There are many different rating systems in chess. In this article, we will discuss the most important ones.

Basically, there are three main rating systems for chess- FIDE, USCF, and ECF.

The FIDE rating system is used by the World Chess Federation. The USCF rating system is used by the United States Chess Federation, and The ECF rating system is used by the English Chess Federation.

Each of these rating systems has its own set of rules. We will look at each of them individually. But first, let’s begin with the basics of what ratings are in chess.

What is a chess rating?

A chess rating is a numerical measure of a player’s skill level in the game of chess. It is calculated by taking the player’s results in rated games and using a mathematical formula to produce a number.

Be it FIDE, USCF, or ECF, all chess ratings work on this system, the only difference they usually have is the difference in the formula to calculate the rating points.

What are the FIDE ratings?

The FIDE rating system is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of chess players. It was created in 1948 by FIDE, the World Chess Federation. The system is based on a player’s results in tournaments.

According to their system, tournaments are divided into categories of a narrow average rating of the players, e.g. category 1 is for an average rating of 2251-2275, category 2 is 2276-2300, and so on.

Women’s tournaments are currently operating at 200 points lower than the men’s category.

Below is a brief guide on different levels in FIDE ratings:

How to get a FIDE rating?

To get a FIDE rating you need to fulfill each of the following steps:

  1. Play in a FIDE-rated tournament.
  2. Play at least 5 games.
  3. Score at least a point in a tournament.
  4. Play at least 3 FIDE-rated players.
  5. Your overall performance rating must be above 1400.

Once you have fulfilled all these requirements, you will get a FIDE rating. Another thing is that you will get a FIDE rating only through an on-the-board tournament. There is no rating for online tournaments.

And the rating you are getting after 5 to 19 official FIDE-rated games is a probationary rating. Your official rating will be shown on the FIDE website only after you have completed 20 FIDE-rated games.

What are the USCF ratings?

The USCF rating is a system used to rank chess players in the United States. It was developed by the United States Chess Federation in 1950. The USCF rating system is based on the Elo rating system, which was developed by Arpad Elo.

How to get a USCF rating?

To get a USCF rating, you have to 1st play 20 games in an unrated USCF tournament before getting eligible to play a rated USCF tournament.

You will get an official USCF rating just by playing 1 rated game.

This system of 20 unrated games 1st is a really good one because often when an unrated player shows up, no one knows whether the player is a very good or a very bad one.

Those unrated 20 games will at least alert a strong-rated player that the guy he is going to face having his 1st rated game is one to take really seriously!

What are the ECF ratings?

The ECF chess ratings are a system used to rank chess players in the United Kingdom. The ratings are calculated by the English Chess Federation (ECF) and are used to determine player eligibility for tournaments and matches.

This rating system was devised by Richard W. B. Clarke in 1958.

The main difference between the ECF rating system and others is that here rating points are not immediately effective for every game won, lost, or drawn. Rather they use a system that generates points on every 30 games cycle.

Comparing it to the USCF system of Elo, there is a simple formula to understand ECF ratings. An ECF rating is equivalent to an Elo rating multiplied by 7.5 and adding 700, which means 100 ECF is about 1450 Elo; and 200 ECF is about 2200 Elo.

How to get an ECF chess rating?

The English Chess Federation has a rating system of monthly ratings. For new players, they add dummy ratings because it is unknown what the actual strength of a new player is, and a positive result his way can totally bottle a strong player’s rating, who has played a lot of games.

The criteria of how ECF’s chess rating works are on their official site.

What is a provisional rating?

The provisional rating is a scenario where a tournament game is rated for one player, but not for another.

The logic is simple. Let’s suppose you encounter a 1200-rated player in a tournament. It could be a game against the best player in the world or the worst, or anywhere in between. No one knows the actual strength of that player, and it will only be found after he/she plays at least 20 games.

What is a performance rating?

Based on the opponents a player encounters in a tournament, he/she gets a performance rating that separates two players of equal score.

For example, player A and player B played 5 games in a tournament. Both of them won 3 games and lost 2. But their performance rating may not be the same because player A won one of his games against a player who scored 4 wins in a tournament, while player B’s wins came only against players who won 3 or fewer games.

Due to this reason, player A will get a better performance rating and finish above player B in the tournament because of a better overall performance score.

How often are the chess ratings updated?

In online chess, you get a new rating immediately after finishing the game. But in FIDE, USCF, or ECF-rated tournaments, it takes time to update ratings.

Each of them has its specific rules to update the ratings. ECF updates it on a monthly basis. FIDE has no specific time, and it can take up to 20 days to update their ratings, while USCF is more or less similar to FIDE when it comes to updating their ratings.


There are three main rating systems used to rank chess players – FIDE, USCF, and ECF. In this article, we discussed each of these systems, how they work, and how you can get a rating in all these systems.

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Also Read:

Is 1700 a good chess rating?

Is 1300 chess rating good?

Chess openings recommended for 1500 rated players.

Categories: Chess

Bilal Ahmed

A random guy on the Internet enthusiastic about Blogging Chess and Football Life motto "make people's lives easier"