Chess Grading Information

by T.C.Gavriel

(1998/99 BCF grade 191; Fide rating 2080; ICC rating fluctuates daily between 2250-2450)

2nd revision of this paper: 30/1/1999

**Index**

Introduction and personal views

British Grading System

FIDE/ ELO, USCF rating systems

Internet chess ratings

**What is a grade?**

Chess is a very complex game, and it is interesting to have some measure of mastery. If one takes the game seriously, then gradings can become important to have this measure, and to know one's relative strength is in the context of thousands of other chess players. The rating systems attempt to assign a value indicating a strength of a player. Players of the game, can then have a guide to indicate how strong they are, and can obtain motivation / demotivation! for further improvement.

Titles also sometimes accompany ratings. For example, to earn the "FIDE master" title, one must:-

- Obtain a FIDE rating
- Play at least 24 games against FIDE-rated opponents
- Hold a FIDE rating of at least 2300 after the 24th game (or anytime thereafter). If a player has a FIDE rating of 2300 prior to the 24th game and then slips under 2300, the player does not qualify until their rating goes over 2300 again.

**Should one be driven by grades?**

There is a danger of being a slave to the rating system, and stop playing chess for fun, but rather play chess for grading. For example, having grandmaster draws to protect one's rating or playing very dull openings to reduce the possibility of defeat.

Examples include playing the London system as White (or the boring c3 sicillian), simply because the results one gets out of it are good. Opponents may become bored of chess as a result, and possibly give up playing.

**How attitudes can change as a result of grading**

Attitudes are sometimes change for better or worse as a consequence of grades. For example:-

- Fear and panic often sets in unnecessarily when playing against a much higher graded player- often unnecessarily damaging the way we play. Indeed GM Summerscale has often emphasised the importance of confidence in chess to me, and if one is not confident of playing against strong players, then one might not be doing ourselves justice!
- High graded players sometimes become arrogant and egotistical at the annoyance of other players.
- Club teams are arranged in strict grading order (this is sometimes a league rule). However this can sometimes be inappropriate when it is clearly known that a player is having a very good season, and another slightly higher rated player is not.
- People start filtering out games in their databases if the players in question are not >2600. Interesting games between lower rated players may therefore be sometimes ignored.
- Ungraded players may feel a bit left out as a consequence of not being in the grading system.
- Losses to lower graded players are often taken more to heart.
- Use of the word "bunny" and "fish" and other derogatory terms are introduced for players that are relatively weaker than ourselves.
- Tournaments can be put into categories which reflect the average rating of the participants. The higher the category of the event, the greater the publicity it is usually likely to generate.

**Can we do better than a chess grade ?**

Ultimately it would be nice to have a better guide to ones particular strengths and weaknesses. For example, a breakdown by opening of how strong one is! Technology today is quite advanced, and Chessbase 7 for example can look at a sample of one's games, and produce statistics for each opening, and for each opponent! In this way, one can also deduce indirectly which type of positions one is also strong at or weak at.

However maybe in the future, there will also be statistics available for various aspects of one play- for example play against an isolated d pawn, or play against doubled pawns. Such highly specific evaluation would be useful for the player who wishes to improve, and would thus go well beyond simply putting one's strength in the context of a population of other chess players. One could for example know that one has a grade of 2400 in the sicillian dragon defence!

(An interesting chess web site which provides a chess test, and gives a grading in different chess areas is Chess World)

**Problems with grading systems**

**Sample size and unluckiness/ **luckless

There are various problems with ratings which is evidence to suggest that one should not take gradings too seriously as a measure of our strength.

**Unlucky runs**

One for can example have an unlucky run of results where the opponents have for example played a particular opening where one is weak. Or the opponents could have been of a style of play which one is uncomfortable against. The greater the game sample the grading is based on, the more likely the grading is to be accurate. This is because hopefully in the context of all the games played, the unlucky events are balanced by lucky events, and the final grade is a useful indicator of one's chess strength. The FIDE rating system for example should be based on a game sample of 30+ games to give reasonable confidence of a player's strength.

**Name ambiguity**

Another problem (especially with the BCF grading system) is name ambiguity. Often people with very common names/ names which clash with other players, have their grading results muddled with those players. This can lead to a significant percentage of inaccurate grades being published on the grading list. It is particular unfortunate (well for one of the players anyway) when 2 players who share the same name, have a large grading margin between them!

N.B. If one becomes a BCF direct member, one can get a breakdown of the tournaments/ league games, and the relevant grading implications. This could be a useful verification tool to help ensure one's results have not been confused with someone else.

