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So I usually play on Lichess now a days while my friend plays on Chess.com. He keeps telling me that Chess.com is harder and has more players and more serious players, therefore the games are harder and players are better than on Lichess. He thereby claims that games are easier on Lichess than on Chess.com.

For me this claim makes no sense because both sites use the same ELO algorithm, which is a mathematical object, independent of which players play on which site. If my strength is X on Chess.com then my strength shall be X on Lichess, as well. The rating number could be different since that can be manually magnified, but the strength of a player cannot be magnified obviously.

Who is right and who is wrong? What arguments would you guys provide to my friend ,or to me for that matter?

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    Elo is a mathematical object that is completely dependent on the players on the site. It measures your strength relative to the other players on the site and nothing else. Feb 11 at 17:22
  • My ating is about 300 points higher on lichess than chess.com ... for whats it worth ... May 27 at 14:00
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Lichess recently added a concise explanation to its site:

Chess rating systems

Important points:

  • Chess.com uses the Glicko-1 algorithm with an initial rating of 1200.
  • Lichess uses the Glicko-2 algorithm with an initial rating of 1500.
  • Neither of them uses the Elo algorithm (not ELO - it's not an abbreviation).
  • Furthermore, it doesn't make sense to compare the ratings even if both sites used the same system, as they have different player pools.

If we are just talking of abstracted playing strength, the assertion that one site is "easier" than another still doesn't make sense. Elo and Glicko systems all have in common that if you get matched with players with the same rating as you have, they will on average have the same strength. So even if one pool is better overall, you as an individual wouldn't notice as you would be matched to comparably skilled players on both sites.

Unless your friend is a Super GM, of course.

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    This. As long as you can get matched up with players of the same rating as your own, it does not matter what the top players look like. If you play on chess.com you likely will never play the top GMs, neither on lichess, unless you are one yourself. The only difference it might make is if you want to watch other (top) players play.
    – koedem
    Feb 12 at 14:23
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He thereby claims that games are easier on Lichess than on Chess.com.

If his claim that the players on Chess.com are better than the players on Lichess is true then his conclusion is trivially true.

For me this claim makes no sense because both sites use the same ELO algorithm, which is a mathematical object, independent of which players play on which site

This makes no sense. The rankings generated by a rating system like the ELO algorithm are relative rankings, by definition, not absolute.

No knowledgeable football (soccer if you are from the US) fan would suggest that the team at the top of the Moldovan national football league was the equal of the top team in the Spanish or Italian leagues yet all three leagues use basically the same ranking system. Why on earth do you think chess is different?

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    Also, note that the algorithms 1) aren't elo and the methodology is at least somewhat different (Glicko-2 is what lichess uses, chess.com uses Glicko) 2) such constants as e.g. the k-factor or starting rating are also different
    – pulsar512b
    Feb 11 at 23:14

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