Common Misconceptions About Ratings

By National Master Evan Rabin

There is often lots of confusion about ratings- distinguishing online, US Chess and FIDE ones, how to get one, etc.

Players and parents often have a lot of misconceptions about ratings. Here are some of them:

  1. A player can get an over-the-board rating by playing in an unrated section of a tournament.
    One could play in 100 unrated tournaments; he will still be unrated. Unrated section results are not submitted to any Federation.
  2. A player needs to have a rating to play in a rated section.:
    To the contrary, a player must play in rated sections if he wants to get a rating. Based on first rated tournament, he will get a provisional rating, which will last until he plays 26 rated games and gets an official rating.
  3. A player starts with a rating of 0.
    A player’s initial rating will be his performance rating. For instance, if he plays four games against 1000 players, and wins two games and loses two, his first provisional rating will be 1000. 
  4. One can easily estimate his over-the-board rating based on his online results.
    Online chess and over-the board chess are very different from one another. It is hard to understand how strong you are until you play your first event. A few years ago, I had a private student who was 1800 on He asked if he should play in the U-1600 or U-1800 section at the Manhattan Open. He was surprised when I suggested U-1400. He then ended up getting a negative score in the U-1400 section. 
  5. I played chess back in elementary school and no longer have a rating.
    Once a player is rated, he always has a rating. You can look up your rating and all tournament results since 1991 here



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