Regular, Quick and Provisional Ratings

This page provides a brief, non-technical overview of the meaning and use of the terms, Regular rating, Quick rating and Provisional rating.

There are two kinds of ratings, Regular and Quick.  Tournaments are generally called Regular or Quick events depending on which kind of rating will be affected.  Generally, if an event does not say it is a Quick event, it is usually a Regular event.  Even if it does not say what kind of event it is, one can tell from the time controls.

A Regular rating applies to games that can be no faster than Game/30.  That is to say,  the time control must allow at least a half hour for each player.

A Quick rating are for games that are between Game/10 and Game/29.

Games that are less than 10 minutes are not currently rated. These are sometimes called Blitz.

The primary reason for Regular and Quick is that the quality of play can be dramatically different for people when they play a Quick rated event than when they play a Regular rated events.  Having two systems lets you participate in either kind of event without damaging your other rating.  Many players who focus on "slow" chess don't want to risk their hard earned rating on games that, perhaps for them, are too fast.   It is generally considered that people who may excel at one type will not necessarily excel in the other. 

Ratings are calculated the same way for either Regular or Quick events.

Both types have what is called, a provisional period, and hence the term provisional rating.  Provisional ratings are generally written in one of the following formats: 

1543  p7 
All of these mean the same thing, a provisional rating of 1543 with 7 games played.

Once a rating stops being provisional, it is considered to be "established".

So, what we have for possibilities are
    Regular  ratings which may be     provisional or established
    Quick     ratings which may be     provisional or established

Provisional ratings serve several purposes.  The primary purpose is to help determine the playing strength of players who do not yet have a rating.  Provisional ratings are calculated in a different manner "established" ratings.  They are calculated by a weighted average of performance formula.  Using this approach allows a rapid adjustment of the rating based on their results against players of different strengths.  The first 25 games are calculated using the provisional formula.  There is a lot of mathematical theory behind provisional and established rating calculations. 

When someone starts playing rated chess, they may be rusty or a beginner or an already strong player.  Based on observed results, the provisional rating system generally produces a fairly accurate measure of someone's rating.  By the time someone has played about 15 or so games, the weighted average formula usually dampens wild swings in the rating.  Prior to about 15 games, the provisional rating can change dramatically up and down after every game played.  A lot of times people improve quite a bit after their first few games as they get the hang of playing rated chess.  Also, over the course of 25 games, people will figure out if they are playing in to strong or too weak a section and adjust.  Generally they will then start winning about as many games as they are losing and thus setting the provisional rating closer to where they really should be.

Provisional ratings are also used by Tournament Directors (TDs) to help those players figure out what section they should be playing in.  TDs will generally try to avoid having provisional players selected to miss a game when there is an odd number of people in the section.  The object is to help provisional players become established players so that they are playing in sections appropriate to their strength.