At What Elo Rating Are You No Longer a Bad Player?

The human psyche is interesting, it seems that most people cannot really (accurately) determine their expertise in anything.

The name is the Dunning–Kruger effect, it is a tendency of low skilled individuals to overestimate their knowledge about something.

This is because they do not know what they do not know, therefore they think that their current knowledge is what all there is to a field.

Consequently, skilled individuals tend to underestimate their expertise. This is because they are aware of what they do not know, therefore their estimation tends to be more realistic within the grounds of a particular field.

This also applies to chess, it is hard to determine when you are no longer a bad player. You would find that some of the most arrogant chess players have only been playing for months.

The most skilled players have been playing for years, yet they cannot trash talk to save their life. I think that outside perspective is important, I will provide that outside perspective.

This article will provide a guide (rating-wise) to see if you are no longer a bad player. With all of that in mind, let’s get started. 

What is a bad player in chess?

In chess, a bad player can become different depending on the definition. From an average chess player’s standpoint, a bad player is simply someone who hangs their pieces and makes a lot of basic mistakes.

For a highly rated player, a bad player is someone that doesn’t necessarily hang their pieces, but those that commit inconsistencies and less subtle mistakes.

In my opinion, a bad player is those that rarely hang their pieces (unless it is a blitz/bullet game), but also commit fewer mistakes to their game overall.

This doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have a mistake or blunder here and there, but it is just less likely to occur when compared to the average chess player.

This will be the definition of a “bad chess player” in this article. 

At what elo rating will a chess player no longer be considered bad?

I would say that a player would no longer be considered bad once they have reached 1400 in over the board ratings.

Over the board is quite different from online ratings, fide elo ratings are much harder to acquire.

In contrast if you are playing on then you have to reduce that rating by 100 (since ratings are inflated by a hundred). For example 1400 elo over the board is about 1500 rating on (+100 rating).

Lichess on the other hand is inflated by 300 points when compared to over the board ratings. So if we have 1400 over the board, then you would need 1700 ratings in lichess.

This would be the range where you are no longer a bad chess player. People in this rating range are usually keen on the basics and rarely hang their pieces.

But not only that, they also commit fewer mistakes overall and can play relatively well in all of the phases.

They are all decent in the opening, middlegame, and the endgame, they can also play brilliantly at times.

As you have imagined these are not top players in any way, but based on my definition this is no longer a bad player. People at this level are probably better than some 50-60% of all people who play chess.

Most play a game or two here and there but do not commit fully in order to reach this level. Many years ago when I was at this level, I was surprised at how strong I was against my friends and neighbors.

I would even go out and play against some random people and see that I am quite strong. Over the internet and over the board however, these ratings are somewhat mediocre.

But this is only because such platforms bring strong chess players from all around the world.

If we are going to include all those that are not as committed in chess but still play occasionally, this level is already pretty strong.

I think you are already good if you have this rating. 

Isn’t 1400 rating over the board quite low?

Some of you might look at the 1400 rating projection and say that it is not that high. In over the board rating, 1400 is actually quite low.

While it might be true that compared to other chess players, 1400 elo is not much, you are ignoring the majority of people who play chess which are mostly beginners.

If you can reach 1400 elo over the board, it is almost a guarantee that you will be the strongest player among your friends. Unless your friends are also serious about playing chess, they probably don’t have a higher rating than this.

In fact, if you google what other people say about this, their figures are much lower (1200 elo).

Personally I do not think that 1200 is yet a good elo rating. I raise my bar since my definition is somewhat different.

1400 is a good range since this is quite close to breaking the 1500 elo mark. Once you have broken into 1500 over the board, you are reaching the peak of some other chess players.

At 1500 elo, most players already reach their plateau, basically a point when improvement is significantly harder to achieve.

Unless they have access to some resources (or even coaches) then it will be hard for them to improve further.

1400 is a good range since it is quite achievable for beginners, but not so much that you are in the league of some experienced (but not serious) players. It is a good middle ground. 

