About Us

1. What Is The URS?

The Universal Rating System™ (URS™ for short), 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 URS™ is the product of detailed research conducted over more than two years by some of the world’s leading sport statisticians.

2. Rating Systems Explained

The basic principle of any sport rating system is that the difference between the rating of any two participants should serve as a predictor of the expected outcome of a match between them.

Two chess players of equal rating are hence expected to score an equal number of points at the beginning of a match between them. Where one participant is rated higher than his opponent, he or she is expected to score more than 50% while the gap in their ratings should serve as a predictor for the expected score in a match between them.

One of the most well-known systems used in games like chess is the Elo rating system. This system was named after its creator Arpad Elo and has been used in a variety of multi-player disciplines in the past, including in chess, video games, tennis, basketball, scrabble and snooker.

The Elo rating system has been around for more than half a century and was introduced when the world lacked extensive computational power. Its simplicity and ease of calculation were ideal for its time.

The modern era of ultra-fast computers has now seen the development of far superior techniques which can greatly improve the process of selecting elite players for top level tournaments. These techniques can also be used to improve the comparison of the performance of players across age groups, geographical regions and classes throughout the world.

3. Issues addressed by the URS ™

1. Accuracy

The accuracy of many existing sport rating systems is significantly impacted by their inherent simplicity. Dividing events into “classes” and maintaining separate ranking lists reduces the amount of data available for analysis purposes. This is done in cricket where separate ranking lists are currently maintained for Test Matches, One Day Internationals and T20 games. It is also done in Chess where games are currently sub-divided into Classical, Rapid and Blitz classes for rating purposes.

It makes logical sense that a player’s universal ability at a sport can be more accurately predicted by considering all available data rather than only using a restricted set of results. Armed with a player's entire history of results, the URS™ is better able to assess a player’s overall strength and hence yields a far more accurate rating list.

2. Access

Another major drawback of most rating systems is that they are maintained only for the most Elite athletes. Most sport federations simply cannot afford to rate games played between amateur level players if rating fees are charged for these services. This is particularly evident in a sport like chess where the current existing rating list maintained by the world body captures less than 1% of the estimated global population of participants.

Since the URS ™ rating services will be free for local organisers and federations who choose to submit games for rating purposes, we are confident that millions of new chess players will shortly enjoy the privilege of earning a world rating that they can then use to monitor and track their progress moving forward.

4. Our Research & Development Team

Since 2015, a team of academic researchers has been tasked with the design of this URS™. The research and development team is led by Dr. Mark Glickman, Senior Lecturer, Department of Statistics, Harvard University, and chairman of the U.S. Chess ratings committee since 1992, as well as Mr. Jeff Sonas, the inventor of the Chessmetrics rating system and owner of the Chessmetrics website. Both are recognized to be among the leading experts worldwide in methods of rating chess players. The team also includes heavy contributions from Dr. J. Isaac Miller, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Missouri-Columbia, and Mr. Maxime Rischard, a Data Scientist and Ph.D. Statistics Student from Harvard University.

5. Our Vision

We have sought to create a rating system that can be used by a wide variety of sports and gaming communities across the world. We decided to pilot the system within the chess community due to the wide availability of game results data in this sport. We intend to further optimise the system parameters during the pilot phase which is expected to last throughout the 2017 calendar year.

In time, we intend to create a universal rating list that is referenced by all chess players in the world regardless of their level of play or the time controls used during their games. Future URS™ ratings will be based upon our superior mathematical models which will be further optimized using statistical techniques during the pilot phase. In time, the URS™ system is expected to be able to instantly update itself based on results submitted from anywhere in the world.

We are providing access to the URS™ free of charge in the hope that it will encourage more chess players across the world to play in competitive over the board tournaments. It is our belief, that the resulting growth in the number of rated players worldwide will fundamentally change the way that chess is perceived by both potential sponsors and national sporting bodies.

We fully intend to add additional functionalities to our website on an ongoing basis as we seek to continuously improve the experience of our users.

We therefore welcome all feedback, comments and suggestions which can help us to achieve this goal.

6. The URS™ Explained

Unlike Elo based systems, the URS™ calculates a single overall rating for every chess player which is optimized to represent their strength at classical chess based upon their game results across all time controls.

Our research indicates that incorporating both slow and fast-play results provides better information regarding a player’s overall chess ability. The enlarged pool of data aids the overall accuracy of the rating system and improves our ability to estimate the strength of a player at classical time limits.

The underlying probability model treats faster games as progressively more chaotic. Consequently, the result of a single rapid game is considered less informative about a player's strength than a single classical game, while a single blitz game is even less so.

Games played at all time controls are therefore assigned appropriate levels of importance in the overall calculation, yielding ratings that are significantly more accurate (better at predicting upcoming results) than any of the three individual ratings that are produced by the Elo system.

The URS ™ considers the entire history of over-the-board games going back several years and iteratively calculates a "performance rating" simultaneously for all players in the rating pool. This yields a set of player ratings that best matches the observed results and is thus a better predictor for future game results.

7. Rapid and Blitz "Gaps" Explained

Published URS™ Ratings represent the system's assessment of a player's strength at Classical chess. The URS™ then assumes that the quality and consistency of play will degrade as time controls reduce across the spectrum from Classical to Rapid to Blitz chess. The magnitude of this decline differs from player to player and is displayed as their Rapid and Blitz Gaps.

Rapid Gap = the Universal Rating advantage the player would need for a 50% expected score in rapid (Game in 30 minutes each) against an opponent whose quality and consistency of play do not worsen at quicker time controls.

Blitz Gap = the Universal Rating advantage the player would need for a 50% expected score in blitz (Game in 5 minutes each) against an opponent whose quality and consistency of play do not worsen at quicker time controls.

These secondary numbers are utilized within the URS™ to make precise predictions related to the likely results of games played at any time control.