Welcome to the URS™

Welcome to the homepage of the Universal Rating System (URS™).

The URS™ Rating system and the launch of this website represents the culmination of more than two years of detailed research and development and we are very pleased to be able to present the very first URS™ rating list for the month of January 2017.

Kindly explore the “About Us” and “FAQ’s” for a full explanation of what we do and why we are doing it. We welcome all constructive comments and suggestions that can help us improve our service offering moving forward.

Firouzja's Hot Streak

With many chess fans around the world currently focused on the world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi, it's easy to forget just how busy other top players were in November. The world's best competed in events such as the European Team Championship, Tal Memorial, FIDE Grand Swiss, and Tata Steel Kolkata Rapid & Blitz.


There were many games involving the top 20 players in the world over the past month, and many of them shifted one or two slots. But the biggest change is certainly the leap for Alireza Firouzja, who gained 23 rating points and jumped from #18 in the world to #8 (helped a bit in his world rank by both Aronian and Grischuk losing a few rating points from recent results).

It's extremely rare for anyone who is already rated 2700+ to gain 20 URS rating points in a single month. Elo ratings jump around a lot more, but not URS ratings. The Universal Rating System is inherently more stable than Elo by design, especially among players who remain active.

The only person who ever did such a thing previously (at this level), in the 5 years of official URS rating lists, was Teimour Radjabov, who gained 26 rating points in a single month and jumped from #21 to #10 two years ago.

Top 10 monthly rating increases among players rated 2700+

Firouzja was born June 18th 2003 in Babol, Iran and started playing chess at eight years old. He moved to Paris in 2019 and became a French citizen in 2021. The 18 year old became a Grandmaster four years ago, and his rating gains since have been nearly vertical.

Firouzja won the FIDE Grand Swiss last month, qualifying him for the 2022 Candidates Tournament. If he's playing strength and associated rating gains continue on the same trajectory, this young man is going to be the player to watch in the coming years.

While December tends to be a slower month for events, keep an eye out for the FIDE World Rapid & Blitz at the end of the month. This will be the final opportunity for players to “level up” by the end of the year.

Over the board chess returns to the Netherlands

Over the board chess returned to the Netherlands in 2021 with the 83rd edition of Tata Steel, formerly known as Corus, and Hoogovens before that. While many refer to it by the town in which it’s held, Wijk aan Zee, the annual event regularly attracts the best in the world.


Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, local organizers were able to successfully organize a 14-player round robin that included World Champion Magnus Carlsen, USA #1 Fabiano Caruana and many talented Junior players including Jordan van Foreest and Andrey Esipenko.

Carlsen struggled to find his footing, finishing in sixth place with a +2 score. It cost him five rating points, but the world champion maintains his top rank on the URS, 49 points ahead of #4 Caruana. France's number one, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, fared even worse with a -3 score and landed in 13th place. He drops two rating spots to 5th place this month.

But perhaps the most unexpected result came from the 21-year-old Dutch Grandmaster Jorden Van Foreest, who wowed Dutch fans by securing first place after an exciting play off against fellow Dutchman Anish Giri. He went from number 158 in the rankings to number 120 and garnered 16 rating points in the process. Anish Giri picked up five rating points and moved to number 15 in the world.

There were no changes in the overall rankings for the top female players, due primarily to a lack of events. Watch for the Women's World Cup, which is scheduled to begin July 10th in Sochi, Russia, and the Saint Louis Chess Club hopes to organize the 3rd Cairns Cup later in 2021.

As the pandemic begins to abate, expect more over-the-board events in the coming months. FIDE will resume the second half of the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, Russia beginning April 19th. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi are currently tied for first with 4.5/7 going into the second half of the double round-robin. The winner will square off against World Champion Magnus Carlsen in November.

The Grand Chess Tour kicks off with the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest, Romania this June. You can find more information at www.grandchesstour.org. The ratings for March 2021 have been published and can be accessed as always at www.universalrating.com/ratings.php.

URS™ Rating Lists Resume

After a pause of several months due to the global COVID-19 restrictions the URS™ has resumed monthly rating calculations and new calculations have now been implemented for both October and November 2020. A modification has been made to the URS™ rating algorithm however to cater for the severe reduction in the number of monthly over-the-board games that have been played since March.


A player’s URS™ rating is best described as his performance rating calculated over the last several years and is based on each player's game results. Recent games are weighted more heavily than games played in earlier periods. When the URS™ needs to calculate a rating for a player who has very few recent results, it places a higher emphasis on their established strength from earlier years or (in the case of new players) on the typical playing strength of players of the same age.

If no adjustment was made, almost all players would appear to the URS™ algorithm as having very few recent results. This would cause a "regression to the mean" effect whereby players URS™ ratings would get shifted toward the typical playing strength of someone their age or towards their established playing strength from several years ago.

Before COVID-19 restrictions came into effect in March, approximately 350,000 rated games were typically played each month. A similar number of rated games have now been played since the global COVID-19 restrictions were implemented. We have therefore made a decision to treat all games played between 01-MAR-2020 and 30-SEP-2020 as if they were played within the single month of September 2020.

To close the resultant gap before September 2020, all games played prior to the COVID-19 shutdown will be shifted six months forward in time, for purposes of the future rating calculations. Consequently, all games played during February 2020 will be treated by the URS™ algorithm as if they were played during August 2020 while games played in January 2020 will be treated as if they were played in July 2020 and so on. This adjustment only applies to pre-COVID-19 game results and the dates of games played from October 2020 onwards will not be adjusted moving forward. As a result of the compression, it is also important to note that players will only be treated as inactive if they have not played a single rated game at any time control for the last eighteen months.

The rating lists for the periods from March 2020 until September 2020 were frozen and movements will again be seen for all months from October 2020 onwards. All lists have now been updated and can be viewed at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php .

URS™ to delay further rating lists as a result of tournament cancellations

The URS™ management team has made a decision to delay the further calculation of new rating lists as a result of the drastic reduction in the number of over the board games that are being played at present. Almost all international tournaments that were planned for the month of April have now been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions around the world. Since the URS™ rating algorithm is far more sensitive than ELO based systems to the lack of data this decision is considered to be the most fair to all players.


The published ratings as at the end of April 2020 will be maintained for all registered players and a new rating list will be published once regular tournament activity is able to resume. We strongly believe that this is the best approach from a mathematical perspective in order to preserve the integrity of the URS™ ratings during this unprecedented time.

The URS™ team wishes to extend their best wishes to all members of the global chess community and we look forward to resuming our work as soon as possible as soon as tournament chess is able to safely resume in the future.

Candidates rated for April URS™ list

The seven completed rounds of the Candidates tournament were included for the April URS™ rating list in what was otherwise a very quiet month for the top players. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi were the main beneficiaries following their strong showing in the rounds that were completed. They have risen to number 3 and number 7 respectively as a result. GM Ding Liren had a rare poor outing however and has dropped to 4th position leaving GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Hikaru Nakamura as the only two players rated above 2800 by the URS.


The top 5 on the ladies list remained unchanged despite woman’s world champion GM Ju Wenjun dropping more than 40 places on the overall list. She remains in second place behind GM Hou Yifan who is now just outside the top 200 on the overall list. Alireza Firouzja continues to top the list of top junior players and there are now 4 juniors under the age of 20 who are ranked inside the top 100 by the URS. The latest addition to this list is the young Russian star, GM Andrey Esipenko who entered the top 100 for the first time this month after recording another series of excellent results in local tournaments held in Russia.

This April list is likely to remain fairly stable for the next few months as most over the board tournaments have unfortunately been cancelled for the foreseeable future. It is our sincere hope that the global crisis will pass as soon as possible and that tournament chess around the world will resume again as soon as it is safe for this to happen. The ratings for April are published and can be found as usual at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Gibraltar and Cairns Cup drive changes on March 2020 rating list

With many of the top players in the World currently focussed on preparing for the Candidates, the month of February saw limited activity amongst the elite men players. Results from the 2020 Gibraltar Masters were rated this month however and did result in rating boosts for some emerging players that recorded good results.

The Gibraltar tournament was ultimately won by Russian Grandmaster David Paravyan who rose 25 places and is now ranked inside the top 150. His younger compatriot, GM Andrey Esipenko also benefitted from a strong performance in Gibraltar which has seen him rise 23 places to sit at number 112.


GM Tan Zhongyi won the ladies section in Gibraltar and improved her global rank by 36 places to find herself ranked 9th on the ladies list. The Cairns Cup in St Louis was the other major event for the elite woman and was won by Indian GM Humpy Koneru. Humpy has been in good form recently and this latest victory in a distinguished career has seen her further consolidate her place amongst the top 5 on the ladies ranking list.

The ratings for March 2020 have been published and can be accessed as always at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Caruana closes gap after victory at Tata Steel

Victory at the 2020 Tata Steel Masters has seen GM Fabiano Caruana narrow the gap considerably at the top of the February URS rating list. The top 5 rated players now consist of Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Ding Liren, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Fabiano Caruana and these 5 have started to open a sizeable gap at the top of the standings. They are the only players to currently command a URS rating over 2790 while GM Wesley So from the USA is the only other player with a rating above 2780.


Amongst the top ladies, GM Ju Wenjun has kept her place as World number 2 after retaining her Woman’s World Champion title in a closely fought match against GM Aleksandra Goryachkina. The top performer amongst the emerging juniors at Tata Steel was GM Vincent Keymer from Germany and he has improved his ranking by over 100 places after a strong showing in the Challengers section in Wijk aan Zee.

The majority of the other participants at the Tata event performed close to their rating expectations and this has resulted in a fairly stable month at the top of the standings. The results from the Gibraltar Masters tournament did not make the final cut-off for inclusion in the February rating list and will be rated as part of the March list. The updated standings as February 1, 2020 are now published and can be accessed as usual from http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

The ratings for March 2020 have been published and can be accessed as always at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Juniors end year with strong showing at World Rapid and Blitz

GM Vladislav Artemiev and GM Alireza Firouzja both impressed at the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Moscow and both juniors have ended the year at or near their career high ratings. Artemiev ends the year at #10 while Firoujza has risen to #24 after securing the silver medal in the World Rapid behind world champion Magnus Carlsen.


