goals. The initial part of the goal should be overly strategic in nature with limited short to medium-term focus. It is important for the player to maintain a balance between the purposes of learning and competitiveness. Such objectives can be effective for beginners in setting goals whether their level is beginner, intermediate, or advanced. They’ll be able to monitor these goals via their rating.

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    Knowing your rating assists in setting up clear goals that are realistic, achievable, and most importantly, measurable.

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  • Determining and setting up goals for individuals based on ratings is not foundational; it is a supplemental exercise to track and push improvement.
  • Psychologists emphasize practical, achievable, and measurable goals on the way to bigger dreams.
  • External motivators and competition with similarly skilled individuals are two key advantages ratings offer to goal-setting for chess professionals.
  • Use tools including Playchess.com in consultation with other grandmasters to track log games and analyze progress towards goals.
  • Set a baseline goal related to Open Champion status and grow from there incrementally (via USCF rating system).
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    Helps You Find Suitable Opponents

    Knowing your rating in chess helps you find suitable opponents by giving an assessment of who might be a good match for each player’s skill level. The starting rating in the US Chess Federation system is 1200, indicating an average player. If you are a beginner, you are not expected to be as good as an average tournament player in your first few games. People will often play a few games at their starting ratings before their true strength shows an accurate rating.`

    Next, they will often alternate between losses and wins, their ratings going up and down, until they reach a level where their performance is consistent. At that point, their rating will accurately approximate their abilities, and they will have found suitable opponents.

    The flexibility of the ratings system ensures that suitable opponents will be available even as players improve or their abilities diminish with time. The Central Limit Theorem tells us that the match results of suitable opponents will converge to a score at which each player wins half the time. As such, the ratings system helps navigate a wide chess landscape booby-trapped with opponents unsuitable for serious or enjoyable competition (usually because they are too strong).

    Helps You Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses

    Knowing your chess rating helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses. According to WIM EM K├Ątlin Vainikvi, a chess professional in the Analyst cage of the ALTIBOX NORWAY CHESS tournament, low ratings are related to the number of mistakes committed and the boards can be a good indicator of the main areas referred to by an individual for their game such as calculation improvement, opening strategy, etc.

    If you frequently make the same types of mistakes (pawn positioning, failure to develop pieces, not fully utilizing pieces properly) then it is an indication that something is being missed. This information can be visualized through a chess heatmap.

    The chess heatmap is a tool provided by LeelaBot Chess Analytics, which records your games and visualizes them in terms of your moves during the game where ranges of colors represent different cognitive functions you exert during the play.

    Leela Sponsored Product Contents* The chart demonstrates that most moves are between 1 and 7. For opponents between 1890 and 2540, Leela Bot databases show that there is a sharp decline in white players giving checkmates and black players having checkmates at lower numbers because 1-7 moves are not successful hunting moves. For opponents between 2000 and 2099, the chart shows that many players allowed white to use 6 to checkmate. Based on this, the app can provide analyses to suggest how to improve your game.

    How to Find Your Chess Rating?

    You can find your chess rating by playing in a US Chess or national federation over-the-board multi-round tournament to receive an official chess rating. Multiple live online chess platforms offer unofficial and fast chess rating systems. In the Age of Information, live chess platforms such as Lichess and chess.com offer unofficial ratings which adapt to your skill by playing many games against players at a similar level.

    Online Chess Rating Calculators

    Chess Vega provides an extensive catalog of rating calculators for regions around the world based on FIDE, USCF, CFC, and other countries’ own formulas. This includes ratings for Amateurs, Juniors, and Grandmasters. A calendar of upcoming tournaments is also available to provide users with a chance to influence their own rating.

    The FIDE ratings page (fide.com) is the best site to use if you are in a country that uses the ELO ratings system. United States residents who play in USCF sanctioned tournaments should use the USCF database. If you live elsewhere, the local chess federation page will be your best bet. Remember that all organizations do not update historical rating data frequently. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the ratings you find online do not match ratings in current databases.

    Joining a Chess Club or Tournament

      When you join a club, they have a rating system similar to the one the federation has put in place. This helps everyone have a better understanding of how they compare to other members.

      Some clubs have different ratings for different time formats and types of games to give a deeper understanding of who might fit together for a challenging match.

    Joining a Club:

      If you want to take chess more seriously and not just for fun with friends or family, joining a chess club is recommended.

      You can find a directory of American Chess Federation (ACF) or US Chess clubs online at the federation’s website USChess.org. It is best to look for a club in your region and try information from local sources in countries outside the USA.

    Clubs will have regular tournaments that you can join for a simple entry fee. You need to join the local or regional federation to participate which puts you in the same plight as if you were going to be rated by the national federation.

    Make sure you have all the scores from all the games against all opponents for inputing to the rating system at your local club. I don’t think this should cost you much money, so it may be worth looking into.

    Instead, you could simply play opponents in the club without the federation, and they can help you understand where you are likely to be rated if you did join.

    Playing Against Stronger Players

    It is good to play against stronger players, as it builds fortitude in a chess game. Against opponents rated 300 or more rating points higher, a player can expect 3% to 39% chance of winning time and time again, depending on the difference between the two players’ ratings in the encounter. This will bring your ELO rankings to an average closer to your opponent.

    After the event, which is played the best of 5 to 30 times depending on how big the percentage point difference during the game was, an upgraded Standardized rating will be imminent. Essentially, if you keep facing opponents with higher skill, your rating will remain near the percentage success rate. So, you are better helping to improve your chess-playing profile with tougher competition and real experience with world-class people around you.