**Grading lag**

In the UK, in order to set a game as rated, it has to be agreed by the BCF that the game will be qualify for a rating. All rating results have to be sent to the BCF, who will then process these results, and they will be incorporated in the next rating list. A recent change has been introduced by the BCF to have the rating list published every half year instead of every year. This can provide a more up to date assessment of player's strengths, and thus less uncertainty when playing an opponent. It would be an even more ideal situation however, to be able to connect to the BCF's database, and see what one's current rating is. However this prospect may not be realised in the next decade!

Juniors in particular are known to improve dramatically, and the old way of accounting for this, was to give them the benefit of +10 in their grade. This however can lead to extremely underrated juniors, especially those with access to Chessbase that have the time because of no work commitments to delve into all the lines of critical sharp openings, such as the sicillian defence.

**Grading conversion issues**

The BCF-Elo calculator on BCC on-line allow a rough translation of the BCF grading system to USCF or FIDE rating. Many countries simply use the FIDE/ELO rating system and therefore there is no translation issue.

The BCF is responsible for creating the British Grading system and publishing the rating lists. British grades go up to a maximum of 260 BCF. Around this grade are usually the top British Grandmasters.

The following table shows the implications of winning, drawing and losing against a BCF rated opponent:-

Case | Your grade | Opponents Grade | Game outcome | Difference in grade >50 | Outcome |

A | X, e.g. 100 | Y, e.g. 120 | You win | No | You get grade Y+50, i.e. 170 |

B | X, e.g. 100 | Y, e.g. 120 | You lose | No | You get grade Y-50, i.e. 70 |

C | X, e.g. 100 | Y, e.g. 120 | Draw | No | You get grade Y, i.e. 120 |

D | X, e.g. 100 | Y, e.g. 180 | You win | Yes (Y greater than X) | You get the maximum +90 reward (grades are assumed to be 40 points apart), i.e. 190 |

E | X, e.g. 100 | Y, e.g. 180 | You lose | Yes (Y greater than X) | You get -10, i.e. 90 |

F | X, e.g. 180 | Y, e.g. 100 | You win | Yes (X greater than Y) | You get +10, i.e. 190 |

G | X, e.g. 180 | Y, e.g. 100 | You lose | Yes (X greater than Y) | You get the maximum -90 penalty (grades are assumed to be 40 points apart), i.e. 90 |

H | X, e.g. 180 | Y, e.g. 100 | You Draw | Yes (X greater than Y) | You get your grade - 40, i.e. 140 |

I | X, e.g. 100 | Y, e.g. 180 | You Draw | Yes (Y greater than X) | You get your grade +40, i.e. 140 |

The above cases are reflected in the BCF performance calculator on BCC on-line.

In summary if you win, you generally get the opponents grade + 50. If you lose you generally get your opponents grade - 50. If its a draw, you usually get the opponents grade.

The complications come when the difference in grades is greater than 50 points (one of the players is a relative bunny to the other player).

- It should not be possible to gain grading points by losing lots of games to Kasparov! Case E reflects this, where the opponents grade is greater than you grade by a margin of bigger than 50 points. In this case you get - 10, because the opponents grade is assumed to be your grade + 40, and a loss is counted as -50.
- Winning against a much stronger player such as Kasparov cannot massively impact your grade also!. Case D reflects this. The opponents grade is assumed to be +40 above your grade, and you get the maximum prize of your grade +90 points therefore.
- Conversely if you are Kasparov, and win against a much weaker player, you should not be losing points! Case F reflects this. Your opponent's grade is assumed to be 40 points less than your grade. You get then their assumed grade + 50, therefore you gain 10 points by this kind of "bunny bashing".
- If you are Kasparov, and are unfortunate enough to lose to your opponent, (Case G) you get the maximum punishment of -90.
- If you draw with a Grandmaster (Case I), unfortunately because the opponents grade is assumed to be +40, you only get your grade + 40!. The moral of this, is that it is better to win against someone slightly higher graded than you, than draw with someone much higher graded than you!
- If you draw with a relative bunny, then you get -40 off of your grade.

**FIDE/ ELO/ USCF rating systems**

The FIDE title system is founded on the Elo rating. This is the method of rating chess players used for all international tournaments. It has also been adopted by many national bodies. It originated from a scale previously used by the United States Chess Federation and based on the assumption that a rating of 2000 would be equivalent to scoring 50% in a US Open championship and that no player's rating would be negative. (The calculator on BCC on-line uses the rough translation of the Elo rating + 100 to arrive at the USCF rating).