GM Levon Aronian and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi also ended the year inside the top 10 with Ian benefitting from his victory at the final FIDE GP event in Israel.

Russian GM Alexander Grischuk has also reached a career high of #7 and has virtually secured himself an invitation to the 2020 Grand Chess Tour as a result.

The year end ratings are now published and can be accessed at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

The year end URS ratings are now published and can be accessed at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

URS™ Top 3 will contest GCT Finals in London

The top 3 rated players on the December URS™ rating list have all now qualified for the GCT Finals in London and are set to cash in on the USD 350,000 prize fund that is reserved for the top 4 players on the annual GCT circuit. GM Magnus Carlsen, GM Ding Liren and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will be joined in the showcase event by GM Levon Aronian who finds himself in 8th place on the December URS™ list.

Levon had a fairly wild month in November and recorded a victory at the Superbet Rapid & Blitz in Bucharest and a last place finish one week later at the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid and Blitz in Kolkata.


GM Alexander Grischuk was the other big winner in the month of November. His victory at the Hamburg Grand Prix has seen him consolidate his position inside the top 10 on the URS™ and he now finds himself in 7th place. He has timed his rise well with less than a month to go until the year end list is published and selections are made for the 2020 Grand Chess Tour.

GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda from Poland has also benefited from a strong showing in Hamburg and he has risen to a career high ranking of 20th as he continues to emerge as one of the leaders of the younger generation. GM Hikaru Nakamura also showed his resilience in India and recorded a strong performance which placed him 2nd behind world Champion Magnus Carlsen for the second time in a GCT rapid and blitz event this year. Hikaru has consequently swopped places with GM Fabiano Caruana after Caruana had a relatively poor outing in Bucharest at the start of November.

The December URS™ ratings are published and can be accessed at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Radjabov surges in November after winning FIDE World Cup

GM Teimour Radjabov has surged up the URS™ ranking list and finds himself at a career high ranking of number 10 following his victory in the 2019 FIDE World Cup. This win also saw him qualify alongside GM Ding Liren for the 2019 candidates tournament. GM Aleksander Grischuk and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also benefited from deep runs at the event and have further improved their rankings within the top 10.


The Fischer Random World Championship ended on November 2nd in Norway and the results from the semi-finals and finals which were played over the board will be incorporated within the URS™ rating list next month. The new Fischer Random World Champion, GM Wesley So will no doubt be the main beneficiary from this event.

The vast majority of the top players will be playing actively in November with two GCT tournaments scheduled to be held in Bucharest and Kolkata. The FIDE Grand Prix event in Hamburg will also be important for the 16 top players who will start in this field.

The November URS™ ratings are published and can be accessed at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

October changes driven by Chess9LX in St Louis

September was a relatively quiet month as the vast majority of the world elite were participating in the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. Since these results will only be taken into account next month most of the top players have largely maintained their current positions on the October rating list. The notable exception are the 8 participants of the Chess9LX tournament in St Louis who played 14 rateable games each at various time controls. These have been included in their URS™ rating calculations in line with the decision in 2018 to rate Chess960 results provided that these are played over the board and not online.

The player to benefit the most was GM Peter Svidler who returns to the top 20 after recording a comfortable match win against GM Leinier Dominguez. GM Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So also recorded small rating gains from their respective victories against GM’s Aronian, Topalov and Kasparov.


On the women’s side, most of the top players were in action at the 1st FIDE Women's Grand Prix event in Skolkovo, Russia. GM Humpy Koneru won this event in impressive style and the result has seen her world ranking rise from #707 to #530 as a result. Humpy is now ranked 6th in the world on the October URS™ Woman’s rating list and will no doubt be eyeing a place in the Women’s candidates tournament after a long period of relative inactivity.

The final 3 months of the year are extremely busy for most players and the results in this period are likely to be crucial for those hoping to qualify as full tour participants for the 2020 Grand Chess Tour. The October URS™ ratings are now published and can be accessed at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Ding rises to #2 after victory in Sinquefield Cup

August was a very busy month and saw the results from the GCT events in Paris (Blitz), St Louis (Rapid & Blitz) and the Sinquefield Cup all taken into account. This has caused a number of noteworthy movements at amongst the elite players with GM Ding Liren assuming the number 2 ranking position after his 2nd place finish in the St Louis Rapid & Blitz as well as his breakthrough victory at the 2019 Sinquefield Cup.


The month was also very positive for another elite Chinese player as GM Yu Yangi has risen to 9th overall after recording excellent 2nd place finishes in both the St Louis Rapid & Blitz and the Belt & Road Open tournament in China. Other top players to record positive movements were GM Levon Aronian, GM Viswanathan Anand and GM Sergey Karjakin while GM’s Grischuk, Giri, Mamedyarov and Artemiev all slipped down the list by a few important places this month.

The ladies and junior lists were less busy this month and still see GM Hou Yifan, GM Wei Yi and IM Zhansaya Abdumalik at the top of the respective lists.

The September URS™ ratings are now published and can be accessed at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

MVL assumes number 2 ranking after victory in Paris R&B

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has assumed the number 2 spot on the URS rating list for August on the back of his score of 6.5/9 in the rapid portion of the Paris R&B tournament. He has hence relegated GM Hikaru Nakamura to third place for the first time since the first URS rating list were first published in March 2018. Hikaru has had a difficult 2-month period which has seen his rating impacted by his 12th place finish in Croatia as well as a first round exit in the Riga Grand Prix and a 7th place finish in Paris. The swop may be temporary as the blitz results from Paris are only due to be rated next month but the September rating list will also be impacted by the key results that are expected from the St Louis Rapid & Blitz and the Sinquefield Cup.


Two wildcards entrants in the Paris R&B event have also benefited from their strong performances and both GM Alexander Grischuk and GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda have seen their rankings advance as a result of their strong showings. GM Anish Giri on the other hand has fallen back slightly and now lies in 15th place overall.

A number of the top juniors continue to make strides forward and this month has seen GM Jeffery Xiong (USA) finally enter the top 100. Jeffery becomes the 4th player under the age of 20 to be ranked inside the top 100 and he currently stands behind GM Wei Yi (22nd), GM Alireza Firouzja (42nd) and GM Parham Maghsoodloo (52nd).

The August URS™ ratings are now published and can be accessed at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Le and Artemiev benefit from June tournament victories

GM Quang Liem Le was the stand-out performer in an otherwise relatively quiet June month and has both improved his URS™ ranking to number 26 on the back of dual victories in the 2019 Asian Continental Open in China and the A Group of the 2019 Summer Cup in St Louis, USA. GM Vladislav Artemiev also continued his steady progress as finally broke into the top 10 for the first time in his career after sharing 1st place with GM Dmitry Jakovenko in the Anatoly Karpov International Tournament held in Poykovskiy in Russia.


The other major event held in the month of June was the Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger but this event had limited impact on the ratings of the participants as most performed largely in line with expectations. GM Magnus Carlsen won the tournament on the strength of his excellent Armageddon results while GM Wesley So was the one player to make some progress following this event. Wesley recorded an undefeated score of 5/9 in the classical portion of the tournament and this has seen him improve his URS™ ranking back to #6.

The July URS ratings are published and can be accessed as usual at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Cote d'Ivoire Rapid & Blitz and Moscow Grand Prix account for changes at the top of the June rating list

The month of June has seen changes at the top of the URS rating list following the inclusion of results from two major events. The Cote dÍvoire Rapid & Blitz and FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow were the most important events that have impacted the ratings of the top players this month.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen increased his lead at the top of the table even further after winning the Cote d’Ivoire Rapid and Blitz. GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave both justified their seedings in Abidjan and both have consolidated their positions as number 2 and 3 respectively after they finished tied for second place behind Magnus in Abidjan.


Only slightly further down the list, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi has now recorded a career high URS™ ranking of number 6 after winning the Moscow Grand Prix. This was despite a relatively disappointing performance in Abidjan only the week before. GM Alexander Grischuk, the man he defeated in the final, has also returned to the top 10 while Polish GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek improved to number 26. Falling out of the top 10 is GM Sergey Karjakin who had a tough time in Abidjan while also suffering a first round defeat in Moscow. Sergei is now ranked at number 12 which is the lowest he has been rated since the inception of the URS ratings lists in January 2018.

The June ratings are now published and can be accessed as usual at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Carlsen extends lead following dominant performances in Shamkir and Grenke

World Champion Magnus Carlsen recorded two of the best performance of his career in the month of April and has extended his lead at the top the URS rating list to a total of 62 points over the second ranked player in the form of GM Hikaru Nakamura. Magnus won both the Shamkir Chess tournament in Azerbaijan and the Grenke Classic in Germany and recorded a combined score of 14.5/18 in the two events including wins against many of his top rivals.


GM Anish Giri was the other winner of a top level tournament in the month but his victory at the 2019 Shenzen Masters in China was offset by a more muted performance in Shamkir where he could only score 3/9. The net result has seen him lose two URS rating points but he still climbed on place to reside at number 13 on the May list.

GM Fabiano Caruana recorded another strong showing in Shamkir and his second place finish at the event has seen him close the gap to world number 3 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to only 1 rating point. GM’s Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov have both lost a little ground in May while GM Ian Nepomniachtchi has risen to a career best ranking of number 7.

Seven of the top eleven players are scheduled to participate in the Cote d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz tournament which will be held in Abidjan from May 8 - 12. The return to rapid and blitz chess is likely to see some further adjustments next month as the players will all be looking to kick start their 2019 GCT campaign with the best results possible.

