A Guide On Different Chess Rating Systems – FIDE, USCF, And ECF

There are three primary rating systems for chess: FIDE, USCF, and ECF.

The World Chess Federation uses the FIDE rating system, while the United States Chess Federation uses the USCF rating system. Meanwhile, the English Chess Federation makes use of the ECF rating system.

Each rating system comes with its own set of regulations, which we will explain separately.

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 gauge of a player’s proficiency in the game. It derives from the player’s performance in rated games and is generated by means of a mathematical formula.

Irrespective of whether it’s FIDE, USCF, or ECF, all chess rating systems operate on this principle. The primary variance among them lies in the formula used to compute rating points.

What Rating System Is Used By Fide To Rank Chess Players?

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) utilizes its own rating system based on the ELO method, which is a system for determining the relative skill levels of players.

It was created in 1948 by Arpad Elo. 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 guide video on different levels in FIDE ratings:

How To Get A FIDE Rating?

To obtain a FIDE rating, you must follow a structured path that involves participating in FIDE-rated chess tournaments and meeting specific criteria. Here’s a detailed explanation of the process:

First and foremost, you need to register with your national chess federation, which will facilitate your participation in FIDE-rated tournaments. These tournaments are essential because only games played in such events count towards obtaining a FIDE rating.

Once you are registered, the next step is to participate in a FIDE-rated tournament where you must compete against at least five FIDE-rated players. Your performance in these matches is critical. Specifically, you need to score at least half a point against these rated opponents.

This means you must achieve at least one draw or a win to meet this criterion. It is crucial to ensure that your opponent plays at least one move before resigning, as games won by default (where the opponent forfeits without making a move) do not count towards your FIDE rating.

The process of accumulating games to qualify for a rating must be completed within a 26-month period. If you meet the requirement of scoring half a point against FIDE-rated players within this timeframe, your initial rating will be published, provided it is 1000 or higher.

It is also worth noting that in FIDE-rated tournaments, not every opponent you face will necessarily have a FIDE rating.

Therefore, strategically choosing tournaments where you are more likely to encounter a higher number of rated players can be advantageous.

For instance, if one tournament offers the opportunity to play against three rated players and another offers five, opting for the latter increases your chances of meeting the criteria more swiftly.

Initially, the rating you earn after playing 5 to 19 FIDE-rated games is considered provisional.

Your official rating will only appear on the FIDE website once you have completed 20 FIDE-rated games. This distinction is essential for understanding how your performance is recorded and recognized within the official chess rating system.

Importantly, FIDE ratings are only awarded through over-the-board tournaments; online games do not contribute to your FIDE rating. This underscores the importance of participating in physical, sanctioned chess events to achieve and maintain a FIDE rating.

By carefully selecting tournaments and strategically playing to meet the required criteria, you can successfully obtain and build your FIDE rating, marking your progress and standing within the global chess community.

What Are The USCF Ratings?

The USCF rating system is a mechanism utilized to evaluate chess players in the United States, created by the United States Chess Federation in 1950. While the USCF rating system, like the FIDE rating system, is based on the ELO system, there are variations in the formula utilized.

Following are the two formulas of how the USCF rating system works:

USCF = 720 + (0.625 * FIDE) if FIDE < 2000

USCF = -350 + (1.16 * FIDE) if FIDE >=2000

Below is a comparison table exhibiting USCF vs FIDE ratings:

USCF RatingFIDE Rating

How To Get USCF Rating?

To obtain a USCF rating, one must first play 20 games in an unrated USCF tournament before becoming eligible to participate in a rated USCF tournament.

Once a player has completed 20 unrated games, they can play in a rated game and receive an official USCF rating.

This system is good because when an unrated player enters a tournament, other players do not know their skill level. The requirement of 20 unrated games helps alert other players that the unrated player may be a strong opponent.

And that’s perfectly acceptable because if an unrated player is skilled, they can potentially upset the rating of a rated player who has obtained their rating after playing numerous games.

What Are The ECF Ratings?

The ECF chess ratings system is used to rank chess players in the United Kingdom, and it is calculated by the English Chess Federation (ECF).

These ratings are employed to determine player eligibility for tournaments and matches. The system was devised by Richard W. B. Clarke in 1958.

The primary difference between the ECF rating system and others is that rating points are not immediately effective for every game won, lost, or drawn.

Instead, they use a system that generates points on a cycle of 30 games.

In comparison to the USCF system of ELO, the ECF ratings system employs a simple formula.

An ECF rating is equivalent to an ELO rating multiplied by 7.5 and then adding 700.

Thus, a rating of 100 ECF corresponds to approximately 1450 ELO, while a rating of 200 ECF corresponds to about 2200 ELO.

How To Get An ECF Chess Rating?

The official procedure for obtaining an ECF chess rating can be found on the English Chess Federation’s website here.

The ECF uses a monthly rating system and assigns dummy ratings to new players whose actual strength is unknown.

This prevents a strong player’s rating from being negatively affected by a positive result from an unrated player who may be stronger than anticipated.

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 say you encounter a 1200-rated player in a tournament.

This player could be the best player in the world, the worst, or anywhere in between, and no one knows their actual strength.

The provisional rating is given to the player after the game, but it is only temporary until the player has completed at least 20 games.

What Is A Performance Rating?

Based on the opponents that a player faces in a tournament, their performance rating can be calculated to distinguish between two players with the same score.

For instance, let’s consider Player A and Player B, both of whom played five games in a tournament, won three and lost two games.

However, their performance rating may differ because Player A won a game against a player who had won four games in the tournament, while Player B’s victories were only against players who won three or fewer games.

Therefore, Player A will receive a higher performance rating and finish ahead of Player B in the tournament standings due to a superior 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 and USCF do not have a specific timeline for updating their ratings, but it can take up to 20 days for FIDE and a similar amount of time for USCF.


This article discussed the three primary rating systems that rank chess players: FIDE, USCF, and ECF. Each of these systems was explained in detail, including how they work and how a player can obtain a rating in each.

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