Anatomy of a Chess Player : Chess Ratings From Beginner to Expert

How A Chess Player Improves from a 1000 Beginner Rating to a 2000 Expert Rating

Chess LevelsBelow are the knowledge and skills a beginning chess player must acquire to improve their chess rating to improve from a chess beginner to an expert level chess player. The idea is to show the estimated chess rating, the required knowledge and skill, and the time it would take them to attain a specific ELO rating and chess level.  Find out in which category you fall to determine the knowledge and chess skills you need to move on to the to the next chess level.

I would love to get feedback from more knowledgeable players and coaches, since I think this might be helpful to chess players that are just starting out all the way to an approximate 1700 rating. The idea is for players to focus on those areas that they need to work on in order to reach the next level.

 

Chess Rating Improvement Breakdown from Chess Beginner to Chess Expert

0-1000 (0-3 months of experience) The realm of the beginning chess player. At this stage the player has just learned the game, they constantly leave pieces en prise, and make many blunders. Player has no tactical, endgame, or positional knowledge. Player does not know about chess strategy and has no evaluation or analysis skills.

1000-1100 (3-6 months of experience) Beginning player now has several games under their belt. They have very basic tactical knowledge and they continue to make blunders and to leave pieces en prise. Plays without a plan.

1100-1200 (1-2 years of experience) Beginning player continues to make many blunders. At this level they have learned basic tactics. Occasionally leaves pieces en prise, but this is not a common occurrence. Sometimes plays with a plan, but the plan is usually incorrect. At this point the player sees many offensive tactics but they miss most defensive tactics.

1200-1300 (2-3 years of experience) Player begins to understand that chess is a two player game, and begins to ask what the opponent’s last move is threatening. Blunders still occur but less frequently. One major reason for their rating increase, is that player stops leaving pieces en prise. Player has intermediate tactical skills but still misses many defensive tactical shots. Starts to build an opening repertoire, which gets them into the middlegame with a better position. Very limited endgame and positional skills. Starts making better plans due to limited endgame and positional knowledge.

1300-1400 (3-4 years of experience) Advanced beginner. Players at this level have reached an intermediate thought process. player Looks for Checks, Captures and threats after opponents moves. Does not leave pieces en prise. Very good with offensive tactics and improving on the defensive tactics side, but still misses some. Still building opening repertoire. Starts learning basic endgame and middlegame strategy, but knowledge is still very basic. This level is an important milestone for the beginning chess player because they are on the verge of being an intermediate player.

1400-1500 (5-6 years of experience) Intermediate level player. Good thought process, does not leave pieces en prise. Advanced tactically, both on offense and defense (might occasionally miss a defensive tactic). Has an opening repertoire and plays pet openings. Has intermediate endgame, positional and analysis skills. One of the reasons for low rating is players poor positional evaluation abilities. Will probably need a chess coach to improve further.

1500-1700 (6-7 years of experience) Advanced intermediate player. Advanced tactical skills and thought process. Player has Intermediate endgame and positional skills at this stage. Intermediate positional evaluation and analysis skills. Should have a chess trainer, and play against strong opposition in order to improve as well as a strong focus on the endgame, positional and evaluation skills.

1700-1900 (7-8 years of experience) Near expert level player. Advanced tactical skills and thought process. Very strong endgame and positional skills. Intermediate evaluation skills. Very good analyst. Player needs to continue focusing on evaluation and analysis skills. Opening theory knowledge becomes an important component for further improvement. Player has a good database of structures that that can help them when they reach unfamiliar positions in OTB play. Player should reach expert level in approximately 2 more years, which falls in line with expert theory which claims that it takes 10 years to become an expert in any field.

Update 2/6/15

This post has been the most popular on this site for a very long time. Thank you for taking the time to add your opinions and feedback. I plan on doing a follow up post in the future, with all of the things I have learned from all of you. It is still not too late to comment, all of your feedback on how you have improved in chess levels is very valuable.

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41 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Chess Player : Chess Ratings From Beginner to Expert

  1. Yuval says:

    I can agree with the ratings and the correspondence knowledge, but I Can’t agree with the rating involved with it.. as I am a 1705 and rising and this is my third year playing (second rated), fourth if you will include the year when I played a hour a week and learned how to move the pieces. and I am not a talented player at all, in my club there are a lot of players my age or smaller which have less experience and are better then me..

  2. beginchess says:

    @Yuval, Thanks for the feedback.

    Are you a scholastic player? I have noticed that scholastic players do advance much faster than adult beginners. It would also be helpful to know how many hours per day you spend studying / playing chess.