Artemiev enters top 10 after victory in European Championships

Russian GM Vladislav Artemiev has had an incredible start to 2019 and his victory at the European Individual Championships has seen him enter the URS™ top 10 for the first time in his career. This latest win comes hot on the heals of his success at the 2019 Gibraltar Masters and sees him quickly establish himself as one of the very elite players in the world. A second Russian player that has been making steady progress is GM Nikita Vituigov who has seen his ranking climb from number 44 to number 32 over the course of the last 6 months. His latest success came in the Prague Masters where he ended in clear first ahead of players of the quality of Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Radoslaw Wojtaszek.


On the ladies side, 20 year old Russian GM Aleksandra Goryachkina also had an excellent month and a strong set of results at the FIDE World Team Championships and the European Individual Chess Championships has seen her climb to number 9 amongst the list of leading female players. GM Wei Yi from China continues to lead the list of top juniors in the world and he will be able to test himself against the very best players in the world when he participates as a wildcard in the Grand Chess Tour’s opening tournament in Abidjan at the start of May.

Artemiev and Rapport reach career highs in March URS list

Russian GM Vladislav Artemiev has risen to a career high of 13 on the URS after he recorded the biggest win of his career at the 2019 Gibraltar Masters which concluded at the end of January.


GM Richard Rapport was another standout performer as he dominated his individual encounter against GM Sam Shankland in their Champions Showdown match in St Louis. He has been rewarded with a place inside the top 30 for the first time in his career.

GM Veselin Topalov also continued to show excellent match form in St Louis as he prevailed in a spirited fight against GM Lenier Dominguez. Veselin finds himself back inside the top 25 despite playing only intermittently in recent times.

A little further down the list, the young Iranian GM Alireza Firouzja continues to make impressive strides. He had another excellent month and has seen his URS ranking rise from outside of the top 300 to number 54 in less than 18 months!

The March Ratings are published and can be viewed as usual at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Tata Steel Masters drives changes at top of February URS list

The annual Tata Steel Masters tournament in Wijk aan Zee was responsible for the majority of the changes atop the February URS™ rating lists as World number 1 Magnus Carlsen justified his top seeding to record his 7th victory at the tournament. GM’s Anish Giri, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Ding Liren and Vishy Anand all benefited from strong showings while GM’s Vladimir Kramnik and Shakriyar Mamedyarov saw their rankings slide after difficult events. GM Vladislav Kovalev who won the challengers section was another significant climber this month and he has improved his position by 15 places to rise to a career high of number 105.


The other main event in January was the Gibraltar Chess Festival but the results from this event will only be included in the March URS™ list as the event ended too late to be included this month.

URS™ ratings are expected to be one of the key inputs to the process of selecting event level wildcards to the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. Further announcements in this regard are expected to be made as soon as the final list of 2019 full tour participants is confirmed by the Grand Chess Tour.

World Champion and GCT Champion top the URS™ rating list for 1 January 2019

The first URS™ rating list of 2019 sees the reigning World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen extend his lead after successfully defending his world blitz chess title in St Petersburg and placing 4th in the rapid tournament. GM Hikaru Nakamura also had a good month and consolidated his second place ranking after he earned two bronze medals in St Petersburg and the Title of 2018 Grand Chess Tour Champion in December.

Reigning Woman’s World Champion Ju Wenjun broke into the top 300 for the first time and also closed the gap to GM Hou Yifan to less than 50 points after she added the Woman’s World Rapid Champion title to her impressive 2019 collection. GM Kateryna Lagno (RUS) consolidated her 4th place on the ladies rating list after securing the World Woman’s Blitz title.


A number of top juniors also recorded remarkable performances in the two key events in St Petersburg and have been rewarded for these efforts. GM Danil Dubov (Gold in the World Rapid) and GM Jan-Krystof Duda (Silver in the World Blitz) were unquestionably the standouts. Both have seen their rankings rise to career highs of 22 and 26 respectively. 15 year old GM Alireza Firouzja (IRA) broke into the top 100 after two excellent performances and 14 year old Indian GM Nihal Sarin looks certain to break into the top 300 in the near future after he recorded an excellent 11th place finish in the World Blitz Championship.

The sensation of the ladies tournament was unquestionably the Iranian IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh who earned silver medals in both the Rapid and Blitz tournament. This was enough to also see her collect the prize for best combined score between the two events. Her excellent play has seen her jump up the ladies ratings and she is poised to enter the top 10 with a current ranking of number 11 following her two excellent results.

The January URS™ rating lists are always critical for the World’s elite players as they are once again expected to be used as part of the selection process for the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. The GCT has already announced an expanded format for 2019 and should soon be making further announcements regarding the players that will be offered full tour contracts for the 2019 season.

Top 10 unchanged after quiet November

The URS rankings of the top 10 players have remained unchanged after a quiet November month saw many of the top players take a break from major competition.

With the chess world focusing on the World Championship match in London, the other notable events held in November were the Shenzhen Cup in China and the Woman’s World Championship in Khanty-Mansisyk.


The tournament in China was closely contested and the main casualty was GM Radoslaw Wojtasjek who had a tough time and has consequently dropped from number 24 to 29 as a result.

In Khanty-Mansisyk, Woman’s world champion Ju Wenjun successfully defended her title by winning the final match against GM Kateryna Lagno of Russia. Her victory was enough to see her reclaim the world number 2 position behind GM Ho Yifan on the ladies rating list. GM Lagno held on to her number 4 slot behind GM Anna Muzychuk from Ukraine.

The closely fought World Championship match between GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Fabiano Caruana saw Magnus emerge victorious in the rapid tie-break. His 3-0 victory after the initial 6-6 tie saw both players retain their positions with Magnus well clear at the top and Fabiano consolidating his position as world number 4 on the URS.

Fabiano will be back in action in mid December when he takes part in the season ending GCT Finals against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Levon Aronian. The finals will hence feature the players ranked 2,3,4 and 6 on the URS at the start of the month with only Magnus and GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov absent from the URS top 5.

The ranking list on 1 January will be used as usual as part of the selection process for the 2019 GCT.

Top 10 remain steady after busy October period

A busy September and October saw many of the top players in the world participating in the World Chess Olympiad in Batumi, the European Club Championship in Greece, and the Isle of Man International Chess Festival. Most top players have thus played at least 10 rated games in the month while many played in excess of 20 during the same period. While this led to a minor reshuffle at the top, more significant gains took place a little lower down the October URS™ rating list.


Many of the very top players struggled a little over the period and the month of October sees GM’s Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian, Wesley So and Sergei Karjakin all losing a little ground. They all remain safely within the top 10 at the end of the month however and most should comfortably close out the year inside of the top 10.

GM Ding Liren from China extended his incredible uneaten run to 94 classical games and saw his URS Rating rise to 2790. In the process he has now also recorded a career high URS™ rating of 7th at the end of the month. World Championship Challenger Fabiano Caruana also saw his steady play in the Olympiad rewarded and he has returned to 4th on the URS™ rating list.

Lower down the list GM Teimor Radjabov continued his steady improvement and he now finds himself ranked at a career high of number 17. GM Radoslow Wojtaszek of Poland also rose to world number 24 after a fine Olympiad performance and an even more impressive victory at the Isle of Man tournament. October also recorded the welcome return of GM Humpy Koneru following her participation in the Olympiad as part of the India ladies team for the first time in 12 years. Humpy has re-entered the ladies ranking list just outside of the top 10 but will no doubt remain a force in the ladies game if she starts to play more regularly again.

The focus in November will no doubt be on the World Championship Match in London as well as the Woman’s World Chess Championship tournament which is scheduled to take place in Khanty-Mansiysk in Russia from 3-23 October. Whilst the chess world awaits what promises to be one of the most exciting championship matches in history, the October URS™ ratings are available and can be accessed at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Chess960 results included for October rating list

The URS has published the updated rating list for October 2018 and the month is highly significant as we have now included the results from 4 historical events as well as from the five Chess960 matches played in St Louis, USA in September 2018.


The decision to include Chess960 results was announced last month and has now been implemented with ratings retrospectively updated to also include the results from

1. Carlsen vs Nakamura in Høvikodden, Norway

2. European Fischer Random Cup in Reykjavik, Iceland

3. Nakamura vs Aronian In St Louis, USA and

4. The Chess960 Training Tournament in Moscow, Russia

After further analysis was performed the Fisher Random game results have been incorporated by subtracting a flat rate of five minutes from the actual rate of play to adjust for the increased level of chaos introduced by the variety of starting positions inherent in Chess960 games. This has produced the best fit based on the data available and will be used for the incorporation of future Chess960 games results as well (Rating downloads prior to October 1st 2018 do not incorporate Chess960 game results.)

The ratings of the top 20 players have remained relatively unaffected and the only switch this month is between GM Peter Svidler and GM Anish Giri who swap places and are now ranked at 15 and 16 respectively. GM Dominguez also drops from 17 to 21 after struggling in his individual Chess960 match against GM Levon Aronian in St Louis.

GM Garry Kasparov also makes a welcome return to the URS list due to his participation in the St Louis event but his loss against GM Veselin Topolav has seen him drop to number 55 in the world.

Publication of this rating list including Chess960 results is a significant milestone for the URS and we welcome feedback from interested individuals which can be sent as always to info@universalrating.com

Garry Kasparov shares his view on the addition of Fischer Random (Chess 960) to the Universal Rating System rankings

The Legendary GM Garry Kasparov recently spoke about the addition of Fischer Random (Chess 960) to the Universal Rating System (URS) during the Champions Showdown Chess960 tournament held in St Louis. He explains the thinking behind the decision as well as discussing his views on Chess960 in general.

Watch the full interview below, or at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Lom3VEhiKw11


URS™ to incorporate results of Chess960 tournaments

The Universal Rating System team has taken note of the recent emergence of high level Chess960 tournaments and has commenced a process to develop an initial methodology that will incorporate the results of Chess960 tournament results within the URS™ rating algorithm moving forward.


The following top level Chess960 tournaments have been played within the 6-year window that is currently used by the URS™ to calculate active URS™ ratings. Their results will therefore be retrospectively incorporated into active URS™ Ratings as soon as the most suitable adjustment factor to cater for the increased level of chaos has been determined.