The following table shows the rating implications for strength of player:-

FIDE Rating | Type of player (generalisation!) |

Above 2700 | World champions |

2500-2700 | International grandmaster |

2300-2500 | International master |

2000-2300 | Average to very strong club player |

A sample of 30 games is sufficient from a statistician's perspective to give greater confidence to the rating assigned to a player.

*Taken from ICC ratings help:*

***** RATINGS *****

**The Basics:**

You can have 5 different ratings on the ICC. There are ratings for bullet, blitz, and
standard, which are different speeds of regular chess. There are ratings for bughouse and
wild, which are for chess variants. See "help definitions" for an explanation of
what these mean. Type "finger" to see your current ratings.

To get a rating in one of these five categories, you only need to play a rated game. Do
"set rated on" and then do "seek" to ask for a game. You can ask for
any time control or chess variant you wish. Type "help seek" for more
information. Unrated games will not count for your rating, but you are welcome to play
unrated games.

Ratings usually range from 800 to 2800 on ICC, but there is theoretically no limit at
either end. Beginners usually get ratings from 800 to 1200. People with ratings over 2200
are considered to be "masters". Grandmasters playing on ICC usually have ratings
from 2400 to 2800. You can type "best" to see the highest-rated players on ICC.
You can type "rank" to see where you stand among ICC members.

Ratings on ICC are similar to the USCF and FIDE, but are totally separate. Do "help
survey" for a statistical comparison.

A player's rating is "provisional" if he/she has played less than 20 games. A
rating is "established" if it is based on 20 or more games. A different formula
is used to calculate ratings for established and provisional players. See "help
provisional" for some information about provisional ratings.

**Everything you wanted to know about rating formulas, but were afraid to ask:**

The rating during the provisional period is the average of a set of values, one for each
game played. The value for a game against an established player is the opponent's rating
plus 400 for a win and minus 400 for a loss. For a game against another provisional
player, the value is moved towards the previous average to lessen the impact of the
unreliable result. Players with no rating are treated as having rating 1650 in this case.
Extra points are then added to the rating for the purpose of keeping the average rating of
all established active players close to 1650. In particular, 1/5th of 1650 minus the
current average is added to the rating.

To explain the established period requires the use of a formula. Suppose your rating is
r1, and the opponent's is r2. Let w be 1 if you win, .5 if you draw, and 0 if you lose.
After a game, your new rating will be:

1

r1 + K (w - (-----------------))

(r2-r1)/400

1 + 10

I still need to explain the variable K. This is the largest change your rating can
experience as a result of the game. The value K=32 is always used for established player
versus established player. (The USCF has a system in which this K-factor diminishes for
more highly rated players.) If you're playing a provisional player, the factor K is scaled
by n/20, where n is the number of games your opponent has played. So, as in the
provisional case, if you play an opponent who has never played, your rating can't change.

This formula has the property that if both players are established then the sum of the
rating changes is zero. It turns out that if the rating difference is more than 719
points, then if the strong player wins, there is no change in either rating.

Note that during the provisional period, BEATING a player whose rating is more than 400
points below yours will DECREASE your rating. This is a consequence of the averaging
process. It's useful too, because it prevents the technique

of getting an inflated provisional rating after one game, and then beating 19 weak players
to get an established rating that is too high.

**Rating Survey by Tmeister**

**Total responses so far: 670
**

People with ICC and USCF ratings: 592 ICC average rating = 1800

Less than 200 point difference: 397 (67%) USCF average rating = 1718

People with ICC above USCF: 385 The average difference: 82

People with ICC below USCF: 203 The median difference: 72

People with ICC and FIDE ratings: 107 ICC average rating = 2295

Less than 200 point difference: 83 (77%) FIDE average rating = 2233

People with ICC above FIDE: 71 The average difference: 62

People with ICC below FIDE: 36 The median difference: 68

Tmeister's Rating Survey! Thanks to all who participated by sending data! All numbers and text were compiled and written by Tmeister. Minor editing and a couple comments added by POTZY. April 2, 1996.

Here is most of the useful information I found by studying the relationship between ICC ratings and national ratings. First of all, I could only compare ICC ratings to ratings from USCF, FIDE, WBCA, and USCF Quick ratings. There was so little data for the other national ratings that I could not conclude anything really meaningful. For most of the comparisons, I used only players whose ICC ratings had been active for at least one of the times I tested their rating. Another thing to note with that is that the ICC ratings used for each player was an average of their rating tested three times over a two month period, with no less than ten days between tests. this way I hoped to eliminate the fact that ICC ratings vary a lot. For those tests with not very many data points, I included those players who were inactive, but under no time did I use a player who was provisional during one of the times I tested the rating.