    How to Improve Your Chess Rating?

    To improve your chess rating, you can utilize the following tips:

    1. Pay an entry fee at serious tournaments.
    2. Set up a metronome.
    3. Understand the difference between winning and improving.
    4. Hire a chess coach.
    5. Puzzles, Tactics, and Solo (Digital) Chess.

    Each tip has the same goal but they all attack the problem of improving your chess rating in a unique way. By varying your exercises and methods of improvement, you may be able to better increase the ease of going up a few hundred points in the ELO ranking system.

    Practice Regularly

    Have a regular habit of playing online chess games for at least 30 minutes a day on platforms such as chess.com, lichess.org, or the Chess.com mobile app to easily improve your chess rating. Regular practice is key to improvement. Since your opponents will get better with time, your own rating against newer players may stay the same, but your skill against comparable players will increase. Regular practice keeps you one step ahead in the chess world, thanks to your improved skills.

    After playing for a week or two, you can note down your progress by comparing your rating in over-the-board, live chess, and online games. During the course of your practice and games, not only note your overall rating in a category, but also how you are doing against players of various specific ratings. This can give you an idea of where your actual level is, relative to various skill levels.

    Often credited to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, the 10,000 hour rule is based on research by Professor K. Anders Ericsson at the University of Colorado. It states that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a given skill. According to a study published in the journal Intelligence by Brooklyn College USA’s computer science department, this holds relatively true for chess. Their research shows that getting to the average adult male chess player’s level will take around 50 days of study, and to reach the top 1% of chess players demands 21 years of study. So according to a broad average, practicing regularly for 20-50 days seems to be enough for most people to gauge their chess-playing abilities, and get an idea of their chess rating.

    Analyze Your Games

    There are numerous websites which provide the service of showing chess ratings for all your games. The Analysis Board section of Seaside Chess, for example, weight of pieces, relationships, and preferences based on your username. Day by day your overall rating, your number of games won and played then winning percentages for each move and each phase of the game are constantly updated. The results of both individuals and bots are provided. The app offers formats for both beginners and professionals, making it one of the best chess stimulators for learning purposes. According to seachess, they cater to players of all strengths – from watch players (600) to masters (2800).

    Study Chess Strategies and Tactics

    Studying chess strategies and tactics is another way to know your level of play. If you are able to understand more advanced strategies and complete tactics that the stronger players around you use, then you are at their level.

    There are thousands of chess books and online tutorials for all levels of play. American grandmaster Yasser Seirawan has a series of winning chess strategies books that are highly recommended for players at USCF ratings below 1400. Jesse Kreman-Dohme, communications director for the Norwegian Chess Federation recommends books like My Great Predecessors by Garry Kasparov.

    The best way to improve in chess, however, is to have your games analyzed by a qualified chess player. There are tools such as ChessBase with Fritz and Komodo engines, Chess.com’s Analysis board, or Google’s KIA Chess tab that comes up during searches for games that do analysis.

    A helpful extension for educational institutions (contact them for license availability) is the GBO Smart Tools Maths and Chess program. This aids in identifying specific areas a player needs to work on through evaluations of game performance according to Dewey’s levels of learning, visualizations of the game analysis, and links to online educational materials for further learning.

    Seek Guidance from Experienced Players

    Seek guidance from experienced players who can help you estimate your rating in chess. Grandmasters (GMs) and International Masters (IMs) are grandmasters who, according to the World Chess Federation (FIDE), must have a minimum rating of 2500 to become grandmasters. These are among the highest-rated chess players in the world. They can assess your game and give you an estimation of your rating in comparison to their own skills. You can seek advice from them during games, during breaks, or after games have ended by inviting them to play against you or to give you a tip for how to improve your rating. You could also try other well-known Grandmasters who do not have as high ratings as 2500. For example, Judit Polgar of Hungary retired with the title of grandmaster despite not having achieved the 2500 rating.

    Participate in Tournaments

    Participating in Chess Tournaments is another popular way to assess your chess ELO rating. There are a wide variety of tournaments to participate in based on geographic location, difficulty, time duration, buy-in cost, and more. Once a tournament is complete, you can earn an ELO rating by central organizing bodies (like the USCF) based on the strength of your opponents in the tournament and your results. It is regular participation and performance in these kinds of tournaments that is the best guide to accurately measuring your chess ELO rating. Having a rating based on such a large number of data points can provide a very detailed evaluation of strengths and weaknesses and is invaluable for both the players themselves and for the purposes of competitive organization.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How to Know Your Rating in Chess?

    What is a rating in chess?
    A rating in chess is a numerical value assigned to a player that indicates their skill level in the game.

    How is a rating in chess calculated?

    How is my rating calculated in chess?
    Your rating in chess is calculated based on your performance in official tournaments and games against other rated players.

    Can I have a rating in chess without playing in tournaments?

    Can I know my rating in chess even if I don’t play in official tournaments?
    Yes, you can have a rating in chess by playing in online chess platforms or by having informal games with other rated players.

    What is considered a good rating in chess?

    What is considered a good rating in chess?
    A good rating in chess is typically around 1500-2000 for casual players and 2200 or higher for professional players.

    How often should I check my rating in chess?

    How often should I check my rating in chess?
    It is recommended to check your rating periodically, especially after participating in tournaments or playing against new opponents.

    Is there a way to improve my rating in chess?

    Is it possible to improve my rating in chess?
    Yes, continuous practice, studying different strategies, and playing against stronger opponents can help improve your rating in chess.

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