  1. Carlsen vs Nakamura – Fischer Random Match in Høvikodden, Norway from 9 – 13 February 2018.

    8 games at 45 minutes for the first 40 moves and 15 minutes for the rest of the game; and
    8 games at 10 minutes per game with 5 seconds increment per move.

  2. European Fischer Random Cup in Reykjavik, Iceland on 9 March 2018

    498 games at 10 minutes with 3 second increments per move

  3. Nakamura vs Aronian Ultimate Showdown Match, St Louis, USA on 9 Sept 2014

    6 games at 15 minutes plus 2 seconds increment per move

  4. Chess960 Training Tournament – Moscow, Russia from 21 to 22 February 2014

    44 games at 20 minutes plus 10 seconds increment per move

  5. In addition to incorporating the results of the four events above, the results of the forthcoming Champions Showdown Chess960 matches that will be played in St Louis, USA from 11 - 14 September will also be incorporated into the URS™ ratings.

    The Champions Showdown event will feature six rapid games and fourteen blitz games over the five days of play and will contribute another 100 elite level tournament games to assist with the statistical analysis.

    The following matches will take place during the Champions Showdown Chess960 tournament:

    Champions Showdown Chess960 - Player Matchups
    PlayerURS Rating PlayerURS Rating
    Garry Kasparov2734vs. Veselin Topalov2722
    Hikaru Nakamura2812vs.Peter Svidler2758
    Wesley So2794vs.Anish Giri2763
    Sam Shankland2695vs.Maxime Vachier-Lagrave2796
    Levon Aronian2794vs.Leinier Dominguez2754

    As an initial approach, it is anticipated that a time conversion factor will be used to adjust for the chaos introduced by the multiple starting positions inherent in Chess960. This time conversion factor will be used to further reduce the relative weighting of Chess960 results while still taking account of the actual time control used for the games.

    Initial testing has indicated that the implication for most elite players is likely to be extremely minor. No player inside the top 100 is currently expected to experience an adjustment of more than 2 rating points due to the inclusion of the available Chess960 games. Players lower down the rating list may see more significant adjustments but the overall impact on the URS™ system is expected to be extremely small.

    Further announcements regarding the conversion factor as well as the overall implication to the system of including these selected Fischer Random results will be announced once the analysis exercise has been completed. The date of formal adoption will also be announced once the testing is complete.

    ##About the URS™ (http://universalrating.com)

    The Universal Rating System (URS™), is a revolutionary new sport’s rating system designed to assess the relative strength of participants across a wide variety of competitor vs competitor sports or games. The URS™ was developed as the result of a collaborative research project funded by the Grand Chess Tour, the Kasparov Chess Foundation and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The system is the product of detailed research conducted over more than two years by some of the world’s leading experts in methods of rating chess players.

Mamedyarov joins GCT Finalists atop the URS™ September standings

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has returned to the top 5 of the URS™ rating list after winning the Accentus Biel GM tournament and following this up with two strong showings at the St Louis Rapid & Blitz and the Sinquefield Cup. Shak’s URS™ rating is now at a career high of 2796 and his consistency in 2018 has been the key reason for his steady climb up the rankings. World Champion Magnus Carlsen remains well clear at the head of the rankings while the 4 qualifiers for the GCT Finals during the London Chess Classic are all now ranked inside the top 6!


The URS™ rating system is proving its value as a predictive tool as GM’s Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana occupy places 2,3,4 and 6 respectively. Their seedings for the GCT Finals during the London Chess Classic in December are also in total alignment with their standings on the September URS™ rating list. Carlsen, Caruana and Aronian were the three joint-winners of the 2018 Sinquefield Cup while Nakamura was able to maintain his number 2 ranking after his victory at the St Louis Rapid & Blitz was offset by a more disappointing result in the Sinquefield Cup.

GM’s Wesley So and Sergei Karjakin both struggled in St Louis and both have seen their rankings slip as a result. Wesley dropped from 4th to 7th place overall while Sergei dropped two places and is now ranked 8th overall.

The month also saw GM Garry Kasparov drop off the active URS™ ranking list as he has not played again since participating in the 2017 St Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament. Garry is set to participate in the Ultimate Showdown Chess960 event in St Louis next month however and the chess community looks forward to the rare opportunity to watch him play again.

September ratings are now published and available as usual at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Nepo eyes return to top 10 after strong showing in Dortmund in July

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi is now within one spot of a return to the top 10 on the Universal Rating System after his victory at the Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dortmund in July. The popular Russian has been in good form for the last few months and has been rewarded with steady progress back up the URS™ rankings. He will no doubt be hoping to keep this up to ensure he is back in contention for selection for the 2019 Grand Chess Tour.


Another player to keep an eye on is 20 year old Jan-Krzysztof Duda from Poland who has climbed 17 places from 47 to 30 since December 2017. A strong showing in his first super-GM level tournament in Dortmund made it clear that he is comfortable playing with the world elite and he looks set to make further strides forward if his recent form is anything to go by.

On the downside, GM Vladimir Kramnik’s slide continues and he now finds himself at a career low of 14 after some recent poor results in both Dortmund and the Paris leg of the Grand Chess Tour. Kramnik has now slipped one spot below his fellow ex-World Champion, GM Vishy Anand, and both the veterans will need better results in the second half of the year to keep their hopes of returning to the top 10 alive.

Significant changes can again be anticipated in August as the results from Biel, the St Louis Rapid and the Sinquefield Cup are taken into account.

Norway, Paris & Leuven bring changes to July rating list

The month of June was probably one of the busiest ever for most of the top players in the world and saw some complete in as many as 72 games in the month between Norway Chess, the Paris GCT Tournament and the YourNextMove tournament in Leuven! The results of these 3 events have seen a shake-up at the top of the standings which could well prove in time to be significant for the 2019 GCT selection cycle.


GM Wesley So is one of the biggest gainers after his victory in Leuven and his 3rd place finish in Paris. These two results have seen him rise to fourth place on the July URS™ rating list while GM Hikaru Nakamura has also now consolidated his position as world number 2 after winning the Paris tournament. GM Sergei Karjakin also sees his steady play rewarded in Leuven and Paris rewarded and he has risen to number 6 in the world which represents a new career high for him on the URS™

Veteran GM’s Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik both struggled in Paris and Leuven and both now find themselves outside of the top 10. GM Anish Giri also lost ground after ending in last place in Leuven while Fabiano Caruana drops 3 places after his victory at Norway Chess was cancelled out and somewhat overshadowed by his troubles in both Leuven and Paris.

Many of the top players may well take a well-earned break in July before they compete again in the St Louis Rapid & Blitz event as well as in the Sinquefield Cup in August.

Order maintained in May URS™ rating lists

The month of May was very quiet at the top of the world rankings with most players choosing to take a break ahead of what promises to be an exciting month in June. The only changes at the top of the table saw Fabiano Caruana trade places with Levon Aronian and rise to 4th while Wesley So also re-entered the top 10 at the expense of Ding Liren. This means that the Grand Chess Tour events in Leuven and Paris will now feature 9 of the World’s top 10 with only World Champion Magnus Carlsen missing from the mix.


On the ladies’ side, GM Hou Yifan remains firmly on top of the standings while GM Ju Wenjun has maintained her second position after winning her World Championship match against GM Tan Zhongyi in China. GM Vladislav Artemiev and WGM Aleksandra Goryachkina remain the top ranked juniors under the age of 20 on the boys and girls side respectively.

June is expected to bring some changes at the top as the top players will all be featuring in either Norway Chess or the Grand Chess Tour rapid and blitz tournaments in Leuven and Paris.

US Championships and Shamkir Chess results impact the May 2018 URS™ rating List

The May 2018 URS Rating List is published and includes the results from both the 2018 US Chess Championships and the 2018 Shamkir Chess Festival.

The most impressive gain sees GM Sam Shankland climb from world number 111 to world number 84 after his incredible victory with a +6 score in the 2018 US Championships. GM Fabiano Caruana who placed second with a +5 score has also benefitted from this result and has climbed back into the top 5 from his previous ranking of 9th in April.


GM Magnus Carlsen lost 3 URS rating points despite winning the Shakir tournament but has nevertheless increased the size of his lead over GM Hikaru Nakamura who remains in second place despite a disappointing result in the US Championships. GM Ding Liren from China benefited from his second place finish in Shamkir and also returns to the top 10 on the May rating list.

All ratings as at 1 May 2018 can be accessed as usual at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Caruana back inside top 10 after Candidates win in Berlin

GM Fabiano Caruana’s victory in the Berlin Candidates tournament has seen him rise back to 9th on the April URS™ rating list. Fabi has re-joined the elite group of players rated above 2785 and is not just 5 ratings points away from returning to the top 5. The other notable climber this month was GM Ivan Saric who has entered the top 125 for the first time in his career after his victory in the European Individual Championships in Batumi, Georgia at the end of March.


IM Nihil Sarin from India was another player to reach a significant milestone this month as he broke into the top 500 on the URS™ for the first time after securing his second GM Norm in the Reykjavik Open. It now seems to be only a matter of time before Nihil will complete the requirements for the final norm he requires for his GM title. Nihil remains the number 2 ranked under 14 in the world but has closed the gap significantly and is now just a few points behind IM Nodirbek Abdusattorov from Uzbekistan who remains the top rated U/14 junior.

The updated ratings for April 2018 are now published and can accessed as usual at http://universalrating.com/ratings.php

Quiet February leaves URS™ Ratings largely unchanged

A relatively quiet February month has seen few significant changes amongst the top players on the URS™ Rating list. The most significant events that were rated in the month were the Gibraltar Masters, and the German Bundesliga but most players played largely in line with their rating expectations.


Gibraltar has historically been an important event for many of the World’s top female players and this again proved to be the case in 2018. The tournament did result in some movement amongst the top female players and the URS™ now recognises the following as the best 5 female players in the world.

