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I was surprised not to be able to easily find this statistic. How many FIDE rated games are played around the world each year?

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I was surprised not to be able to easily find this statistic.

The information is available with quite a lot of work from data which FIDE makes available on its website. The key page is the Ratings Download page. If you are an arbiter and you use a FIDE approved pairing program (e.g. Swiss Manager or Vega) then when you click the button to auto-magically update FIDE player details and ratings it will start by downloading and processing one of the files linked to on this page.

You don't have to be a pairing program to download files from this page. Anybody can do it. For me there are 4 important files -

  1. Download full list of players (not rated included) ... XML format
  2. Download STANDARD rating list ... XML format
  3. Download RAPID rating list ... XML format
  4. Download BLITZ rating list ... XML format

These files are updated by FIDE on an almost daily basis and so reflect data only for the last month. If you want historic data then towards the bottom of the page there is an option where you can select a period and see and download files from that period.

Most months I download the first file above and process it to extract these kinds of statistics in the same sort of way, I guess, as Kaspars Migla who runs the chessratings.top website referenced in the FIDE post in the other answer. If I forget then I download the 3 separate files from the archive. This is obviously more work but the big file isn't available in the archive.

From what Kaspars Migla says:

It is a very rough estimation because only games played by rated players in classical chess are taken into account.

it looks like he just downloads the standard file whereas I download the file with all data including rapid, blitz and Online Arena. So, his figures are likely to be slightly different from mine.

There are a number of things to note.

  1. File 1 (full list of players) is more than sum of files 2, 3, and 4. It contains unrated players and ratings for FIDE's Online Arena.
  2. For each player and rating type, along with the player's rating and K factor, it gives the number of rated games played that player in the period.
  3. Because FIDE update the files more than once during the month you will get slightly different data if you download on different days.
  4. Because these game numbers are for rated games played by a rated player they include each game played between two rated players twice, once for each player.
  5. Similarly, they also include games played between a rated player and a previously unrated player who gains a rating in this period only once. The newly rated player has the game counted in their count, because it was played against a rated player, but the previously rated player doesn't because for them the game was not against a rated player. Hence odd numbers are possible in a sum which is roughly twice the number of rated games played.

How many FIDE rated games are played around the world each year?

OK, so now for the numbers. As I said I download and process the big file for all the players containing all the data rather than the three separate files for standard, rapid and blitz only. I've run some queries on my resulting database.

For each year the four numbers are sum(standard game count), sum(rapid game count), sum(blitz game count), (sum of sums)/2

As explained above the sum(standard game counts) is actually roughly twice the sum of actual FIDE rated games because each game is counted for each player.

As it happens the total number of FIDE rated games did exceed 3 million in 2019 for the first time although just over half were standard and the others were rapid and blitz.

I've given figures going back to 2011, the year before FIDE started rating rapid and blitz.

Year Standard Rapid Blitz Total
2019 3015776 1684486 1338912 3019587
2018 2886482 1382951 1063591 2666512
2017 2786351 1150926 958753 2448015
2016 2629805 907642 785846 2161646
2015 2349963 631590 589853 1785703
2014 2022154 467333 426370 1457928
2013 1873662 313977 338094 1262866
2012 1689346 97722 117587 952327
2011 1569389 0 0 784694

  • Wonderful answer. And I think the very last step is to divide by 2? e.g. 3019587/2 = ~1500000 ? – stevec Dec 5 '20 at 12:00
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    @stevec No. That has already been done. 3019587 = (3015776 + 1684486 +1338912 ) / 2. The question was "How many FIDE rated games?", i.e. including rapid and blitz, not "How many standard FIDE rated games". – Brian Towers Dec 5 '20 at 12:09
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A part-answer.

From FIDE.com:

According to data, collected by FIDE and chessratings.top in 2019 for the first time in history the number of classical games surpassed the 3,000,000 barrier (the sum of individual games by all the players). Last year 174,363 players played at least one game, whereas the total number of games reached 3,009,829. In 2018 this number was equal to 2 882 235 games, in 2017 – 2 785 460, in 2016 – 2 629 460. Since any chess game is played by two people we can estimate the total number of games – 1,500,000. It is a very rough estimation because only games played by rated players in classical chess are taken into account.

So in 2019, the total number of classical FIDE rated games was a little over 1,500,000 (half of 3,009,829 - which is odd since that's an uneven number)

I am not sure whether FIDE includes games where one player is rated and their opponent isn't.

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