Are Lichess Ratings Accurate? (Original Research!)

Lichess is probably the most popular online chess platform right now (even more popular than chess.com) which is why a lot of people have wondered about the accuracy of its ratings. If it is the most used platform then knowing the accuracy of its numbers will surely do service to a lot of people.

And I am here to answer that question, here is what I know:

Lichess ratings are around 300 points higher than Fide ratings and about 150 points higher when compared to USCF ratings. There are more players on Lichess which has caused the rating inflation, chess.com ratings for example are much closer to real-life ratings.

You may be proud of the 1800 rating you have on the website but the accuracy of this is really in question, it is likely a more inflated version of your actual rating. Sorry to disappoint you but I have to tell the truth, keep on reading if you are interested.

Lichess ratings are significantly more inflated than USCF, Fide, and Chess.com

I think most people who play Lichess and chess.com for example have noticed the same thing, the rating system in Lichess seems to be much more inflated than any other platforms out there. Lichess uses the Glicko 2 system, which supposedly improves the Elo rating system but has failed terribly.

Since Lichess is an online platform, people have more access to the games than in over-the-board ratings, this naturally makes online ratings inflated in general. People can gain and recover ratings at a much faster rate causing virtual ratings to be slightly higher, however, Lichess seems to be higher than usual.

This is because of the Glicko 2 system which would have been better over the board but would naturally be slightly higher than the Elo system. Taking it online will just mean that the ratings will be significantly higher than normal, probably a higher number than the online version of the Elo rating system.

Lichess has the popularity of having really inflated ratings much higher than that of chess.com, probably because of the traffic that increases the rating pool (since the website is free). 

Chess.com and other similar chess sites do not have as large a player pool since many of their features are on the premium (paid), this also means more players are going to mess up with the rating pool as we see now.

Lichess players will have ratings that are some 150-300 points higher

There is no exact numerical difference that we can compute with Lichess ratings on its accuracy with Fide or USCF ratings, however, there are definitely estimates that can get us close as we can. The difference will usually be 150 points higher than USCF ratings and 300 points higher than Fide ratings.

If you are rated 1800 on Lichess you are likely to be around 1650 rated on USCF standards and only 1500 rated by Fide standards, we can cut the difference (150 USCF, 300 Fide) in order to make the estimate. This is the closest that we got in testing the accuracy of Lichess ratings.

If you have a chess.com account you will likely see a 300 point difference since their platform has a much closer accuracy to real-life ratings, there is no exact number but it should be around that range.

It is not uncommon for titled Lichess players to claim that their Lichess ratings are some 300 points higher than their Fide ratings (and about 150 points higher than their USCF ratings). This is a good baseline to go by when determining your real-life ratings from your Lichess ratings, it is right most of the time.

Lichess ratings are inaccurate because of the cheaters on the platform

As you can see Lichess is way inaccurate when it comes to the rating game, there are many things that we can blame as the cause of this. The biggest is the accessibility that it has for users, this creates much more inflated numbers due to the enlarged player pool.

With more players, there is a much wider rating pool that could be acquired leading to inflation within the overall numbers, over the board ratings for example are not as high since not as many people are participating. Another thing that it indirectly contributes to is the number of cheaters on the platform.

Since the website is free, there are significantly more cheaters on Lichess which throws the rating pool into a complete mess. Many of the ratings that people see are either from computer assistance or indirect computer assistance from other players, this makes Lichess ratings inaccurate.

Even if a player is not using direct engine assistance it is likely that their opponent or the opponent of their opponent has used one, this makes the given rating mainly inaccurate. 

Lichess ratings are not more accurate than Fide even with the Glicko 2 system

There are many who argue that Lichess is more accurate than Fide ratings since it implements the Glicko 2 rating system (which supposedly improves the Elo rating system). The Glicko 2 rating system in its entirety is probably a better measurement for one’s chess ability however it is not applicable in this case.

As I have stated above, this would probably be true if it weren’t for the fact that Lichess is played online where games are much more accessible. This means there are more opportunities for players to gain or recover their loss ratings which are not taken into consideration in the original Glicko 2 formula.

What we have is a system intended for over-the-board measurements applied in an online platform where games are played at a much faster rate, it is not that Glicko 2 is a bad system but it is just incompatible in online chess platforms. 

Along with the unexpected factor of cheaters, this throws a whole new doubt on the reliability of Lichess ratings (and as it happened, they are much more inflated than usual).

Conclusion

A Lichess rating is not a reliable way to determine one’s real chess strength as it is likely to be a much higher version than the over-the-board counterpart. If you’re looking for a rating that is much closer to real-life ratings (Fide and USCF) then chess.com is a better option for you.

However there is an unintended benefit to using Lichess ratings as a point of reference, and it is the superficial ego boost that you can have from having higher numbers. It may sound silly but higher ratings surely motivate a lot of people that would have given up otherwise, use Lichess in this instance.

That is all, thank you for reading.

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