Name Federation URS
Hou, Yifan CHN 2646
Lagno, Kateryna RUS 2576
Ju, Wenjun CHN 2575
Muzychuk, Anna UKR 2573
Kosteniuk, Alexandra RUS 2548

March promises to be another important month with the candidates tournament scheduled to get under way in Berlin on the 10th March. We are now hopeful that our enhanced player statistics will be accessible by the time the April list is published.

Tata Steel results bring interesting changes to February URS™ Ratings

The February URS™ rating list has seen a few interesting changes with GM Anish Giri making progress back towards the top 10. His excellent result in the annual Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee has seen him climb back to number 12 and he is now within sight again of a coveted top 10 spot. GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov also made further progress on the February URS™ list and he now stands at number 7.


The biggest casualties for the month were GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Hou Yifan who both suffered disappointing results in Wijk aan Zee. Fabiano now finds himself outside of the top 10 while Hou dropped 25 places on the February URS™ list and she has now fallen outside of the top 100 players in the world.

The other news for the month of February was that GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Alexander Grischuk and GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov were all invited to participate in the 2018 Grand Chess Tour based on their URS™ ratings at 31 January 2018. The URS™ is also likely to be a big factor for replacements and / or wildcards if any of the 10 invited players decline their invitations to play in the tour as full tour participants..

January top 10 remain stable despite busy December month

A busy December has seen the top 10 players on the URS™ remain remarkably stable despite the large number of important international events that took place during the course of the month. Almost all the top players competed in either the London Classic, the IMSA Elite Mind Games tournament in China or the World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Riyadh.

GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Viswanathan Anand both improved their URS rankings after their impressive victories in the London Classic and in the World Rapid Championships respectively. In the case of Anand, his rating gain was partially offset however by his comparatively poor showing in London. This has seen him end the year ranked at number 11 on the year ending URS™ list.


New players that will no doubt be in contention for 2018 GCT selection include GM Alexander Grischuk (5th), GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (9th) and GM Ding Liren (12th). They will all be in for a nervous wait as the GCT Advisory Board considers their options as part of the 2018 tour selection process.

The URS™ has now completed its first full year of ratings and we are very pleased with the stability that the system has achieved over the course of the initial pilot year. Our focus in 2018 will now shift to opening up the system and making it more transparent. This will hopefully allow many thousands of new players from all over the world to obtain a URS™ rating in the near future.

December URS ratings see few changes at the top

November has been a relatively quiet month for the URS and has seen the top 10 players remain completely unchanged. Neither the results of the European Team Championships nor the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca made a significant difference with most of the top players performing largely in line with expectations.


December promises to be a more significant month however as many of the top ten are scheduled to participate in the 2017 London Chess Classic. The results of this event could have a major impact on their final year-end URS rankings and hence on their selection for the 2018 Grand Chess Tour.

The number of players with an active URS Rating has continued to grow monthly and now stands at just over 275,000 as at the end of November 2017. This number is expected to grow exponentially in the new year once the system is opened fully for the submission of direct tournament results.

Mamedyarov and Caruana make small gains on November URS™ rating list

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and GM Fabiano Caruana both made small gains in the November URS™ rating list after recording good results at the 33rd European Chess Club Cup and at the Isle of Man Masters respectively. The rating gain was enough to see Fabiano return to the top 10 on the URS™ rating list while Shakhriyar has risen back to 6th on the November list.

A comparison of the top 10 players on the November URS™ and FIDE Classic Rating lists sees nine players appear amongst the top 10 on both lists. The exceptions are that GM Vishy Anand is ranked 8th on the FIDE classic list but 13th on URS™ while GM Sergei Karjakin finds himself ranked 9th on the URS but 14th on the FIDE Classic list. Both lists are expected to be relevant for the purpose of selecting the 2018 GCT field and these players will no doubt be looking for strong performances at the 2018 London Classic to try cement their claims for GCT places before the end of the year.

Amongst the top juniors, it is interesting to note that new GM elect Nodirbek Abdusattorov is now ranked second amongst the top U/14 players globally. The only other GM in the group is GM Awonder Liang from the USA. The rest of the top emerging stars who are all under 14 are still chasing the coveted GM title. URS™ currently ranks them as follows:


Name Federation URS
Firouzja, Alireza IRI 2589
Abdusattorov, Nodirbek UZB 2537
Nihal, Sarin IND 2511
Liang, Awonder USA 2488
Praggnanandhaa, R IND 2487

GM Wei Yi remains the top ranked U/20 player with a global ranking of 20. GM Vladislav Artemiev (31) and GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda (51) are the only other U/20 players who are ranked inside the top 100 in the world.

The highest rated female player remains GM Hou Yifan who is ranked at World Number 100 on the October list. The top junior (under 20) is GM Wei Yi at 20th while the best U/20 female is GM Tingjie Lei with a URS™ rating of 2522.

Full details of the November 2017 list are now accessible here

Further URS™ improvements implemented as part of October 2017 rating release

A further set of URS™ rating algorithm improvements have been implemented this month and all historical ratings have been recalculated together with the release of the October 2017 URS™ rating lists. The new version of the rating algorithm is the result of months of further analysis regarding the behaviour of the URS™ ratings. Historical ratings have all been updated for comparison purposes and the new algorithm will be used for all new rating lists moving forward. No further changes will be made to the URS™ rating algorithm before the publication of the 2017 year-end list.

The new algorithm further improves the level of predictive accuracy of URS™ ratings, especially amongst elite players. It has also resulted in a slight upward adjustment for most of the best players in the world. There are now four players with a URS™ rating in excess of 2800 and these players are GM Magnus Carlsen (2867), GM Hikaru Nakamura (2803), GM Levon Aronian (2803) and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2802). A full press release containing a detailed explanation of the latest round of changes to the algorithm is published here


The October 2017 Rating list includes the results of the FIDE World Cup and sees GM Levon Aronian rise to 3rd place on the URS™ rating list after his victory in the tournament. GM Ding Liren, who placed second has also been rewarded with a return to the top 10 on the URS™ rating list. Ding replaces GM Fabiano Caruana whose URS™ rating is negatively impacted by his relatively poor results in rapid and blitz chess. Fabiano has now slipped outside of the top 10 on the URS™ list for the first time since the initial URS™ lists were published.

The highest rated female player remains GM Hou Yifan who is ranked at World Number 100 on the October list. The top junior (under 20) is GM Wei Yi at 20th while the best U/20 female is GM Tingjie Lei with a URS™ rating of 2522.

November will see the release of the upgraded URS™ database which will allow us to present more detailed game information for all players moving forward. Further details on these enhancements will be published as soon as they are available.

Kasparov enters URS rating list at Number 32

The big news for the month of September 2017 is undoubtedly the fact that GM Garry Kasparov has returned to professional chess! His combined score of 12.5/27 (-2) in the St Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament has seen him enter the August URS™ rating list with an initial URS™ rating of 2713. This places him 32nd on the URS™ list as a result of his performance in the first official event he has played in 12 years.


Garry’s initial rating is based solely on his performance in the 27 games played in St Louis and is a reflection of the extremely high standard of the event. All 9 of his opponents in the tournament in St Louis are currently ranked in the top 35 in the world on the URS™ list. Garry consequently enters the August list slightly ahead of GM David Navara which is in line with the final standings in the St Louis event.

Other notable movements in the month include the rise of GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who is now ranked 3rd on the URS rating list after his fine victory in the Sinquefield Cup. GM Levon Aronian also rose three places and is now 4th after his victory in the St Louis Rapid and Blitz event. A notable player who lost ground this month was GM Wesley So who slipped to 8th after his disappointing (-3) performance in the Sinquefield Cup.

Lower down the list, the number one ranked female in the world, GM Hou Yifan improved by 21 places and now finds herself ranked just outside the top 100 at number 106. This improvement was a direct result of her excellent victory in the Biel Chess Championship.

GM Bassem Amin from Egypt also deserves a special mention as his victory in the Abu Dhabi Masters saw him become the first player from the African continent to earn a URS rating in excess of 2700! Bassem is now ranked at 2702 and lies 44th in the world.

The URS™ development team has also been hard at work over the last few months and we will be releasing some exciting new features during the month of September. A full explanation of the new features will be released as soon as these are deployed.

Magnus leads by 59 points as Grischuk rises to #3 on August URS™ list

Magnus Carlsen’s dominant performance at the YNM Rapid in Leuven has seen his lead on top the URS™ rating list grow to a massive 59 points! After a busy month, GM Hikaru Nakamura is left as the only other player with a URS rating of 2800, while GM Alexander Grischuk has risen to a URS™ high of number 3!


Magnus saw his URS rating rise to 2859 after he dominated the GCT Rapid Event in Leuven and won it by a comfortable 3 point margin. His nearest rival Wesley So, can also be more satisfied with his performance in Leuven and he has also improved his ranking as a result to return to the top 5.

The most notable performance in July came from Alexander Grischuk however. He placed second in the Moscow Grand Prix before scoring 3.5/4 in the Chinese league and defeating GM Yu Yangi by a score of 3-1 in their individual match. His combined score of +7 over 17 games in the month of July has seen him continue his rise and he is now ranked as the 3rd best player in the World according to the URS™ list.

Teimour Radjabov, who won the FIDE Grand Prix event in Moscow, will also be satisfied this month and he has returned to the top 20 as a result of his excellent result.

It is also notable that GM Sergei Karjakin and GM Viswanathan Anand both remain just outside of the URS™ top 10 for the moment and both will be looking for strong performances in the 2017 Sinquefield Cup to help them get their year back on track.

Norway Chess and Paris GCT impact July URS Ratings

The Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger and the Paris GCT Rapid and Blitz tournament in France were both rated in June and have had a significant impact on the rankings of the top players according to the URS™ system. GM Wesley So has seen his ranking drop from #3 to #8 after he failed to live up to his normal high standards at these two events.


