I’ve been having this problem for a while and every answer on the Internet I see is "Oh just dont be too confident.” But that’s not the issue I have as I try my hardest in all my chess games. I’m rated 1600 on average. Lately I’ve been swinging to 1660 as I practice every day. I regularly crush 1300-1500 players and find my favorite games are against those in the 1600 range because I feel it’s the most even of a match for me.

However, when I play on chess.com (I have an account there from when I first started playing) I’m playing 800-900 rated players, and I easily have a 30% win rate. I cannot even begin to understand why the play I see from scholastic rated players trumps that of 1600 rated players without a single doubt.

This must have some kind of outside source, as when I play OTB chess with actual players who are most likely around 800-900 I have no problem beating them and enjoy sharing with them the good/bad moves of the game we played.

Pardon the salt, I know losing is part of the game but it feels pretty awful to work really hard and get good at chess just to be consistently beaten by beginners.

  • 15
    You can't compare OTB ratings and online ratings. Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 8:40

11 Answers 11


A rating of 1600 shows the progress you made since starting that account, but (no offense) it isn't really that high either.

1600-rated players also blunder and make mistakes, even when playing against 900-rated ones. I expect a 1600-rated player to blunder less. A 1600-rated player that drops a queen, or misses a fork, or whatever will still have a difficult time against a 900-rated player.

Comparing your level with the one from your opponents only means that you make less mistakes and less blunders, and are better at capitalizing on the play of your opponent.

It is a bad indicator of who will win the game, at least on these levels. Once you get in the 2100+ rating range, it will say something about the possible outcome.


Well, if your statistics are accurate (and not just based off games you remember), then there are a few possibilities:

1) The 1300-1500 players you play in OTB in your area are overrated. Or

2) The 800-900 players online are underrated.

Also, if you think you're good at chess but are beaten by these players online, are they really beginners? Online ratings especially at a low level aren't always representative of playing strength.


A couple things come to mind: First, you may have a subconscious let down when playing weaker players. Try to concentrate more, and make sure you use your time well against them. Try to stay ahead on the clock.

The other thing is "WHEN do you lose to them"? When I was younger, I was a KILLER blitz player then, and I would often win 10 in a row against even competition that was my level OTB, but I would start to falter after that. Of course, this was not hard-and-fast rule every time, but mental fatigue sets in; and for me, it was around that 10th game. If you are losing to them after having played for quite a while already, that may also explain it.


Since it seems your 1600+ rating is over the board (OTB) and the times you tend to lose to players with ratings much lower than yours is when you play online, I will mention a possibility not raised yet: Playing online is not the same for everyone as playing OTB. I myself suffer from this; I find I'm a stronger player OTB than online. There are other people I've talked to who find this about their play. Not surprisingly, there are also people who say they play better online than OTB.

The following is a bit of speculation about my own issues playing online that might prove helpful - or at least informative - for others. When I'm sitting across from an opponent with a board and pieces between us, the game seems more "real" and I concentrate better. Online play presents a different feel - there's no opponent to see and the board and pieces are just pixels on a screen. Part of my issue may be that I played computer chess for years before I started playing over the Internet; thus I'm accustomed to taking back a move if I miss something in computer chess. Even though I try to remind myself that I can't take back a move, I just don't seem to maintain concentration as well when playing online.


On chess.com, a rating of 1200 is around 70th to 80th percentile of active players in that time control.

So someone 900 or 800 is probably ABOVE AVERAGE in that time control, (50th percentile), drawing from the pool of active players on chess.com, who are probably stronger and more sophisticated than normal people.

Also you might be less used to crazy and aggressive play. You will have to calculate and defend accurately to beat "coffeehouse" style play.


What ratings and at what speed. Ratings are not transferable between different types of chess, organizations doing the ratings, and the speed of the time control.

You might be 1600 somewhere but those 800 people you lose to in their usual arena might be 2000 if they played where you got your 1600.

Compare apples to oranges including time control and where the rating is from.


I don't know why, but 40-50% of the players in this range on chess.com play like 1600-1700 every game of three and then quickly lose one or two in the first few moves for the others. It ruins the entire rating system.

Check their games history, you can easily write a script to detect this or even just eyeball it.

My two competing theories are:

  1. They're using assistance, enjoy this sort of "play", and sandbag so as not to get banned / caught. The site mods DGAF about this level of play, and don't screen here, so it continues.

  2. There are millions upon millions of unknown very advanced players from every part of the world, who for reasons unknown somehow never advance just on the online sites, and also never show OTB anywhere (and most of these typically don't keep accounts active for too long...) Players anywhere in between "I just learned to move the pieces" and "I play solid positional games and never hang pieces" are extremely rare online (at this rating level).

Statistics could tell the difference between 1) and 2) if the sites really cared. They don't, because $$$.

Meanwhile until 1) or 2) is demonstrated true, if you play in the 800-1400 range, your online elo is 400-1000, and you get a "bimodal" feel - either you beat your opponent easily and it's boring,perhaps hitting a stupid "my opponent is losing this in the first 5 moves, there's no way this is unintentional at the rate it happens" sort of game. Or - they'll play uncannily well, (like, perfect 20 move complex endgames with mere seconds per move, couple of low centipawn loss "mistakes" peppered in the opening for spicy...) and almost nothing in the middle.

The only solution that worked was burning the account and starting over with a default 1200. Instant difference, opponents feel human and are easier on average than at the < 1000 ratings. Do this and you won't see nearly any of this weirdness.


You are making a very common and fundamental error. Ratings are not absolute measures of chess ability. They are always and only relative measures of the players playing in that particular forum at that time. Even then they may deceive.

It sometimes happens that a very young player plays a few FIDE rated rapids and gets a modest rating. They then don't play their next rapid until already an IM or GM.

For instance, take a look at Gukesh's rating progress chart. He starts playing FIDE rated chess in August 2013 and gets a standard rating of 1291. He plays his first rapid in October 2013 and gets a rating of 1286. He plays no more rapids until April 2018 when his standard rating is 2401 while his rapid rating has remained at 1286. He plays rapids infrequently and it isn't until October 2022 that his rapid rating gets to within 100 points of his standard rating.

His example is extreme but still happens quite often with strong Indian players.


It's also mathematically perfectly normal to lose sometimes against lower ranked players. I'm not sure what formula you used for your (and your opponents rating) but often it's the case that a 400 rating difference means you with 9 out of 10 games. - That's still quite a few losses, and due to people remembering blunders more than average games, you might see a confirmation bias.

Also at larger elo differences elo becomes less accurate. In Elo rated chess any rating below 1000 is scrapped and you're supposed to reset your rating, otherwise the mathematical underlying principle breaks down.


Two years ago I played a certain player about five times on chess.com. He seemed to rapidly get better. Our last game vanished after a few moves. Looked up his handle and discovered he had been banned for unsportsmanlike conduct. Online ratings are not to be taken seriously.


It's ok. I have lost to 200's in chess and I'm getting close to 900. I also beat a 2200 before, so sometimes it might be perfectly normal.

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