  3. The number regarding months/years of experience are based on what? Most kids play many years without crossing 1000. Those that have natural talent and study cross over 1000 fairly quickly. Some never do.

    I had been playing chess almost 30 years, including some organized competition in high school, before I acquired a rating in my 30s. My initial established rating was in the 1400s. It took me nine years to get from the 1400s over 1600, and another three to get over 1800.

  4. beginchess says:

    This chart assumes that you are applying effortful study to your chess training. Expert theory says that you should reach expert level in 10 years if you continuously dedicate and challenge yourself in any field. Of course, there will be some that have more “talent” that will be able to make it to expert level in much less time, but this chart would be the average time it would take an average chess player that dedicates at least 5 hours per week to chess training.

  5. nt says:

    Thanks for the very good article.
    I have two kids playing scholastic chess.
    A: 1400, 3 years
    B: 800, 6 months

    My experience:
    1 Blunder=2 pawns=1 piece=1 exchange=0.5 Rook=0.3 Queen=0.5 Mate-in-1

    On the average:
    800: 2 blunders per game
    1000: 1 blunder per game
    1200: 1 blunder per 2 games
    1400: 1 blunder per 4 games

  6. james breeden says:

    ridiculous links embedded in article – like paper shredders – are annoying
    but to my point: i miss any mention of
    1. visualization-the whole board [empty and with pieces]; i mean, how much can a player ‘see’ at each stage?; sectors of the board with pieces; changes in sectors with moves; the whole board and with changes as a result of moves.
    and
    2. key ‘patterns’: books on the market Alburt. etc. seem to suggest that there are about 1000 such patterns;
    3. methods of learning / improving [beside OTB and computer correspondence games], such as playing computers; playing over annotated master games; de la Maza’s rapid chess improvement for adults; and,
    4. finally, competency in various uses of computers from taking video lessons to playing programs like Fritz and Excalibur to using programs like Bookup and Aquarium and Chess Assistant and Chessbase.
    [oh, and 5 =s lessons from live humans 😉 ]

  7. chessplayer says:

    Been playing for two years and was stuck around 1300 for a year and then started studying chess puzzles to improve tactics which i feel most important. Now i am a solid 1600 player. I used chesstempo.com but however spent probably for a time period 3 hours a day for a year playing.

  8. observerr says:

    nice to read this article thinking I have rating 1350 in 6 months.for me, just know the basics concepts of weak squares, open lines,passed pawns, center control and download fritz 12 for opening mastery(just know the general safe move patterns)…

  9. Ken says:

    4000 hours in 10 years = Chess teacher.
    8000 hours in 10 years = Good at chess.
    10,000 hours in 10 years = Expert and above.

    So, it is really a matter of hours of deliberative practice within that 10 year span.

  10. Trent says:

    Playing consistently is key to improving. Sounds obvious but for me taking a year off set me back. Not that I’m not an expert but wish I didn’t have to re-learn tedious openings and other strategies.

  11. Lucas says:

    I learned how to play chess at the age of 12,just the basics of chess.i never took chess serious,i never played chess thereafter for 5 years.i played chess serious chess in my final year at high school for about 9months.when on for about 2years again without playing a single game.i have now dedicated my spare time to chess begining january 2013 upto date,i spend more than 10 hours on the chess board studying and playing chess.

    I beat karpov2 mobile chess game hands down but i don’t know my rating.i’am improving each and everyday.

    What could be my possible rating?

  12. Derek says:

    @Trent: When learning openings, learn the ideas behind them and not so much on the actual moves. It will help you in memorizing the actual moves better because. Start with the theories behind the moves first. I’ve used this method myself and it helps me out a lot.

  13. Alex Bai says:

    The data in the op is pretty incorrect, in my opinion. BTW, I am a chess expert (USCF 2000+), and it happened in U3 years.
    A player with rating of 900 (0-1000) is a pretty strong player compared to the casual chess player. In my high school, the weak chess players at the chess club rarely leave en prise pieces, and yet they are below 900 for sure. 900 players are in my experience, “strong casual players”, or “strong beginners”. The time span seems reasonable.
    But after this, the “time span” to reach a certain level becomes quite ridiculous.
    Does someone need 5-6 years to reach 1500?! 5 hrs dedicated a week, I bet someone could easily become a master or at least 2100 player with the right study methods with 5 hrs a week.