First, the comparison of ratings between USCF and ICC-BLITZ. The first item is ICC Rating, a grouping of all players with ICC ratings in that range. data points are the total number of active players in that group, and trimmed is the % of data values trimmed from the top and bottom, to eliminate others. the mean is the average value of the difference between each player's USCF rating and ICC rating (a positive value means the player's USCF rating is larger than the ICC rating).

ICC rating Players trim mean StDev

OVERALL 195 10% 98.6 124.7

2400+ 6 0% -103.9 99.6

2200+ 28 10% -39.8 61.0

2200-2400 22 10% -24.5 66.2

2000-2200 20 10% 112.0 85.8

1800-2000 37 10% 99.9 120.5

1600-1800 35 10% 209.7 81.3

1400-1600 36 10% 107.2 137.0

1200-1400 23 10% 60.6 160.3

1000-1200 16 10% 116.2 104.9

What this means is, if your ICC rating is between 1800 and 2000, you can expect to have a USCF rating of approximately 100 points higher than your ICC (Blitz) rating. Looking at the data, overall, ICC blitz players are underrated (as compared to USCF rating) by almost 100 points. Those with very high ICC ratings are overrated, however, those with ratings below 2200 are on average underrated. It was very interesting to find the mean of 1600-1800 group. Also interesting that this group has a much lower standard deviation than the nearby groups. One theory I can come up with is that there are many players of this strength playing on ICC and that competition is very fierce.

The introduction to this part is the same as the introduction to the previous part, comparison of USCF to ICC Blitz.

ICC Rating Players trim mean StDev

OVERALL 95 10% -82.4 124.1

2400+ 6 0% -170.4 119.9

2200+ 12 10% -168.8 105.3

2200-2400 6 0% -185.2 183.5

2000-2200 14 10% -13.3 110.4

1800-2000 31 10% -64.3 118.6 USCF=ICC (-64)

1600-1800 15 10% 50.1 88.3 ICC+50=USCF

1400-1600 13 10% -199.9 132.3

1300-1400 3 0% -65.2 150.6

What this means is, is your ICC Standard rating is between 1800 and 2000, you would expect to have an USCF rating around 64 points below your ICC rating. An interesting thing to note is that for the group 1600-1800, their expected USCF rating is above their ICC rating. (and like in the last comparison, this is the group with the smallest standard deviation.) This group, like the subsequent ones, have a rather small amount of usable data points, which means the data is not

very reliable.

ICC rating Players trim mean StDev

OVERALL 38 10% 30.5 124.1

2400+ 9 10% -180.3 66.7

2200-2400 13 10% 6.2 110.9

2000-2200 10 10% 109.6 74.8

1900-2000 5 0% 251.2 74.1

Very interesting to note that for those with ICC rating of over 2400 they can expect a FIDE rating of almost 200 below the ICC rating. and those with ICC rating of under 2200 can expect a FIDE rating of more than 100 points above. This amounts to a rather meaningless comparison of the two ratings. It seems that you have to be skilled at playing on ICC in order to have a high ICC rating, and a good FIDE rating will not matter as much.

POTZY: No FIDE ratings under 2000 exist. Only 35% of FIDE ratings are in the range 2000-2199. Therefore it would be expected that the people with ICC ratings 1900-2200 shown above would have much higher FIDE ratings. This is indeed true in the chart above. The data in the chart don't really say much, except that almost all FIDE rated players who

responded to the survey have FIDE ratings in the range 2200-2400.

ICC rating Players trim mean StDev

OVERALL 32 10% 52.2 120.3

2200+ 12 10% 42.4 86.4

1800-2200 12 10% 45.8 106.4

1100-1800 8 0% 98.0 226.5

POTZY: WBCA ratings are roughly 50 points higher than ICC Blitz ratings.

ICC rating Players trim mean StDev

OVERALL 22 10% 114.8 140.9

1800-2500 10 10% 63.8 61.8

1100-1800 12 10% 163.6 182.2

All players in these groups should expect USCF Quick Rating higher than their ICC blitz rating.

#of respondents for each ratings type:

USCF 248

FIDE 43

WBCA 35

USCFQ 22

CFC 16

Australia 8

Iceland 7

Sweden 6

Germany 6

Quebec 4

Netherl. 3

Finland 2

Israel 2

IECG (internet email chess group), Wales, Norway, greece, Catalan, Spain,

Switzerland, Russia, Denmark: 1

All statistics and comments courtesy of Tmeister. Please ask permission from Tmeister before reproducing any of the rating study. Thanks

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