Suppose a player with ELO rating X has improved (for simplicity, without playing in tournaments) and she is now actually playing at the level X+N. How many games will it typically take for her rating to reach the level X+N, depending on N? Is there a quantitative research into that?


The way FIDE rating (and rating change) is calculated is described in FIDE Rating Regulations effective from 1 July 2017. For an already rated player the calculations for working out the rating change are given in section 8.5.

From here it can be seen that how fast a rating changes for a given performance depende on the "k factor". This is defined in 8.56:

8.56 K is the development coefficient.
K = 40 for a player new to the rating list until he has completed events with at least 30 games.
K = 20 as long as a player's rating remains under 2400.
K = 10 once a player's published rating has reached 2400 and remains at that level subsequently, even if the rating drops below 2400.
K = 40 for all players until their 18th birthday, as long as their rating remains under 2300.
If the number of games (n) for a player on any list for a rating period multiplied by K (as defined above) exceeds 700, then K shall be the largest whole number such that K x n does not exceed 700.

Here are the relevant sections of 8.5 describing the calculations:

8.5 Determining the rating change for a rated player

8.51 For each game played against a rated player, determine the difference in rating between the player and his opponent, D.


8.54 A difference in rating of more than 400 points shall be counted for rating purposes as though it were a difference of 400 points.

8.55 (a) Use table 8.1(b) to determine the player’s score probability PD
(b) ΔR = score – PD. For each game, the score is 1, 0.5 or 0.
(c) ΣΔR x K = the Rating Change for a given tournament, or Rating period.

As to your question:

How many games will it typically take for her rating to reach the level X+N, depending on N?

Table 8.1(b) is non-linear so as well as depending on the k factor the number of games also depends on N in a non linear fashion. So, you will have to perform separate calculations for different values of N.

Here is an example for N=100. How many games would a player require to draw against players on average 100 points higher to raise the rating by 100 points?

In that case, according to table 8.1(b), PD = 0.36. So, ΔR = 0.14 and the number of games required for a 100 point rating gain = 100 / 0.14 / k.

For k = 10 number of games = 72
For k = 20 number of games = 36
For k = 40 number of games = 18

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    Thank you. However, at least if we are talking about k=10, 72 games typically are played over an extended period of time, so that the player's rating will adjust, which will lead to even larger number of games required. – Kostya_I Jan 9 '20 at 11:25
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    Yep. Ratings are a measure of past performance, not a measure of present strength, so by definition a rating only comes close to reflecting present strength when the player's skill has remained constant relative to their peers. – Arlen Jan 9 '20 at 15:03
  • Or if they play often. Some players don't play ten rated games in a year. Their ratings may never accurately reflect their skill as they improve or again when they get old and lose ability. – yobamamama Jan 9 '20 at 18:30

It depends. Ability changes constantly.
Ratings only reflect performance history not ability per se.

How accurately do you want it to reflect the true ability at this moment?

Are you improving rapidly like many kids do?
Do you play a lot of rated games?

If your strength was not changing and your opponents did not change andor play erratically then ten games would give you a fair approximation, and 100 would give you an answer within the margin of error of all the other factors influencing it.

In your example ten would give you a fair idea and 100 a good one. But it would depend on how big an improvement and what sort of tournaments you played in. Open tournaments against a wide range of opponents is best as in a national swiss open. Playing in small local tournaments only and you might never get a true answer.

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    Another cowardly stalker downvoted a CORRECT answer but left no reason. – edwina oliver Jan 23 '20 at 19:59

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