The Top Chess Leagues Across The Country And Globe

Chess is one of those games that has many complexities. As such, it is hardly surprising, that many people spend lots of hours studying and mastering the skill of winning at chess. Chess Leagues of various types and levels happen all across the country and the world, thereby providing chess lovers and players of all walks and experience levels can participate.

Additionally, thanks to the Internet and other technological advances, we have digital chess leagues and competitions that span the globe and are played solely online. Consequently, we include some of those increasingly popular options in our list of top chess leagues you can choose from as well.

The Top Chess Leagues You Should Know About

Official chess tournaments, leagues, and other competitions have been around since the early 19th century and have not shown any signs of slowing down since. Fast forward to 2019 and we have a rich legacy that is continuing to evolve with the times. Below, we take a closer look at some of the best available chess leagues.

1. Professional Rapid Online Chess League

Operated by, the professional rapid online chess league is an online rapid chess league that was previously known as the United States Chess League. The change in name and branding was announced in 2016 after it was decided that the league would be reformatted, less localized, and instead opened to players from cities across the world.

In its first season, the Professional Rapid Online Chess League (also known as PRO Chess league or PCL) had a total of 48 teams participating. These teams included some of the highest ranked professional chess players in the world – including the number one ranked, and reigning champion Magnus Carlson. Over 100 chess grandmasters also participated, as well as other elite players. The 48 participating teams hailed from cities in five of the world’s seven continents – a true reflection of the global experience that the league creators had envisioned when they reformatted the competition.

2. The Chess Olympiad

Sometimes referred to as the Chess Olympics, The Chess Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament organized by FIDE. Like the Olympics, the Olympiad hosts teams and players from all over the world and takes place in a host nation selected by FIDE. Despite the similarities, the Chess Olympiad is not associated with the official Olympic Games.

Still, chess is recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee, and at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, chess grandmasters Alexey Shirov and Vishy Anand played an exhibition two-game match. Currently, an application has been submitted for chess to be included in the 2020 Summer Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan.

3. Chess960 World League

Invented by chess legend Bobby Fischer, Chess960 is a specially designed variation of chess that disrupts the typical pre-planned moves, set of openings, and rudimentary norms within the game. Still, this brand of chess keeps the classic feel of the game. Chess960 (also called Fischer Random Chess after its creator) starts with chess pieces being outside of their typical placements which gives the impression or feel of coming into a traditional version of the game while it was already in play. Based on the position of the pieces on the board, payers are required to figure out their next moves and best ways forward using creative strategies and innovative problem-solving skills.

4. Local and Amateur Chess Leagues

Importantly, many of the popular worldwide chess leagues like the ones mentioned above, also have a local presence in many cities around the world. As such, players who are skilled enough may be able to join a local chess team and participate in the local branches of these leagues. Of course, less skilled players can also participate as spectators so they can learn new skills and improve until they are at the skill level needed to compete. Of course, there are amateur chess leagues that intermediary and beginner players can consider participating in.

Rating Systems: How Chess Leagues Measure Skill and Separate the Best from the Rest

Chess leagues exist because chess is a sport. As is the case with any professional sport, professional chess players are ranked according to their skill levels and competitive success. Chess organizations such as the World Chess Federation or Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), the US Chess Federation (US Chess of USCF), the English Chess Federation, and the International Correspondence Chess Federation all use a chess rating system to calculate the estimated strength of a player’s skill level. Internet-based chess tournaments and organizations like and Internet Chess Club also use rating systems to rank players’ ability.

Chess Leagues and Rating Systems: How Chess Rating Systems Work

In most rating systems, higher numbers are an indication of stronger and higher ranked players, while lower numbers are an indication of lower ranked and less skilled players. The rating or calculation in chess rating systems is heavily based on a given player’s performance in competition with or versus other players. Typically, ratings (or rank) are calculated after tournaments, matches, or individual games. Generally, if a player performs better than is expected, his or her numbers and ratings will go up. On the other hand, players who perform worse than projected will find that their ratings and rank goes down. Popularly used rating systems used across the various aforementioned chess leagues include:

– The Elo rating system
– The Harkness system
– The English Chess Federation system
– The Glicko rating system (created as an improvement to the Elo system by Mark E. Glickman)
– The USA ICCF system (created and used by the ICCF U.S.A. but later replaced by the Elo system as the organization’s system of choice)
– The Deutsche Wertungszahl system (a German system which replaces the Ingo system)

Of course, different professional Chess Leagues and organizations will use different rating systems for a variety of reasons. Still, whatever the rating system used among the different Chess Leagues, it remains true that rank and ratings are based on performance relative to other players – even if the actual numbers are calculated differently.

The Top Chess Leagues Across The Country And Globe
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