GM Levon Aronian and GM Alexander Grischuk saw their rankings improve however after they had strong performances in Norway and Paris respectively. They both rose by 3 positions and find themselves ranked at #5 and #6 on the URS™ system respectively.

The importance of Rapid and Blitz results for the URS™ is illustrated by the fact that GM Veselin Topalov and GM Etienne Bacrot fell by 9 and 12 places respectively after the finished in 9th and 10th place respectively in the Paris GCT tournament. Further changes can definitely be expected next month once the results of the ongoing YNM GCT tournament in Leuven are taken into account.

Mamedyarov 5th on June URS™ list after recent impressive form

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has risen to 5th place on the URS™ rating list for June 2016 following his recent impressive results in the 2017 Shamkir Chess tournament as well as the Moscow Grand Prix. With a June URS™ rating of 2784, Shakhriyar now finds himself just 5 rating points short of the Top 4 who still consist of Magnus Carlsen (2851), Hikaru Nakamura (2792), Wesley So (2789) and Vladimir Kramnik (2789).

The recent changes to the URS™ rating algorithm have significantly improved the results for younger players and we are now nearing a point where we will able to open the URS Rating system to allow the direct submission of results for rating purposes. Over the course of the next few months we also intend to provide enhanced access to the underlying database so that players can access the actual game results on which their URS™ ratings are based.


We have been receiving a number of enquiries from all over the world and we thank everyone for their ongoing interest in the development of the URS™ rating system. We know that the system will bring major benefits to both club and national level organisers once fully functional and we greatly appreciate the feedback we are receiving which is assisting us to make ongoing enhancements both to the database and to the algorithm itself.

URS™ improvements implemented as part of May rating release

Since the URS™ was launched in early January 2017, our monthly rating lists have been scrutinized by interested members of the chess public. Some concerns were raised that junior players, playing largely in isolation from the broader rating pool, were receiving ratings that were clearly too high. Based on this feedback, our research team has examined the issue and incorporated improvements into the URS™ rating algorithm. These improvements are incorporated within the May 2017 rating lists.


The URS™ rating calculation uses all available game results from the past 6 years to estimate the playing strength of all members of the population in one combined calculation. Although the procedure calculates ratings for all players (even if they are not connected by any game history), the algorithm was designed to work best for players whose playing history is well-connected within the overall rating pool. This allows the system to make better inferences about relative playing strengths.

To stabilize rating estimates of all players, the initial URS™ algorithm incorporated assumptions about an average player's strength. These assumptions about "typical playing strengths" are particularly important for players without many games or without much connection to the rest of the playing pool. The algorithm did not explicitly account for the fact that the typical playing strength of junior players is very different from that of adult players. To be specific, the original version of the URS™ rating algorithm did not specifically address player age as a factor within the rating calculation.

In the revised algorithm, the typical playing strength is now assumed to be progressively lower for younger players. For example, a typical 7-year-old is now assumed to be about 500 points weaker than a typical 13-year-old, who in turn is assumed to be about 200 points weaker than a typical 19-year-old. The relationship with age flattens out for players older than about 30 years. These updated assumptions were numerically determined from past games played among players of various ages and they do not have much effect upon the ratings of senior players or well-connected junior players. The improvements have a significant impact, however, upon the ratings of many junior players and these ratings are now determined more accurately than before. Most junior players have significantly lower ratings due to the changes that have been adopted.

To enable a more complete historical comparison, we have now recalculated all monthly ratings since July 2016 using the revised algorithm and made these ratings available on the website for inspection and comment. We will also shortly be increasing the level of data that is available on each player's personal URS™ profile page, so that better comparisons can be made over time and between players.

The forthcoming Grand Chess Tour events in Paris and Leuven will feature 14 of the top 15 players on the URS™ rating list as at the end of May 2017. GM Magnus Carlsen remains more than 50 points ahead of his closest rivals but there are now seven players rated above 2780 on the URS™ scale. The top 15 players as at 1 May 2017 are as follows:

Top Open - May 2017
# Player Name Fed Rating
1Carlsen, MagnusNOR2852
2Nakamura, Hikaru USA2793
3Kramnik, Vladimir RUS2791
4So, Wesley USA2790
5Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime FRA2782
6Caruana, Fabiano USA2781
7Aronian, Levon ARM2780
8Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar AZE2777
9Grischuk, Alexander RUS2777
10Karjakin, Sergey RUS2776
11Anand, Viswanathan IND2776
12Nepomniachtchi, Ian RUS2775
13Ding, Liren CHN2771
14Giri, Anish NED2768
15Ivanchuk, Vassily UKR2758

We appreciate the ongoing feedback from chess enthusiasts worldwide, and look forward to the opportunity to make further improvements to our rating system across the remainder of the year.

April URS list sees few changes at the top

March was a very quiet month for most of the top players in the world and the April 2017 URS rating list has consequently seen very few changes amongst the top lists. Our database continues to grow however and we now have more than 250,000 players with live URS Ratings.


The URS™ team used the month of March to further optimise our rating algorithm and we will shortly be publishing details of some important changes that have been made as a result of the analysis that has been performed. We will continue to analyse and optimise the formula as more data becomes available throughout the year.

The changes will be applied to all future rating periods as well as to our historical ratings to ensure that they remain comparable over time. We believe that these changes represent another significant step forward and we will release full details within the next 2 weeks.

MVL 5th while Grischuk and Mamedyarov claim top 10 spots in March URS rating list

The URS™ rating list for March 2017 has been released and sees GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave rise to number 5! This follows his tie for 1st place at the FIDE Grand-Prix tournament in Sharjah and his 4th place finish in Gibraltar.

GM Alexander Grischuk (who won the Sharjah tournament on tie-break) has also risen to number 8 on the URS™ system while GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov finds himself at number 10 after his bronze medal finish.


GM Vladislav Artemiev replaced GM Wei Yi as the number 1 ranked junior player following his two good results in the Moscow Open and Moscow Blitz tournaments.

There were few movements amongst the top female players this month but this is likely to change in April once the results of the Woman’s World Cup are taken into account.

The URS™ team appreciates the feedback that has been received to date and has taken specific note of comments received with refence to the rating of inactive players and of emerging juniors. We are in the process of assessing a number of options which will help us to further optimise the URS™ rating algorithm and we expect to incorporate these adjustments in the April 2017 rating list.

Work is also progressing well to enable the submission of games directly to the URS system for rating purposes and we will make further announcements in this regard in the near future.

Wesley So rises to 4th in the February 2017 URS Rating list

The February 2017 Universal Rating List has been released and sees GM Wesley So rise to 4th place on the URS rating list after his impressive victory at the 2017 Tata Steel Masters tournament. The other major beneficiary amongst the top 15 players was GM Levon Aronian who rose from 11th place to 8th place following a solid +2 performance in the same event. GM Wei Yi also finished on +2 at the Tata Steel Masters and this result sees him replace GM Vladislav Artemiev as the number 1 ranked junior player on the list. January was a quiet month for the top ladies and saw little change amongst the top ranked female players top of the URS rating list.


The top 15 open and female players per the February 2017 rating list are now as follows. The change column reflects individual movements from the January 2017 URS rating list.

Commentators with a key eye will note that GM Vladimir Kramnik has lost 3 rating points on the February list despite not playing any rated games during the month of February. This is one of the key differences between the URS and the ELO rating systems. URS continuously re-rates all players in the database regardless of individual activity during the month and these movements are hence normal for the system. A more detailed explanation of some of the notable changes between the January and February rating lists will be released in due course.

The Universal Rating System – A Performance Rating Across All Time Controls

The URS™ rating algorithm was designed and developed by our research team, which consists of Mr. Maxime Rischard, Dr. J. Isaac Miller, Dr. Mark Glickman, and Mr. Jeff Sonas. The work has been funded for the last two years through a collaborative research project funded by the Grand Chess Tour, the Kasparov Chess Foundation, and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

There are many differences between the URS™ and the FIDE Elo systems. The most striking difference is that the URS™ calculates only one rating for each player, informed by their results at all rates of play from Classical to Blitz (5 minutes per game). This published rating is the URS™ system's assessment of each player's strength at Classical chess (defined as a rate of play where each player has at least 2 hours for their first 60 moves).

Furthermore, the URS™ is a weighted performance rating, calculated across several years of previous game results for all players. Older games are given less importance than recent games, by applying an exponential decay rate. URS™ Ratings are calibrated so that they use a scale comparable to traditional Elo ratings. It is critical to note, however, that the URS™ does not incorporate Elo ratings anywhere within its actual calculation.


Comparison to Elo-based approach

A URS™ Rating is more like a performance rating than it is like an Elo rating.

In Elo systems, each player retains an Elo rating that is incrementally adjusted based on the results of any new games played. It is essential to know what the Elo ratings of the two players were at the time that a game between them was played, since each player’s Elo rating is used to calculate their expected score. This in turn directly impacts how their Elo rating is increased or decreased due to the actual result of each game.

In comparison, the URS™ involves computing ratings simultaneously over a substantial period. The only game information included in the URS™ calculation is who had White and Black, what the outcome was (win/loss/draw), when the game was played, and what the time controls were. It doesn't matter what each player’s rating was in the past, because there is no concept of a rating that is incrementally adjusted up or down.  

Instead of adjusting an existing rating, the URS™ simply includes the new games within the large pool of existing data that it analyses whenever it is time to calculate a rating list. The ratings of every single player in the pool are then recalculated, in what is essentially a complex performance rating calculation, using their entire pool of games within the database. In Statistics terminology, the URS™ involves a time-weighted regularized maximum likelihood calculation, an approach that has solid statistical foundations.

What is a Simultaneous Performance Rating?

