Are chess ratings important? Answered by a chess player

The importance of chess ratings directly correlates with a person’s chess goals, country affiliation, level of engagement, and other monetary reasons.

A high chess rating is one of the most accurate indicators of improvement in chess. But is that really that case? Is the chess rating so important that it single-handedly dictates our quality as a player?

I decided to write this article since there seems to not be that much chess resource out there about this. Are chess ratings really that important?

There are extra details in this that I want to tackle which may convince you about the actual value of this number. After all, this is something that we will encounter when playing chess at some point so we need to know how important it is.

Is your level of interest (in chess) a factor to the perceived importance of ratings? 

A player’s engagement, whether they intend to play chess professionally or for fun will dictate their perceived importance of chess ratings.

The value people put on chess ratings highly depend on their level of engagement, a serious one will take notice of this more. These individuals are likely to be pursuing chess as a profession, making improvement important.

The accuracy of ratings when it comes to measuring chess efficiency cannot be denied, it is helpful. If you are trying to play competitively then ratings do matter since it is a sign of development.

Casual players are likely to not share the same sentiments since entertainment is the priority. I for example, am playing chess as a sort of a hobby, so ratings are personally just numbers for me.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still beneficial to be aware of my progress with the use of chess rating. However if you will compare the level of value I put into this thing to a professional, then you will see the difference.

Ratings are important to casual players, just not as important to players who regularly compete in tournaments. Your level of interest (in chess) directly correlates with the value you place on the ratings.

Chess ratings are important to professionals since that would likely dictate the prize of the tournament they participate in, as well as their status. If you are a regular player like me then what will likely apply to you is the status, which is the reason most people glorify the ratings.

I personally don’t think the ratings give that much status than just being a good player (although there is a correlation). Casual players usually only show this to their friends who don’t even know what it means.

Do some countries value chess ratings more than others? 

Certain countries like India, Russia, and the United States value their ratings more than others, therefore a player’s rating is much more important in these settings.

Some countries (like India) take chess more seriously since the competition there is much more abundant to them. It also is the former world champion Viswanathan Anand’s homeland which makes it a place for chess.

Other countries like Russia and the United States have similar chess affiliations told by history. You see, the environment you belong to will highly dictate the importance you can put on the ratings.

Some settings would have more honor to these numbers where you can reap the applause. Some countries however do not really support this game, and therefore ratings may not be that noticeable.

The community within such places may not put so much recognition to a high rating, therefore making the perceived importance lesser.

Will caring about chess ratings make someone a better player? 

A player who cares about their chess rating is more likely to improve though will be pressured by each game at the same time.

I will never say that ratings are not important, just that they are not so important depending on your level. It’s good to know how far you have already come and chess ratings provide a way to measure that.

It will provide a vision that will properly identify gaps within one’s abilities making them likely to improve better. Having a high one is a sign of progress, which can help with confidence and composure building.

People usually correlate chess abilities with rating, so it may be important in the context of being a player. After all, having a low one can definitely affect a player’s self-esteem.

Adding to this, higher ratings mean stronger opponents you can compete with, therefore likely to have a good battle. You can’t expect to be better by playing against lower-rated opponents that are naturally weaker.

With an increase in the competition also means an increase in the standard by which your games are played. Though I must warn you that the higher your rating is, the more likely you are to be pressured by each game.

After all, you don’t want to lose that hard-earned number from losing against both weaker and stronger opponents, it is valuable. It is good to be mindful of the ratings until it becomes unhealthy, do not be obsessed with it.

Is an obsession to one’s chess ratings counter-productive? 

A player who is obsessed with their chess rating is more likely to be intimidated, stressed, or pressed to cheating since they want to maintain their level.

If you are not trying to play chess as a career then you do not want to overthink this. Care about it, but only as a basis for judging your strength not as a symbol of surface-level status.

I say this since there’s this assumption that ratings are a form of accomplishment rather than a reflection of chess abilities. I say no to this, it’s much better for you to mind the rating as a separate entity from your actual strength.

The problems that people encounter with ratings are those on online platforms (since they rarely play over the board) which are not that accurate. The pool of players in these platforms all have the opportunity to use chess computers which would defeat the purpose.

If you dare to treat the rating as a form of accomplishment, your self-esteem would take a toll. Playing against an engine will of course make you lose, therefore online numbers are not that ideal for measurement.

Don’t go over the board by taking pride on the number rather than the strength.

I say this because people want to show off how they are good in chess, making them stressed with the ratings.

This can cause them to cheat, play against weaker opponents, or some other methods to game the system. This provides a false sense of status making someone appear better than they actually are.

Again don’t get me wrong it does matter, but if it becomes an obsession then it can become non-progressive. If you find yourself staring at your rating at a specific time of the day then yes, you probably are addicted to it.

You don’t have to be obsessed with something in order to care for it. The ratings are a tool for us to better at our craft, do not treat it as the result instead.

Are online chess ratings more important than their over the board counterparts? 

Ratings from online platforms tend to be a watered-down version of the Elo that is applicable for a lot of people, due to this over the board rating is considered more important.

Online ratings just don’t capture the accuracy of the original Elo system (over the board model) which makes it substandard. This is why most people care more about their over the board rating than online ones.

The opportunity to improve is much more feasible in over the board numbers than the one found online. People tend to be obsessed with over the board ratings than online ones since the accuracy provides better insights that can be practical.

In real life people tend to be stuck on tiers that they belong to, unable to play against anyone outside of it. Well that does not apply in online games where you can just create another account on a whim.

A lot of highly-rated players in real life play against lower tiers online since they can do so. And along with the potential use of computers, online ratings are much more obsolete then over the board ones.

People who inflate the ratings (cheating) defeats the purpose of the system in the first place (improvement). This is why you shouldn’t consider online numericals as very indicative of your progress.

The nature of this measurement is not accurate nor it is beneficial to your abilities. Though I have to say, online chess is becoming more important due to the increase in online competitions.

But online rating? I think no, over the board ones are much important (though online is still useful if you don’t intend to play competitively).

Do you think chess ratings are important?

The benefit of chess ratings are undeniable and will remain that way for a long time. You just need to identify the moderate amount and not get too obsessed with it.

Personally I really mind the ratings but not in an unhealthy way, I think it has a place but can be bad when there’s too much. Overthinking is usually a result of having an unsatisfying rating count.

You need to think about this from your own perspective in order to find the answer that works for you, sleep well and play chess.