    But really important is the IMO, openings are NEVER an essential or even slightly important part of improvement: openings are rather useless to concrete chess improvement at all levels below 22-2300, in my experience. Why? In my games against expert level opposition, I am constantly out of the opening by move 4 or 5. I’ve played a good number of games against expert level opposition recently, and the result of NONE of the games had a single thing to do with the opening.
    After the opening, someone had an advantage. They lost it, and the evaluation shifted. Then that other player made a mistake, and finally it was a draw (or something like this) . If this happens at the expert level just about every time (openings not mattering) then I think only at a level 200 points or so higher would it even start to matter (and then only a bit).
    Only the 2400+ need opening prep for serious improvement. Everyone else should ignore it for the most part, I think.
    BTW, I wouldn’t say that players rated around 1700 have advanced tactical skills either. I have had a good experience playing against these guys in the past, and I can say that most of them still make tactical blunders pretty easily when their position gets slightly worse, or I get an attack etc. At the expert level, this almost never happens anymore (even @ class A it is pretty rare) unless it is a serious positional advantage. However, experts sometimes miss “rare” or “invisible” tactical tricks or ideas that could get an advantage or save a game etc. Their tactical skills are better, but only intermediate level. I consider my tactical skills to be at the intermediate level currently as well.
    1800s and below should mainly work on basic ideas in chess, and not study too many advanced ideas and can pretty much forget all about the openings if they want to improve. It may seem a bit far-fetched, but trust me: I’ve played against these players before a good number of times, and many of them play pretty terrible moves, making their game unstable and showing a lack of basic chess knowledge and haphazard studying.
    Also, I would generally cut out endgame study (but not totally). Endgame study is interesting, since many players do it wrong and at the wrong time in their chess development, IMO.
    The first problem seems to be that players only care about the useless theoretical endgames that almost never occur in real life.
    I have never had to play a lucena or philidor draw etc.. in my entire otb chess playing career a single time (or any other theoretical endgame except theoretical king+pawn). The only theoretical endgame knowledge I have are 2 key king and pawn endgame positions, and they have happened only once each.
    It is much more important to study strategy in endgames, and this I did a bit.
    However, it is even more important to focus on ending the game during the middlegame, so that you won’t need to grind out an ending. Players at the skills levels of U1800 rarely can play a competitive middlegame against good play. Therefore, it is practical to gain good skills here and beat them in the middlegame and forget about the endgame. This is what I did. In the World Open U1800 (2012), only 1 game reached a competitive endgame, and that one was strategic. I scored 7.5 there, and all the games I won except for that one endgame were won by middlegame.

  14. Kevin says:

    I began to take chess seriously last year, right around my 24th birthday. I started playing games and ended with a low 900 rating on chess.com after the first month. Then I opened a book on chess basics (endgames, good n bad bishops, post for knight, tactical motifs, etc…) and after the first 130 pages I’m around 1300. Really need to speed things up, my guess is that if i read the appropriate literature and incorporate theory into practice, I can achieve my goal of 2000+ in a matter of years and hopefully not decades. 1300-1500 are good, but we make many blunders, that keeps our ratings grounded.

    One thing that I noticed is that an organized study time and an organized life can lead to a better rating.

  15. Gary says:

    I would agree with the explanations of how people play at different levels (although I think people stop leaving pieces en prise far earlier than you suggest) but the time range seems off.

    Progression in chess, I suspect, has more to do with acquiring certain bits of knowledge + understanding than the number of games played. Overcoming the urge to pawn-grab, to understand that pieces don’t have permanently fixed values, getting bored and making moves in an attempt to liven things up, letting go of overly rigid general rules, and so on, these things come more quickly to some people than to others.

    A player that always has to win, someone who can’t bear to lose a game, will progress slower than someone who doesn’t mind making dodgy/inferior moves to see what will happen. If you, for example, say to yourself that you will always swap queens wherever possible and play many games in which you do this then you will learn much quicker when + why it is appropriate to swap queens and when + why it isn’t.

  16. gasparddm says:

    Im 15 years old and started playing chess 5 months ago, I have a chess coach and I practice around 2 hours everyday. My rating is of around 1400 (said by my coach, 3 times Brazilian champion). So I it is saying there that in 3-4 years you can reach that rating of mine, not true.

  17. matt10030 says:

    I can’t agree with you I’m 10th years .I started playing chess 3 years ago and now my rating is 1600 I have a chess coach every 4 weeks and I play on the computer no one at my house knew chess but my mom encourage me to play on the computer 2 games a day and do 15 minutes off endgame that help me a lot.

  18. peter says:

    I have been playing chess by myself for 10 months and Im currently at 1500 in live blitz at chess.com . Is this considered fast?

  19. Rikyfire says:

    I’ve only started to really play Chess (about 2 hours per day) around 2 years ago.

