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Chess Ranking System Explained: What is a Chess Ranking?


If you’ve ever taken a chess class from a world champion, you’ve likely seen the complexities of this popular game in action and heard of the chess ranking system. 


The chess ranking system is the method used to estimate the strength of a given player, is just as complex as the game itself.


Many rankings are available to players, including chess masters, experts, grandmasters, and more. Use this guide to learn everything you need about chess rankings—and how to rise through the ranks to become a grandmaster yourself! 

Who is the #1 Ranked Chess Player? 

Magnus Carlsen is currently the #1 ranked player in the world. This Norwegian grandmaster is a modern legend and has competed against many of the world’s best chess players.


Magnus Carlsen’s FIDE rating is 2852, which is one of the highest rankings ever awarded to a chess player—in history. 

What is a Rank in Chess?

A rank in chess is a number assigned to a player that determines their level of skill and expertise. They range from 400 to 2000+. 

Players earn rankings as they play, and their rankings change with each game. Ranks also determine titles. Players can receive titles like “expert” and “grandmaster.”

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A rank in chess is a number assigned to a player that determines their level of skill and expertise.

How can I improve my chess skills?

There are many ways to improve your chess skills, including studying chess strategies and tactics, analyzing your games, solving puzzles, and playing regularly against opponents of varying skill levels. Online resources, books, and coaching can also be helpful.

What is a Chess Ranking?

Most games have chess ranking systems—and so does chess.


Chess rankings (or ratings) are typically assigned to chess players to determine their estimated level of strength before a tournament. 


Like tennis or other one-on-one sports, chess players are matched together based on their expertise.

Chess rankings range from 400 to 3000.

chess ranking system

Who Uses Chess Ranking System?

Chess players use rankings to determine their level of skill and knowledge.


The rankings determine which players will compete against one another, maintaining a level playing field.

Why Are Chess Rankings Important? 

As in other sports, chess rankings allow players to assess their competitors. They also enable audiences and fans to follow the progress of their favorite players.


Rankings also determine a player’s title. You’ve likely heard the title of “grandmaster,” which is the highest title a player can win.


Additionally, some chess clubs only allow players to compete if they have above a specific ranking.

What are the Different Chess Rankings? 

The chess rankings correlate with levels of skill. They are as follows.


  • 400: This is a beginner rating assigned before a player’s first tournament.
  • 400-800: Players are learning the basics. 
  • 800-1200: Players understand basic strategies and can use them.
  • 1200-1600: Players begin winning tournaments at the national or state level.
  • 2000: This is the expert level.
  • 2200: This is the minimum rating for chess masters.
  • 2400: This is the “senior master” ranking.
  • 2500: This is the minimum rating for the “grandmaster” title.
  • 2900: The World Champion typically earns close to this rating
  • 3000: No one has achieved this ranking yet! 

Who Assigns Chess Rankings?

The international governing body for the game of chess, known as FIDE, assigns chess rankings to individual players.


The number is adjusted depending on a player’s performance in each contest, so it often changes as players compete against one another.


The USCF, the United States Chess Federation, also assigns rankings to players, though they differ from the more commonly used FIDE ranking.

How is a Chess Rating Calculated? 

Chess ratings are calculated using various rating systems, such as the Elo rating system, the Glicko system, or the USCF (United States Chess Federation) system. These systems use the results of games played against other rated players to adjust a player’s rating based on their performance. 


For example, the Elo rating system compares a game’s expected outcome between two players based on their current ratings. If a player performs better than expected, their rating will increase; if they perform worse than expected, their rating will decrease. 


The magnitude of the rating change depends on the difference in ratings between the players and the result of the game. New players generally experience larger rating fluctuations as the system becomes more confident in assessing their skill level. 


It’s worth noting that different organizations and online platforms may use variations of these systems or their own custom rating systems, leading to different ratings for the same player across various platforms. 


However, FIDE ratings are considered the gold standard for international chess competitions.

chess ranking system

How do Games Affect Rankings?

Players generally receive an established ranking once they have played at least 26 games.


Then, their rankings will rise and drop according to their wins and losses, respectively. 


Players’ rankings typically fluctuate between 0 and 60 points after each game. 

Can You Lose a Chess Ranking?

You cannot lose a chess ranking—once you have one, it’s there forever.


However, some players lose their titles if they cheat. You can cheat with a ranking by intentionally losing tournaments to reduce your scale. Chess players sometimes do this to compete with less skilled players and eventually win, increasing their likelihood of winning prize money.


This practice is known as sand-bagging and is highly frowned upon in the chess community. Players have lost their titles and competition privileges from engaging in sandbagging.

Main Takeaways

Chess is both a simple and complex sport—and yes, it’s considered a sport by the Olympic Committee! 


The complex ranking system determines a player’s skill level and expertise, ranging from 400 to 3000. These rankings determine competition eligibility, assess progress over time, and help fans and players keep track of the global chess community.


To learn more about the game and its ranking structure, consider taking a class from a grandmaster. A grandmaster has received the highest order available to chess players. They are the best players in the world!

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