Can an Unrated Player Become Stronger than Grandmasters? 

The rating system has always been weird to me, we treat it as absolute. No matter how strong you can see someone play, you wouldn’t really treat them seriously if they don’t have the rating to back it up.

But what if someone is actually stronger than their rating?

What if they just don’t play frequently and that affects their overall rating? And the best question of all, what if someone has no rating at all?

But it is not a surprise to you that there are many chess players out there who do not really have a rating, they are quite mysterious.

We don’t really know their true strength, I think these unrated players can become stronger than you think.

That will be the topic for today, whether there exists an unrated player out there that is even stronger than grand masters. Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Can you become strong in chess even without a rating?

Yes, you can become strong in chess even when you don’t have a rating. A rating can be acquired when a player participates in a rated tournament, they have to start from the bottom and work their way there.

The thing is, there are chess players who play regularly and do not even participate in any rated tournaments. You can see many chess hustlers becoming really strong when they are not even affiliated with fide.

These people usually share tips with one another and practice on their own. They also play a lot of blitz games with each other to further supplement their abilities, and this is without any rating at all.

This doesn’t necessarily make them stronger than professionals, but it is an important consideration nonetheless.

It implies that an unrated player can actually become stronger than a highly rated chess player, in the right situation at least. 

Strong players that do not participate in any tournaments will not get a high rating even if they are really skilled. This means that you can be a grandmaster level, but still don’t have a high rating if you don’t participate in any tournaments.

Not saying that it is the case most of the time, but the possibility is there. 

Can an unrated player become so strong that they are stronger than a grandmaster?

Yes, an unrated player being stronger than a grandmaster is definitely a possibility. I think it is highly likely that all around the world, there is an unrated player that can beat regular grandmasters.

Here’s the thing though, I don’t think that there is an unrated player that can become stronger than super grandmasters.

The best players in the world use engines and modern techniques, they wouldn’t be weaker than an unrated “experienced” player.

But you have to understand that there is a gap between a regular grandmaster in a super grandmaster, and it is a big one actually. Grandmasters do use engines for the preparations, but not as meticulously as super grandmasters.

If we are only talking about a grandmaster, an unrated player reaching that level is realistic. I can imagine though that they will only be stronger against “weaker” grandmasters.

Grandmasters are not the same, some are stronger than the others. The weaker grandmasters are definitely within the range of a highly strong unrated player. 

If an unrated player can beat a grandmaster, why don’t they play rated games?

This is an interesting question to answer. You see, grandmasters are professionals that have made a living pursuing chess.

They have the opportunity to travel around the globe and participate in many internationally sponsored fide events. Most people do not have this luxury, most people can’t just travel internationally without dropping off responsibilities.

This is why those who became grandmasters make sacrifices, which is unfortunately not taken by everyone. However just because you cannot participate in rated tournaments does not mean that you will quit chess.

Rather you are likely to find another avenue to improve your abilities. I think you know where I am going with this, you would go to local areas and find those who like the game.

Then you can be a part of a local chess community and hone your abilities away from the world.

Most chess hustlers are not grandmaster level, however there are some that can even become stronger than a regular grandmaster (examples will be provided later).

Even if they want to play rated games they don’t have the opportunity, so they just choose to compete locally. 

Is there an unrated player that can beat Magnus Carlsen?

I think this is when we go overboard, I saw this question on quora and i just have to answer it. Magnus Carlsen is probably the strongest chess player of all time, the guy is close to being a human engine.

He is not just the strongest in this generation, he is also probably the strongest in all of the generations.

Unless this unrated player’s overall game contains 90% computer moves, I don’t think that he/she will be anywhere close to Carlsen.

Magnus is the ultimate combination of modern ideas and traditional principles, an unrated player cannot possibly have the same amount of resources that Carlsen has.

Earlier in this article I have addressed that unrated players are probably not stronger than super grandmasters, which I think is true.

Chess that is played on the highest level just contains too much memorization and preparation, experience not enough.

You can be stronger than a grandmaster with just the experience, but let’s not talk about the super grandmasters. 

Are chess ratings unreliable in determining a player’s strength?

For the most part, the rating system in chess is still a reliable measure of someone’s strength. That is, for those who choose to participate in the elo rating system in the first place.

There are many situations where a player that doesn’t have a rating beats a highly rated player. Unrated players are the “gray area” of chess, they can be surprisingly good or surprisingly bad, usually not in between.

Ratings are so detailed to the single point that it tends to be accurate, however it is not really a good measurement if it cannot be applied in the first place.

You can’t really use ratings to measure an unrated player’s strength, which makes them useless in such cases.

However this is a very specific situation, it is important to understand that ratings are still reliable in determining one’s strength. If the unrated players suddenly started playing rated games, they will also be measured accurately.

It is not that the rating system in chess is unreliable, they are just incompatible in situations where a player is unrated. 

Why haven’t we seen any unrated player stomping full fledged grandmasters?

If this is the case then we would have seen some unrated players beating grandmasters right?

But we still haven’t seen any of that, or have we?

The thing is, most chess games that are played around the world do not really make it to the general public.

Of course, who would pay attention to a game that is played by an unrated player that doesn’t even play competitively?

People usually see games from tournaments that have prestigious venues and players.

There are many cases in the lichess arena where an unrated player beats a full-fledged grandmaster. Some unrated players can even reach ratings of 2900 on lichess, which is impressive even though the ratings on lichess are inflated.

But let’s not talk about online, I have a really good example. I bring you to simphiwe buthelezi vs. levon aronian.

Aronian is of course one of the best players in the world (a super grandmaster), and he is playing against some random african chess hustler. The video is on youtube if you are interested.

Long story short, buthelezi is somehow able to beat levon aronian himself fair and square. Levon Aronian is of course the stronger player overall, but it is just interesting that he was able to be beaten by an unrated player in such a convincing way.

If you want another example I got another, I will bring you the story of Sultan khan. Sultan khan is basically a servant for life, his british lord helped him to learn about chess.

At first he lost a lot, however he started winning a lot of games after a year.

His biggest accomplishment is when he has beaten the former world champion Jose Raul Capablanca after only studying for a year, and in a convincing fashion as well.

He had started to pick up some reputation, until his British lord brought him back to india.

After that no one heard of Sultan Khan again.

This is an example of having the talent but not the opportunity, some really consider Sultan Khan to be a really strong player. I think he is really underrated. Sultan Khan has also been featured in another article that I have created.

An unrated player would not be the best in the world, but you better not underestimate them. 


Most unrated chess players do not really fare well against professional chess players.

However there are definitely outliers that can give a grandmaster a run for their money.

There are definitely unrated players out there that are stronger than your regular grandmaster. They have honed their abilities by playing against other unrated players and further refining it with experience.

The only reason that they are not playing in official tournaments has to do with the sacrifices that come with playing competitively.

Not everyone has the opportunity to play in tournaments, it requires a massive commitment.

Just don’t expect that any unrated player becoming stronger than super grandmasters, that is the brake right there.

Super grandmasters are masters of engines and preparation, they might be too much for any unrated player. That is all for this article, thank you for reading.