Top Chess States (Take Two)

by admin on January 16, 2015

I wasn’t completely happy with my post yesterday about the top chess states, because the measure I used (number of players over 2500) is skewed to the very high end of the spectrum of chess players. Half of the states don’t even have a player rated 2500. Also, the statistic is unduly influenced, in my opinion, by a relatively small number of foreign or out-of-state players who may come to a state to study but don’t contribute all that much to the “chess culture” in that state.

So here is my second try at measuring the top ten chess states in America. This time I am using a more democratic measure: Masters per Million. My reasoning is that, first of all, a master (2200) rating is a much more attainable level of excellence than a 2500 rating. The 2200 players may be a better indication of the overall quality and availability of competition in the state. And, of course, computing the number of masters per million people gives the smaller states a fighting chance, as you’ll see.

So here is my revised top-10 list:

State Masters Millions MPM (Masters per Million)
New York 140 19.7 7.11
Massachusetts 47 6.7 7.01
Rhode Island 7 1.1 6.36
New Jersey 55 8.9 6.18
Dist. of Columbia 4 0.7 5.71
Connecticut 20 3.6 5.56
Maryland 28 6.0 4.67
California 158 38.8 4.07
Nevada 11 2.8 3.93
Arizona 25 6.7 3.73


Some comments:

Once again New York finishes first by a narrow margin, but this time its main competitor is Massachusetts, not Texas. What a great rivalry they have going on! In fact, the addition of one more master would put Massachusetts into first place.

Interestingly, the same thing is true of two other states: Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. In those cases the small population base makes the addition or deletion of one master a much more influential event.

Massachusetts could pass New York practically any weekend, because it has several players in the upper 2100s. For the District of Columbia, the #5 player is a provisionally rated player (24 games) named Teofilo Mesa, at 2146. Although that’s a fairly large distance below 2200, the provisional rating means that one really good tournament would be enough to put him over 2200 and vault D.C. into first. Finally, for Rhode Island the #8 player is Cale McCormick, at 2157. I would say it would be a taller order for him to pass 2200, because 43 points is a lot to make up if you have an established rating.

I wouldn’t put too much trust in these predictions, though, because players can also drop off the list by reason of inactivity. The above numbers reflect only USCF members who have played a rated game in the last year.

Other states with more than 3 Masters per Million are Washington, Missouri, South Dakota, Illinois, and Virginia. The big surprise is South Dakota, but you have to understand that the two top players there are GM Alex Yermolinsky and WIM Camilla Baginskaite. They aren’t exactly homegrown talent.

Texas, which was #2 in the count of players over 2500, finishes sixteenth in Masters per Million, with 2.81.

In general, the Masters per Million metric shows that the chess center of the U.S. is still the Eastern seaboard, as all of the top seven states are in that megalopolis. However, positions 8 to 10 tell an interesting story — chess is definitely making a mark in the southwest, too. I’m not surprised to see California in #8, but very surprised to see Nevada #9 and Arizona #10. Somebody is doing something right in those states!

Finally, I’m glad to see California leading New York in total masters, and if I’m lucky I’ll add to that lead real soon.  😎


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Phille January 19, 2015 at 8:15 am

Just to brag a bit:
In Germany there are approximately 20/million players over DWZ 2200.
But as DWZ 2200 > Elo 2200 > USCF 2200 the comparable number would be closer to 40/ million.


admin January 19, 2015 at 10:32 am

This takes the discussion to a whole new level: What is the top chess country in masters per million? We could use FIDE ratings as a standard.

My first guess would be Russia, of course, but they have such a large population that they might fall behind some smaller country with a strong chess tradition… like maybe a former Soviet republic… say, Armenia. Without looking at any data at all, those would be my two top guesses. Does anybody know?


Phille January 19, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Number of Fide-rated players would be pretty much decisive in such a contest. If I remember correctly Germany has more FMs than Russia in absolute numbers!
And I think France and Spain gained a lot of Fide-rated players the last decade. Though those might mostly be youngsters.
Iceland might be a good guess too … I think they must already have more GMs per million than the US has 2200 players per million.


Phille January 20, 2015 at 6:15 am

One final post, then I’ll stop spamming your blog … 😉
has all the numbers to do statistics at least for Fide-titled players/million. It seem like Monaco is unbeatable with 270 F-t p/million. Though Iceland is still going strong with some 150/million.
And I was wrong about Germany having more FMs than Russia, but it is still surprisingly close.


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