Anyone who understands how performance ratings are calculated may now be wondering how it is possible to calculate a performance rating across a large pool of games while ignoring the opponents' pre-event ratings at the time of each game? The solution is to treat all the games as if they were played in one giant tournament and determine the ratings that are simultaneously most consistent with the game outcomes. This cannot be accomplished using a simple formula like the Elo updating formula. Instead, the computation needs to be iterative. This type of iterative procedure is well-established in applied mathematics. In fact, Arpad Elo suggested a particular instance of an iterative procedure decades ago when he developed his rating system. Under this scenario, we assume initially that everyone has the same rating (we'll call it "R") and we then calculate a Tournament Performance Rating (TPR) for every single player across this hypothetical tournament. Then once you have those TPR's for everyone, you recalculate a TPR for everyone, but this time, instead of using "R" as the rating for each opponent, you actually use each opponent’s latest TPR. And then you keep doing this, over and over.

In this way, each time you have an iteration of calculating a performance rating, you obtain a more self-consistent set of performance ratings, which in turn makes the next iteration of TPR even more self-consistent. If you do this for long enough, you will typically reach a stable equilibrium where the TPR's are changing by only negligible amounts from one iteration to the next. When you reach this point, each player's performance rating is consistent with the performance ratings of all their opponents. This can be called a "simultaneous performance rating".

Performance Ratings Explained

This brings us to a major point: what exactly do we mean when we say the URS™ is like a “performance rating”? In fact, there are lots of ways of calculating performance ratings. Some of the ways are simple, and some are far more complex.  

The simplest, most popular, and most easily understood method, is to first calculate the average rating of your opponents across the different games played in a tournament. You then convert your overall percentage score in those games into a rating advantage/disadvantage, and add that positive/negative number to the average rating of the opponents faced, in order to calculate the performance rating.

There are different variations of this calculation (e.g. removing the game against the weakest opponent and so forth) but they typically involve a relatively simple formula that allows you to calculate the performance rating directly. This is essentially how Jeff Sonas’s Chessmetrics simultaneous performance rating calculation worked, years ago. US Chess has a similar but more complex way of computing performance ratings that are the basis for determining provisional ratings. However, the URS™ took a more thorough approach.

There is another way of viewing performance rating, one that is not as easy to calculate using a direct formula. Under this approach, a performance rating is "the rating that would have led to the performed results". We can then consider several possible ratings for our player, assess what their overall expected score would be (with that rating) across all their games, and then pick the rating that yields an expected result that most closely matches what actually happened.

Rather than inventing a specific formula that can be used to calculate ratings directly, like there is for the Elo system and for performance ratings, the URS™ involves a probability model that analyses a large domain of possible ratings for each player, with some ratings being more likely than others (based upon the overall population distribution of chess strength). Across those possible ratings, our system then determines how likely the actual results would have been to occur, and ultimately determines the most likely overall set of ratings, for all players at once, in order to best explain the actual results.

Time weighting adjustments

In a traditional TPR, it makes sense to treat each game with equal importance, since all games are played at nearly the same time. When we extend the concept of a TPR to cover a much longer timeframe, as we have done with the URS™, then of course some of the games were played recently and others were played years ago. It is therefore logical to give the older games less weight than the newer games.

In the case of the URS™ we assign reduced importance to older games through the use of exponential-decay game weightings. The actual decay rate is one of the URS™ system’s parameters and affects how sharply or gradually the importance of older games is reduced. We currently calculate ratings across a six-year history of game results.

Rate of play adjustments

Finally, accounting for different time controls was incorporated into the URS™ in a more universal way than just classifying all time controls as either Blitz, Rapid, or Standard. For each event, we determined the maximum number of minutes each player could spend for their first 60 moves. We call this value "M60", where the "M" can be viewed as being an abbreviation for "Minutes".  

For some time controls it is easy to calculate M60. For example, for "Game in 5 minutes" or "Game in 90 minutes" the corresponding M60 values are 90 minutes and 5 minutes, respectively. This represents the maximum number of minutes each player could take for their first 60 moves (indeed for their whole game).

However, many time controls have delays or increments, where players receive additional thinking time either during, or after completing, each of their moves. In these cases, we assume the maximum time is taken, whether for increment or delay. Since we are looking for the maximum time that can be taken for 60 moves, it is convenient that increments and delays are typically expressed as N seconds per move, since this also means that it takes N minutes for the first 60 moves. Consequently, if we see something like "Game/5 min + 2 sec/move", we can just add 5+2=7, which means that our M60 value for this time control would be 7 minutes.

And finally, where there are time increments linked to a specific number of moves, then these are also counted (provided the increments start before move 60). Consequently, a time control like "40 Moves/90 min + Game/30 min + 30 sec/move" would have an M60 value of 150 minutes. This is calculated as 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, another 30 minutes (maximum) for the next 20 moves, and 30 minutes' worth of increments through to Move 60, so our value of M60 is 90+30+30=150 minutes. However, if the time control were "40 Moves/100 min + 20 Moves/50 min + Game/15 min + 30 sec/move", then the part about "Game/15 min" would not matter for the calculation of M60, since it doesn't apply until Move 60 has already been completed.

Thus you get the same value of M60=5 minutes for "Game/5 min" and for "Game/3 min + 2 sec/move", and our rating system therefore treats these time controls equivalently. Similarly, the two common time controls "Game/90 min + 30 sec/move" and "Game/120 min" are treated equivalently as M60=120 minutes.  

The URS™ uses the M60 values within continuous functions that model the variability of chess results across all rates of play from 5 minutes (blitz) up to 120+ minutes (classical). They are also used to calculate the degree to which individual players' quality and consistency of play degrades as the rate of play moves along the spectrum from classical to faster rates. Player-specific degrees of degradation in quality and consistency of play are expressed as their Rapid Gap (applying to M60=30 minutes) and their Blitz Gap (applying to M60=5 minutes) for each player. A larger Rapid/Blitz Gap means that the player’s quality and consistency of player degrades faster as they play at fast rates of play.

While optimizing the rating system, we determined the appropriate continuous functions to use for modelling the variability of results at any value of M60. Thus we treat "Game/41 min" slightly differently from "Game/42 min" and "Game/43 min", but there are no special considerations for these particular rates of play, just as there is nothing special about the treatment of "Game/9 min" versus "Game/10 min" versus "Game/11 min" in our system. They are all treated smoothly across the full spectrum of time controls. By contrast, "Game/9 min" versus "Game/10 min" versus "Game/11 min" are handled completely differently in the Elo system, as some of these games go into the Rapid rating system while others go into the Blitz rating system.

From the perspective of the URS™, the only special points on the spectrum of time controls are at M60=5 minutes and at M60=120 minutes. The URS™ currently does not rate any lightning/bullet results played at faster than "Game/5 min". And all games played at time controls of game in 120 minutes or more (i.e. all classical games) are treated as M60=120. Any slower time controls of play for games that can take longer than 2 hours for each player are thus treated equivalently to "Game/120 min" in the rating calculation.  

On the surface, it might seem like a bad idea to mix together a large number of rapid and blitz results with a relatively small number of classical results, when the ultimate goal is to calculate a rating that accurately measures classical chess skill. Indeed, the greater unpredictability of faster chess does mean there is less information to be learned from one rapid or blitz result than from one classical result.

Nevertheless, the URS™ recognizes that there is useful information about a player’s over-the-board strength in all game results regardless of the time limit, and can therefore more effectively estimate a player’s classical chess strength by also considering their results in games played at faster time controls. As the speed of play increases, the URS™ assigns less and less importance to the game results relative to games played at slower time controls. In this way, we gain useful information about players’ classical chess skill without being overwhelmed by the volatility or volume of rapid and blitz games.

We will be providing more details about the rating system in due course, but hopefully this provides an interesting and informative introduction for now.

We welcome all constructive comments that can help us improve moving forward.

Download the full press release here.

URS™: Universally Better Than Elo

We expect some people to challenge the notion that games played at slow time controls can be mixed together with faster games within a single rating system. One commonly-held (though admittedly subjective) belief is that classical chess is categorically different from rapid chess and even more different from blitz chess and the three types of chess ought to be kept separate.

There is another way to think about this, however. What if classical and rapid and blitz aren’t that different from each other? What if they all reveal information about a player’s universal chess ability, with the understanding that games become more chaotic and less informative as the rate of play speeds up?


If you accept this concept, then perhaps there is a way to effectively combine over-the-board games from all time controls into a single rating system, to use a single pool of data for analysis, and to create a single “universal” rating for each player. How could we tell, objectively rather than subjectively, whether this is a step in the right direction, or a step in the wrong direction?

If we believe that having three separate rating systems (and hence three separate ratings for each player) is a better approach than having one universal rating system (and one universal rating for each player), then wouldn’t that suggest that the FIDE Elo Standard ratings, calculated only from games played at slow time controls, are a purer and superior measure of playing strength at classical chess than a Universal Rating that has been tainted by games at faster time controls? Similarly, would we not expect that the FIDE Elo Rapid Ratings (calculated only from rapid games) are better at measuring players’ skill at rapid chess than that same Universal Rating which mixes the faster games with the slower games that supposedly require different skills for success? And the same for Blitz? How should we decide which ratings work better?

There are several ways to assess the accuracy of a rating system, but we propose as simple and straightforward a method as you could imagine. We asked one simple question…

"When a game ends in a decisive result (not a draw), did the higher-rated player or the lower-rated player win?"

If players’ ratings were completely random and bore absolutely no relationship to true chess strength, then exactly 50% of decisive games would be won by the higher-rated player. If, on the other hand, players’ ratings were perfectly accurate, then theoretically 100% of all decisive games would be won by the higher-rated player. While this is clearly an unattainable standard, 75% - 80% is a more reasonable goal, and we believed it was possible to design a rating system that would accurately predict the results of decisive games (discarding drawn results) at a better prediction rate than existing rating systems.

Once the models underlying the URS™ were built, we then decided to put our theory to the test. We started by retroactively calculating URS™ Ratings for the past several years on a month by month basis. This generated results which could be directly compared against the three sets of monthly FIDE Elo ratings to see which ratings (from the start of the month when the game was played) better predicted the outcome of decisive games.

