Rating Blues

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, December 31, 2017


I get asked on occasion about the ICCF rating system. If we hunt it down we find it at the back of the Tournament Rules (now in the single rules document!)

It’s a rather dry document but the most interesting points of it are:


#1 All your results count – old ones don’t drop off.

#2 You have three phases of rating – Unrated/Provisional, Unfixed and  Fixed.

                Unrated/Provisional – here your base rating is calculated. Two main factors come into play – the quality of your opponents and your result against them.

                Unfixed – in this period between 12 and 30 games, individual results can make big changes to your rating and it is possible for your rating to go down even if you win a game IF the opponent is much lower rating than your Unfixed rating

                Fixed – 30 games onwards. Here the change to your rating is calculated by the expected result determined by rating point difference, the actual result and your K factor (The K factor is a stabiliser which reduces the more games you play)

#3 The Rating difference is determined by the ratings at the point of the result NOT at the start of the event.

#4 Rating lists are published 4 times a year.

This leads to a number of strategies a player should employ to avoid shooting themselves in the foot….


  1. When starting out you need to play the highest opposition possible. Whilst your result is a combination of rating and result, it is clear to see that a draw against a 1900 and a draw against a 2200 are not the same thing! I know if I were starting out again I would look at either one of the big ICCF opens or the Champions League (assuming I could find 3 more players). These give access to around a 2100 average level of opposition.
  2. You need to finish off games quickly and not let them drag on for many rating lists. Most players will be able to tell of times where they have had games when they started out which would have gained 4 or 5 elo , that ended up costing them 2 or 3 when finished, as their rating had increased 400 odd e points between the start and finish. So the key is here, if its drawn (ish) offer the draw, don’t let it drag on.
  3. Tricky one this but pick the timing of draw offers (Don’t delay the game unnecessarily) but if you are close to the end of a rating period and the difference between you and your opponent is now 200 rating points and on the new list it will be 100 then in 1 s, then its obvious when the draw should be offered.
  4. Consider how you will aim to beat much weaker opposition. Once you have an Unfixed or fixed rating you need to win games to maintain it, if you are facing much lower rating opposition. So this means, for example, a 2400 rated player entering an Open with an average of around 2100, needs to be scoring in the region of 80% to maintain their rating. This should be a consideration in selecting any event.
  5. The rating system tends to maintain the status quo – if you draw against people with the similar ratings yours will tend to stay the same. As an ambitious player, you need to look for opportunities to get to play better opposition. This is not always easy but if you reach 2250+, then Invitational Events, International Friendlies, Champion’s League (Preferably the B Division or better), Interzonal events and National Championships tend to give the best opportunities.
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