Club chess
Tournament chess
Team chess

Chess grades
Using chess grades to measure how well you play
How they give you your first chess grade
How they use your match results to update your chess grades

Thank you
In creating this webpage, the assistance of the following people is acknowledged.

Thank you to Richard Haddrell (ECF grading administrator). He was consulted, and the information he kindly provided has been used.

Also, thanks to Stephane Pedder, Traci Whitfield and Andrew Leadbetter, for their help with draft copies and suggested improvements.

What are grades used for?

These pages are here to help you understand chess grades. What they are, why are they used, how do they work and how your grade is calclulated.

Making competitions more enjoyable.

No one likes to lose every game (or win every game). So it is not much fun if you join a competition and most of your opponents are much stronger than you (or much weaker). You want a competition where your opponents challenge you, but you still feel that if you play well, you could beat them. That is what people who organise competitions want to create. Because they know that if you enjoy an event, you are more likely to want to be in it again the next time it is held.

To make sure that as many players as possible enjoy chess events, organisers usually put entries into groups:

  • In competitions just for junior players (e.g. the UK Chess Challenge, or a Junior Congress etc), entries are usually put into age groups (e.g. Under 10, Under 12 etc). The reason for doing that is that chess skills are developing so rapidly at this stage, that age is usually a more reliable indication of skill rather than trying to use anything else. i.e. A 14 year old player can be expected to have more experience, and hence better playing skills, than a 10 year old.
    There are of course exceptions. Really talented players might be able to beat almost everyone in their own age group, and many players from older (more skilful) groups as well.
  • In league events, teams are put into different divisions. The most skilful players will play in the top divisions, while the less skilful will play in the lower divisions.
  • In competitions for individual players of all age groups (including adults), there is no easy way to tell in advance how good (or bad) a player is until you play them. An adult player may have been playing since they were young, or may only have started learning the game just a few weeks ago. To get around that problem, the idea of chess grades was introduced. This would put a value on players according to their level of skill and ability. The idea being that players with a similar grade should have a similar level of playing skill.

So what is a chess grade?

Chess grades are an attempt to use the results of games you have already played to measure your level of skill. Different countries often use different ways to try to measure playing skill, but they nearly all rely some combination of your opponent’s grade (their level of skill), and the game’s result (won, drawn or lost).

When you play competitive games, the results will be recorded. The record will simply show who your opponent was and the result. It does not matter if you had a good day or a bad day. It does not matter if you or your opponent made a silly move and lost a piece. The only thing that counts, will be the result.

At regular intervals (often, once a year), those results will be used to give you a new chess grade. The new grade should help you decide if your standard of play has improved or not. But the grade you get, is for all the competitive matches you played during that season. Not the best you played, not the worst you played, just your normal standard of play.

What sort of grade can I expect?
With the ECF grading system used in England, the better you play, the higher your grade.

  • Club players can generally expect a grade between 1 and 200.
  • Really good players can have grades up to about 250 or even 270.
  • Junior players might have a typical grade between 1 and 100 depending on their age.

Two types of ECF grade

If you play in England, you may find you have either one or two ECF grades:

  • Most players will have what is called a Normal or Standard grade. This uses just the results of matches where each player has more than 60 minutes to play the game.
  • Some players might also have a second ECF grade. This second grade is called a Rapidplay grade. It is worked out in the same way as the Normal or Standard grade, but only uses the results of games where each player has between 15 minutes and 60 minutes for the whole game.
The Normal or Standard ECF grading list is published once a year. The "Official" version is published in August, but a "Provisional" version is available from July. The Rapidplay grading list is published twice a year, in August and January. Up-to-date grading lists can be either viewed, or downloaded from the ECF website: www.englishchess.org.uk

Chess grades

These pages look at chess grades:

  • This page looks ways of comparing and measuring levels of chess skill, and the uses of grades.
  • I don't have a grade, explains how ungraded players are given a grade for the first time.
  • How grades work, explains how grades are worked out.
International Chess
(The ELO rating)

As I mentioned, different countries often use different ways to try to measure playing skill. Just in case that doesn’t sound complicated enough, international events use their own method, called the ELO rating.

Players can have grades using more than one grading system at the same time. Just as the temperature of something can be recorded using both Celsius and Fahrenheit, a player’s chess skills can be measured using an ECF grading, and an ELO rating. With the ECF system, a player might be given a grade between 1 and 270. Using the ELO system, the same player might be given a figure between 1,250 to over 2,600. With the ELO rating, the better you play the higher the number.

To give you an idea of how the two compare, if you multiply your ECF grade by 8, and then add 600, the result will be an estimate of what your ELO rating would be.

Chess grades
These pages explain chess grades.

This page looks ways of comparing and measuring levels of chess skill, and the uses of grades.

I don't have a grade, explains how ungraded players are given a grade for the first time.

How grades work, explains how grades are worked out.

In Control
Two people share responsibility for junior chess in Staffordshire. They both have the title "Secretary of Junior Chess":

Graham Humphries
G Humphries,
82 Vernier Ave,
West Midlands.
DY6 8SA.

Junior players welcome

Traci Whitfield
Mrs T Whitfield,
Staffs Junior Chess,
21 Bankfield Grove,
Scot Hay,
Email: email.

As Traci also looks after Staffordshire's junior chess teams, she is also known as the "Junior chess teams organiser"

Use of grades
Team captains use grades.
In team games, the captain should put the players in order of playing strength. The most skilful player should be on board one (the top board). On the next board should be the player who is second in order of playing strength etc. Until finally, the least skilful player (of both teams) should play on the bottom board. To help them do that, captains use the grades of each player to help them decide who is the best etc.
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Please contact:

Traci Whitfield  and  Andrew Davies


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