Why are online ratings higher?

Online ratings are naturally higher than over the board ratings since the games over the internet are more accessible.

If you want to increase your rating over the board, you have to travel around the country (or even internationally) in order to compete with players around your level.

If you’re trying to buff your rating in lichess on the other hand, you can just play anytime anywhere. This is why I say that 1400 elo is already a good rating to have if you mainly play over the board chess.

The ratings from actual tournaments are much harder to acquire since the games are limited. A player’s ability to increase their ratings is limited to the fact that there are fewer opportunities to do so.

I have adjusted the inflation +100 on and +300 on lichess in order to accommodate the online players.

But yeah, if you are only playing online then you would need a higher rating in order to be considered “good”.

Why is 1200 over the board rating still a bad rating in my opinion?

If you look at some chess forums around the internet, you will get the 1200 elo rating number.

People seem to recommend that you only need 1200 over the board elo rating in order to be considered a good chess player.

I do not agree with this, I think that a 1200 elo rated player is a good chess player, but they are still somewhat bad based on my definition.

I think this is a matter of definition more than anything, I think that what constitutes a “bad chess player” for other people is not the same as my definition.

To be honest I think my definition is spot on, it should be someone that doesn’t hang their pieces often and is better than the average chess player.

1200 over the board is probably around the rating of what I will consider as “average”, especially if we factor in the people who do not take chess seriously. From what I have seen, 1200 elo is pretty solid.

But they can still hang their pieces from a series of exchanges that are not calculated well, and they also make mistakes here and there.

1200 chess players also tend to have a major weakness in the endgame, probably the most important phase in all of chess.

1400 is my bet, I think at this stage, a person would not be considered a bad chess player.

1400 rated chess players are much more consistent with their moves. It is not like they never commit any errors, but they commit it rarely enough that you would not consider them bad.

It depends on the definition but I think that this is the right rating range. 

Can you be a good chess player while having a low rating?

Yes, you can be a good chess player even with a low rating.

Throughout reading this article you might think that it is all about the rating, but actually, it is not. The only reason why I use ratings is because I can easily describe a particular level of play that we normally see at such a rating range.

When I say that you are no longer a bad chess player when you have 1400 elo, I am really talking about when you “reach” that level.

Over the board ratings obviously takes a lot of commitment, you cannot turn the ratings on just by being strong.

You need to actually play in officially rated tournaments in order to get the rating into existence.

This means that if you don’t play in chess tournaments, you can actually be really strong yet not have the appropriate rating for it.

There are cases where a strong player does not get their respective rating because they didn’t really compete in a serious tournament.

You can be a “1400 level player” without actually being rated 1400. This is the same with online ratings. Just because you need the frequency of games, sometimes the rating does not accurately express someone’s strength.

I want you to use the ratings just as a guide and not a measuring tape.

If you noticed that you can play at a level that you typically observe from someone that is 1400 over the board, you can be considered good even without actually getting the rating.

Chess is not all about ratings. They are important but it is still important to personally assess your strength as a player, even when it opposes the current rating that you have.

This is especially true if you do not participate in rated games frequently. Ratings would be a good guide, but it is not absolute. 


Based on my definition of a bad chess player, which is someone that rarely hangs their pieces and commits fewer mistakes overall, 1400 is the rating to be.

If you can reach 1400 elo over the board (or at least assess that you are at least at this level), then you aren’t a bad chess player anymore. At this level you will fit the definition.

You will be someone who plays consistently and is better than the average chess player.

If you are playing online you need to adjust the ratings. Due to the inflation of ratings online, you would need to add +100 to your rating and +300 on your lichess rating to see if you are “1400 rated”.

The account also needs to be established with hundreds of games. Due to the higher starting rating point in these online platforms, creating a new account and getting the rating does not really mean much.

You need to have played a hundred games and keep the rating in order for this to be applicable.

This is because at this level, the chess platform stops treating you like “a baby” and won’t give you a lot of rating per win.

Hope you have learned something from this article, thank you for reading.