I often see this phrase being used in chess articles, apparently used to distinguish these players from professional chess players, grandmasters, etc.

But what exactly are they?

  • What Elo range?

  • Only players associated with a club?

  • Why not call them amateurs?

5 Answers 5


If you call somebody a club player, you not only distinguish him from professionals and masters (though those obviously play in clubs too), but also from hobbyists. And that distinction makes some sense, because hobby players usually don't reach a strength beyond 1500 Elo or so.

So a club player is somebody who is serious about chess, plays rated games regularly and knows something about the game. He is only implicitly not a master (otherwise you'd call him that). Depending on which distinction you want to stress, you might also call him a "rated player" or an "untitled player".

The term amateur is also often used, but of course, depending on context, an amateur can also be a hobbyist or even a non-professional world class player (like, Euwe, McShane, Malakhov …).

  • So the upper limit would be around Elo 2200, below FM title? Dec 24, 2016 at 18:01
  • Yes, more or less. Dec 24, 2016 at 18:12

In general, the notion of a club player denotes some level of seriousness about approach to the game, including studying (at least some opening preparation, and certainly tactics practice, and possibly endgame theory), and occasional tournament play, which may or may not be limited to club tournaments. There are certainly patzers in clubs, and amateurs who don't really care about improving, but that's not what the term is intended to describe. See, for example, Kostyev's "40 Lessons for the Club Player", by which he clearly means instruction for improving intermediate players.


By definition, a "club player" is someone who follows "organized" chess at a club. They attend lectures by professional players, follow their games, read their books, and play (occasional) simultaneous games with the pros, and more often games with other, similarly inclined players.

While the pros are technically "club" players, the term is used to describe people who are below pro, or at least master, level; that is below ELO 2200 or so. These are "serious" players, usually intermediate to strong, because they play "organized" chess at clubs, that are "amateurs" who are not good enough to make a living at chess.


The clue is in the name - "club player" - somebody who plays chess for a chess club. I'm a member of 2 chess clubs in 2 different countries. I'm a club player as are most, if not all, the players I know. Although I recognize a few players on the congress circuit who don't play club chess and whom I wouldn't regard as club players. The lowest rated is about elo 2000.

In the smaller of the two clubs I play for, where we have 4 teams, the lowest graded player who plays bottom board for the bottom team has a grading which equates to an elo of about 1250 and board 1 on the first team has an elo of just over 2200.

The other is a much bigger club with something in the region of 15 teams. The top team has 2 GMs playing for it, round about the 2400 mark, and the weakest team starts somewhere round about the 1500 mark.

None of the players in either of my two clubs makes a living solely from playing chess. Rather several of them earn some money from coaching. In club 2 one of the GMs, an IM and a couple of players round about the 2100-2200 mark earn some money coaching. In club 1 one of the players rated about the 1950 mark coaches.

I also don't think you can limit the definition according to whether or not a player plays international chess. In club 2 I know of one player rated about 1950 who has played in the last 2 world championships for 65+. He is in his mid 80's. Good luck to him. He should continue enjoying his chess as long as he can, but at the end of the day he is a club player.

So, I don't think you can define a club player by his rating, whether he makes money from chess or whether he plays in international championships. There is enormous overlap. At the end of the day a club player is somebody who plays chess for a chess club.

  • 2
    If you look a bit around the term is certainly used to mean something different than a player associated with a club. Dec 25, 2016 at 7:20
  • @user1583209 I think you are confusing "club player" with "club level player". A column called "How good is your chess?" has appeared for several decades now in the major English chess magazine. It features a game in which you are prompted to guess the next move and receive points according to your choice. At the end of the game you add up your points and can see your "level" according to a list which goes from beginner through weak club player, average club player, strong club player, county player through to GM. All county players will also be club players although varying in level.
    – Brian Towers
    Dec 25, 2016 at 9:00
  • 4
    Your example sums up better how the term "club player" is used then your answer: A beginner or a GM wouldn't be called club players, although they might play for a club. The term "club player" is used to describe a playing level between beginner and master. Dec 25, 2016 at 15:43

My chess program (Shredder) assigns Elo levels 1600-1750 for club players and 1750-1900 for strong club players. Tournament players follow with Elo 1900-2050, then experts with Elo 2050-2250.

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