How important are chess ratings for children?

A chess rating is just a number used in chess to estimate the strength of a player based on his/her past performance. For years, I have been advising chess coaches, parents and kids to avoid becoming preoccupied with ratings as doing so creates unnecessary problems for children. Some common problems I see regularly from over emphasizing chess ratings are: 

1) Avoidance of tournaments for fear of losing rating points

2) Avoidance of tournaments out of embarrassment from having a low rating

3) Being overly confident because his/her rating is higher than his/her opponent’s

4) Playing in a self-defeating mindset because his/her rating is much lower than his/her opponent’s

5) Dropping out of chess because of too much pressure to maintain a high rating.


So it was a real pleasure when I read a recent blog post by Susan Polgar where she offered her wisdom on chess ratings for scholastic players:

Q: How important are chess ratings for children?

A: My answer may be unpopular but ratings are not very relevant at an early age. The problem is that many parents are so concerned about the ratings their children become too timid to play “proper” chess in order to improve. They are so afraid of losing that they play not to lose instead of playing to win and this can seriously hinder the development of their children.

While in the short term ratings can satisfy one’s ego, it is better to look at the long term outcome.



I will be teaching with Susan this summer at the MSJE Fremont Summer Chess Camp.


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Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in both Bakersfield and the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Currently, Chris Torres has the ranking of candidate master and serves as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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