Visual presentation of world chess ratings

by ChessBase
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".


  • 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.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 9/2/2018 07:29
Of course it is logical to include USCF results in this analysis. When the US has 80,000 players and FIDE only 170,000 representing the entire world, means that a plurality or close to it is in the US and missing from the analysis.

It does not matter that Germany has 90,000 members if most of them are also rated in FIDE. Any federation that has a large number of rated players not rated in FIDE should be included, or the results do not make sense. Eg, 72% of rated players being in Europe is obviously wrong.
lablue lablue 8/31/2017 01:20
It is not logical to compare the local rating system to FIDE (which provides a common rating system for 185 countries). It is a comparison of two different things. Your comments look like advertising the USCF rating system. FIDE is "Fédération Internationale des Échecs" which is also called "World Chess Federation" and the title of the article is "Visual presentation of world chess ratings" - visualization of world chess ratings. There are many chess federations in Europe, some of them have their own independent rating system. Examples of strong chess federations: Germany - 90,000 members (which is more than the USCF), or the French or English Chess Federation, which are much older than the USCF. There are many old chess federations in Europe and it seems that the largest number of chess players are in Europe, as it is shown in the article and other sources.
Sam Wallace Sam Wallace 1/28/2017 12:41
It does not seem like this article was anti-American or anything, but it was clearly lazy and miss represents global chess talent. Only using FIDE ratings to make an argument that you accurately portray "world chess ratings" is stupid because the US has 320 million people, and is separated by an ocean from Europe. Thus, many people in the US are not going to join FIDE unless they plan on playing in tournaments in other countries. Which is less likely for someone living in Iowa or Texas than someone living in the Netherlands. For good, 2000 plus players but not IM level, most everyone your competing with, and all of the tournaments you have around you are also using USCF ratings. Therefore, because the size of the US when compared to Europe, it's geographical separation from other predominantly FIDE playing countries, and as Hpaul mentioned a long established ELO system that predates FIDE's, the USCF rating system is closer to a competing system than a local one. There are a lot of American chess players who would be 2000+ in FIDE, but only have a USCF rating. The reason that is important to point out is because this article makes it look like the US only has 1/3 the rated players of say France, or Spain. But if you compare top players who would likely have a FIDE raiting the US has more which by default proves the point that this article is an inaccurate comparison of world chess talent.

This article is sort of like comparing European rugby players to US rugby players, and trying to say that the US sucks at sports even though we only suck at Rugby because our most talented Athletes at those kinds of sports play American Football. But it is even lazier than that comparison. This is because when your talking about chess players your comparing people who are playing the exact same game, and its an individual ELO performance measured game. And there is a large enough cross over population that it would be easy to do an accurate statistical correlation for a visual presentation like this if the goal is to provide an accurate general impression of the so called "world chess ratings".
lablue lablue 6/30/2014 02:21
USCF rating is just a local rating system. FIDE ratings is international. If you do not have international rating (elo, FIDE), what kind of player are you? 80 thousand. players with local rating is not an impressive number. It's only 78 players with USCF rating per 1 million inhabitants, assuming that 25,000 players have USCF rating in your country.
Please do not compare your local rating system with international rating system - FIDE, because it is not an article about the local systems but about International Ratings.
sharpnova sharpnova 4/9/2014 03:42
Of course the US is poorly represented. If it was well represented here, this article would not appear on Chessbase.

This website is run by narcissistic liberal morons.

I refer you to their "twin tower sacrifice" joke in the aftermath of 9/11 for which they refused to apologize. Even writing an entire article defending it.
hpaul hpaul 4/8/2014 11:14
The U.S. is an example of a country which is seriously underrated in a study that limits itself to FIDE ratings. The U.S. used the Elo rating system, originated and administered by the U.S. Chess Federation, for many years before Elo ratings were exported to FIDE. The great majority of tournaments in the U.S. are still rated only by the USCF domestic system, and are not reported as FIDE results. (USCF has 80,000 members, a sizeable portion of them tournament players with domestic Elo ratings.) So most U.S. rated players are not in the FIDE data base. In other countries that did not have a rating system before the FIDE ratings were introduced, the FIDE system became THE rating system, and all rated games are FIDE-rated. The result is a very considerable underrating of the number of rated tournament players in the U.S. The same may be said for Britain, which also has its own rating system, and for other countries that have a separate domestic rating structure. So while the study correctly reflects the number of FIDE rated players in each country, that is not the same as the number of rated players (or Elo rated players) in each country, which for some countries could be much greater.