Visual presentation of world chess ratings

4/8/2014 – Mining the ratings section of the FIDE web site, and combining it with United Nations population statistics, reveals a lot about chess and its popularity in different parts of the world. However rows and columns of numbers are difficult to comprehend. Michal Paterek, a software engineer from Poland, presents the data with some really cool interactive maps. Prepare to be stunned!

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A visual presentation of world chess ratings

By Michal Paterek

How many chess players have Elo rating? Where in the world is the highest density of rated players? According to the FIDE rating list there are in the world more than 170,000 people with Elo ratings – the exact number is 170,932. The graphs below show that most rated players are in Europe (72.1%), especially in the western and central part of the continent.

 

In second place is Asia, where is more than 15% of the players reside. On other continents chess is statistically less popular. Third place is South America, North America is fourth. Africa, which is the second continent in terms of population (and area) has only 1897 rated players (1.1%).

The largest number of players with a rating live in Germany (17,499), second place is Russia (16,703) and third Spain (14,364). India (number five), with total of 12,129 number of rated players, has more players than the countries of North America (8,145), South America (9,451), Australia and Oceania (1,331) or Africa (1,897). The highest density of rated players is in western, central and southern Europe. However, the highest average ratings (= average rating of the top ten players) are in Russia, Ukraine and China.

Below are maps containing the list of countries with: the total number of players with rating, number of players per number of inhabitants, per unit of the area and the players with the highest ratings in each country.

Note that you can click on the maps to enlarge them. After that, hovering with
your mouse cursor on the map will reveal the statistics of each individual country.

Number of Rated Players

Rated Players per one million population

Rated Players Density

Top Player rating

Maps use a close variant of the Mercator projection. It's not the most accurate projection, but is widely used on the Internet. However, more accurate visualization of the surface can be represented in a real three-dimensional model.

Click on the image for a truly breathtaking mouse-controlled 3D image of the earth:

(Rated players per area unit - 10,000 kilometers square)

The average value of the ratings is approximately 1900. The rating of the player in the middle of the rating table is 1924. Players with a rating greater than 2300 are in the top 5% of all players, and players with a rating greater than 2450 are in the top 1%.

These data visualization can help in the analysis, but the original FIDE table can also be useful. There are a lot of details visible when you click on the country and link "See detailed statistics for country".

Sources

  • Data related to chess are from published sources on the FIDE web site.
  • The map of the best players takes into account only active players.
  • The classification of the continents was made on the basis of the UN Statistics Division data.
  • The article uses the popular estimates of the population and area of the countries (data from December 2013).

Michal Paterek

Michal has a master's degree in computer science from the Warsaw University of Technology in Poland. He is also interested in aerospace, electrical and electronic engineering as a hobby.

Aditionally he is a FIDE Master title, with two International Master norms. He learned to play chess at the age of five, but never had a coach. His favorite chess books is Nimzowitsch's My System and his favorite players Kasparov, Karpov and Tal. In his spare time he designs websites and does programming.


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