We used the same set of URS™ ratings to determine the URS™ rating favorite in all games. On the other hand, we used the FIDE Standard ratings to determine the FIDE Elo rating favorite in standard games, and the FIDE Rapid ratings to determine the FIDE Elo rating favorite in rapid games, and the FIDE Blitz ratings to determine the FIDE Elo rating favorite in blitz games. Since the FIDE Rapid and Blitz rating systems only came into effect in 2012, we decided to give these ratings a one year grace period to settle, and we therefore started comparing results for all months between January 2013 and December 2016.

An illustrative example of the process that was followed is recreated below. This illustration is based on the results at the recently completed World Blitz Championships that were held in Doha from 29 – 30 December 2016.

For the sake of simplicity, we can look at just a partial cross-table which includes just the nine players who were rated 2800+ on the 1 December 2016 FIDE Blitz rating list. We would then sort these players both by their FIDE Blitz ratings and by their URS™ Ratings as of 1 December 2016. This generates the following two tables:

Comparing the tables shows clear differences. For example, GM Vladislav Artemiev was seeded ahead of GM Hikaru Nakamua based on their FIDE Elo Blitz ratings before the event but well behind Nakamura on the URS™ rating list.

Once the actual game results are available, we populate the cross-tables and compare the results. We simply ignore everything below and to the left of the diagonal line since this is a mirror image of the information in the top right. We also ignore drawn games and matchups where the players have identical ratings, since in these rare cases there are no “higher-rated” or “lower-rated” players.

This generates a table where anything shown as 1 in the area to the right and above the diagonal reflects a correct prediction, where the higher-rated player won. Anything that is a zero in this same area is a missed prediction. All of the cells we are disregarding, we have shown in gray, including the decisive results shown to the left and below the diagonal. The correct predictions (the “1” values) are shown in blue and the missed predictions (the “0” values) in red:

So when we use the FIDE Blitz Elo ratings, Magnus Carlsen’s two wins (against the lower-rated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Teimour Radjabov) were correct predictions while his loss to Sergey Karjakin (also lower-rated) represents a missed prediction. Overall there were four correct predictions and five misses, for an overall prediction rate (across this tiny sample of nine games) of 44%. Of particular note were Artemiev’s loss to the lower-rated Nakamura and Mamedyarov’s loss to the lower-rated Karjakin. Also note the extra “X” marks to remind us to disregard any Aronian-Nepomniachtchi and Karjakin-Radjabov results, where the players had the same FIDE ratings, or Nepomniachtchi-Vachier-Lagrave results, where the players had the same URS™ ratings.

When we do the same analysis using the URS™ ratings, the results are as follows:

From the URS™ perspective the Nakamura win over Artemiev represents a correct prediction, as does the win by Karjakin over Mamedyarov. So for this portion of the cross-table, the URS more successfully categorized the players, with a 67% prediction rate. While the dataset is clearly far too small to be drawing conclusions from, the example above should serve to illustrate how we can objectively compare the accuracy of two different rating lists that apply to the same games.

The results clearly only start having significance once we start looking at far larger data-sets. We consequently applied the same methodology to all four groups, and all players, at those recently completed World Rapid and Blitz Championships (Open Rapid, Open Blitz, Women’s Rapid and Women’s Blitz). We found that the URS™ ratings worked better than the FIDE Blitz ratings at predicting the blitz game results and also worked better than the FIDE Rapid ratings at predicting the rapid games.

Below is a high level summary of the results:

In the table above, the rightmost column has a color gradient applied so that numbers near zero are white, while more positive numbers are a deeper / darker blue, and negative numbers (had there been any) would have been red. The deeper blue colors illustrate where the superiority of the URS™ is more pronounced.

Still, that is only 1,667 decisive games. What if we cast a wider net and looked at more games? What if we looked at all blitz games, and all rapid games and all classical games, across the entire four-year period stretching from 2013 to 2016?

We did that and here are the results:

On a consistent basis, from year-to-year, and across all three rating categories, the URS™ rating engine consistently predicted the results better.

By now, you can probably see where we are going with this. Our findings indicate that that URS™ Ratings are better at identifying who is going to win a classical chess game than the FIDE Standard ratings. The (same) URS™ Ratings are better at identifying who is going to win a rapid chess game than the FIDE Rapid ratings, and the (same) URS™ Ratings are better at identifying who is going to win a blitz chess game than the FIDE Blitz ratings.

What does this say about the argument that the three types of chess should be kept in isolation within separate rating systems?

These results suggest that URS™ Ratings are, in fact, universally better than Elo ratings at identifying who is going to win a given game of chess. We would further consider this to be objective evidence in favor of the conclusion that ratings from the URS™ are more accurate across the spectrum of time controls than the Elo ratings from the separate rating lists maintained by FIDE.

From a statistical point of view, it is important to notice whether the results from 2016 were just as successful as those from 2013 - 2015. This is important, because when we optimized the inner workings of the URS™ in 2016, we adjusted a very small number of system parameters (approximately ten) to appropriate values. We did this using a statistical methodology that involved predicting the results of actual games played in the period from 2013 to 2015 and then seeing how well our rating system did at making the relevant predictions. The game result data from 2016 was only used as “out-of-sample” data, meaning that it was never run as part of any comparison exercise until we had completed our full and final rating system design. The behavior and results in 2016 can thus be viewed as being the final test. We will of course continue to monitor the behavior of the URS™ into 2017 and beyond.

The analysis above has only looked at overall numbers across the entire pool of players. However, perhaps the URS™ works well for one segment of the rating pool but not for all of it? For instance, the Elo system is known to work much better when players have a large game history, face each other often, and play more consistently. It therefore tends to function better for the top of the rating pool when compared to the entire pool.

Of course, the top of the rating pool includes only a tiny portion of the games played today. This is illustrated by the pie chart below which indicates the relative frequency of games played between players of different strengths, based on the FIDE standard rating of the lower-rated player in each game.

During the four-year period under consideration, there were barely 4,000 decisive games played where both players were rated 2600+. In fact, there were more than 600 decisive games played by lower-rated players, for every 1 decisive game played between 2600+ rated players. The slice is so small that you can barely see the blue slice marked as “a) Both players FIDE 2600+” in the upper-right of the chart.

We checked each of these ten groups of games, ranging from the elite games played among players 2600+, all the way down to games involving at least one player rated below 1400. We then compared how well the URS™ system did at predicting the winners of all the decisive games played when compared to the same players’ FIDE Standard ratings.

Regardless of whether you analyze the small slice representing the elite games, or the larger slice with the weakest players, or anywhere in between, the cells are all blue across the board. This means that at every level of player strength the URS™ better predicted the results than the applicable Elo ratings. At times, the results were only a little better, at other times they were significantly better, but they were never worse. Not in one single case.

And even though the URS™ is specifically optimized to measure a players’ strength at classical chess, it is in fact at rapid and blitz chess that the URS™ truly shows off its superiority. By including classical results within the ratings that are used to predict rapid and blitz games, we enable our rating system to make better predictions, up and down the rating list:

You may observe that even across four years of results, some of the columns are sparsely populated, having only a few thousand games. This is not actually that surprising when we consider how small the slices were for the highest-strength games, in the pie chart presented earlier in this article.

It may also prove interesting to do a more detailed check of player strength versus more specific rates of play, to see if there were any areas where in fact the FIDE Elo ratings were working better than the URS™ at predicting game results. To get sufficient data to look at this in two dimensions, we combined the strongest categories into one larger “Both rated 2000+” category so that we would have five roughly equal-sized groups of games. We could then see if there were any overall groups of players and particular time controls (or ranges of time controls) where the universal ratings were indeed inferior. The most obvious target would be the slowest time controls, for the strongest players, as that is generally the place where the Elo system works best. Games played at this level are typically less random and most players have stable strengths and face each other a lot. It was hence not surprising when it proved that this was indeed the place where the FIDE Elo ratings held up relatively best. Nevertheless, the cells remained consistently blue, with some areas deeper than others, suggesting strongly that the URS™ ratings are in fact universally superior to the FIDE Elo ratings at predicting game results:

Download the full press release here.

GCT announces 2017 wildcard selections

The Grand Chess Tour today announced their 2017 tour wildcard selections and confirmed that the following three players have been offered wildcards for the 2017 GCT Tour:

  1. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS)
  2. GM Sergey Karjakin, (RUS)
  3. GM Viswanathan Anand (IND)

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi earns his place due to his consistency across all time formats which sees him placed 5th on the URS™ rating list as at 1 January 2017. This earned him selection as the highest ranked player on the URS™ not already picked.

GM Sergei Karjakin was selected as the second highest ranked player on the URS™ not already picked after a year that saw him compete in the 2016 World Championship match and secure the title of World Blitz Champion.

The final wildcard was awarded to former World Champion Viswanathan Anand who is ranked 10th on the URS™ rating list as at 1 January 2017. He also tied for 4th place in the 2016 GCT tour despite only competing in three of the four events in 2016.

GM Levon Aronian was selected as the first alternate and will be invited to join the 2017 tour as a full tour member if any player declines to participate for any reason.

The three wildcard selections join the 6 automatic qualifiers who secured their spots based on their 2016 GCT results or through their average FIDE classical ratings over the course of the 2016 calendar year. The six automatic qualifiers for the 2017 GCT Tour are:

  1. GM Wesley So (USA) – Winner, 2016 GCT
  2. GM Hikaru Nakamura (USA) – Runner-Up, 2016 GCT
  3. GM Fabiano Caruana (USA) – 3rd place, 2016 GCT
  4. GM Magnus Carlsen (NOR) – 1st place, 2016 FIDE Average Rating
  5. GM Vladimir Kramnik (RUS) – 2nd place, 2016 FIDE Average Rating
  6. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) – 3rd place, 2016 FIDE Average Rating

There will be fourteen event wildcards in the 2017 Grand Chess Tour with four in each Blitz & Rapid and one each in the Sinquefield Cup and London Chess Classic. The recipients will be announced in due course.

Download the full press release here.