    I went from the starting point in Standard on the chess website (1200) to the 1700s and I’m still slowly increasing.

    I haven’t had any help other than watching a few YouTube videos on Chess openings and playing a little bit of Tactics Trainer.

    1200-1700s in 2 years.

    Time span to get better is all in one’s mind — not on a statistical sheet.

  20. Rob says:

    Not sure about some of that. I’m about 2000 rating and consider my endgame skills to be appalling. I win games because my tactic awareness is better than my opponents, but in reality it is still pretty poor. Play 20 games v a chess engine and you’ll see that none of your play can be considered “advanced”

  21. charlie says:

    I would like to get to 1500 I’m 973 now. No training yet but play fast and love it. I’m on chess.com couple times a week if job allows. When my health is good and I’m not tired I’m much better. Any help on what to study. Who is a good coach in pensacola?

  22. Daniel says:

    I first learned how the pieces move when I was about 8, 10 years later I decided to really start learning the strategy, openings, tactics, etc. Two weeks into learning I estimate from reading this article and based on my online rating I am at about the 1200-1300 range.

  23. John says:

    I’m 15 and I started playing chess 3-4 months ago , learning openings, how the pieces move etc. I signed up for the USCF and started going to club rated games. Currently my rating is 1634.

  24. To the people with ratings over 1800 that are claiming a portion of their skills to not be any good… your being ridiculous. Good is relative, you may not have a chance against a grand master but you can still beat 99.99% of the population at chess, and that’s pretty darn good imo.

  25. chessbuzz says:

    Defensive tactics are tactics that your opponent can play against you. For example, falling victim to a fork or skewer that you didn’t see. An offensive tactic are those tactics that you can play against your opponent.

  26. Tomasz says:

    @Rafael Rondon

    There are some questions waiting to be asked.

    #1) “To the people with ratings over 1800 that are claiming a portion of their skills to not be any good… your being ridiculous”.
    It depends what ratings do you mean? ELO, USCF, BCF any other? Do you mean rating at classical, fast or bullet chess? Do you mean OTB rating or virtual one? There are a lot of factors that differentiate these data.

    In particular I am around 2000 at FICS, but am I any good? It depends what do you mean by “good player”. If there are players rated 1500-1600 – most often I can beat them, but not because of my genius – but rather simply due to their lack of patience, making simple (unforced) mistakes and sometimes playing very weak at endings.

    Of course if you mean “over 1800” – and the level of 2400 (Fide master or International Master) is one of the examples – this caliber of player is really strong one. He can beat 99% of all the amateurs without much effort.

    #2) “Good is relative, you may not have a chance against a grand master but you can still beat 99.99% of the population at chess, and that’s pretty darn good imo”.

    I made a test playing at FICS. I have been playing against one of my friends – he is about 1650-1700 and I won 32 games, drew 2 games and lost just one. It is about 94-96% of winning. Anyway If I went to chess tournament (the group U1800) I would NOT be able to win it (I tried to do this a few times, but with no success). That means I could not beat 95% of the players – even at the amateur level. Take notice there are some players who have been playing via Internet (chess servers) and in OTB play they can even reach 2000-2100 (online) rating. That means they could have been able to outplay me without great effort.

    #3) There are some players who are strong amateurs and they have an ELO rating in the range of 1800-1900. If they can play at this level – they are able to outplay 95-98% of chess amateurs (coffee house players), but at tournament level – they are just at the mean of the pool (most often called “strong amateurs”).

    Let me know if my explanations helps in any way :). Thanks for your post!

  27. darryl kassle says:

    If anyone is looking for a systematic way to improve by themselves with or even with the help of a coach i would suggest the CHESS KING chess apps. They cover everything from ultimate beginner with no knowledge of the game and how pieces move right up to expert level in various components/skills needed to improve your game such as tactics,statergy,opening principles/repetoire, positional analysis, planning/evaluation and end game skills. Thus for each component i have just outlined there is a correlating level starting with beginner level followed by intermediate level and finally expert level. You can as i mentioned work thru them in a systematic way or choose an app in a skill area according to your skill level. Eg you might have advanced tactics but beginner level positional play so you would start the beginners positional play app etc. Hope this help,. Cheers D

  28. Tommy H. says:

    I just tested my ELO at http://www.elometer.net and got a 1942 rating. I’m an amateur just playing against the computer at home. However, these games showed me clearly that openings do matter because they’ll have a tremendous effect on the midgame position and approach. If you want to start out with something, know how to start. Of course there are a lot openings and varations to study but the basics can be understood pretty quickly. Without a question is that the midgame takes the longest to improve.

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