An image of a chess piece wearing headphones.
Image via Chess.com

How to get to Legend in the chess.com Players League (and is it worth it?)

Let the trophy hoarding commence!

Of the many gamification features on chess.com, the Players League is arguably one of the more interesting ones on paper. Rewarding activity and a number of wins rather than rating, it allows players of all skill levels and stripes to progress through a set of divisions and eventually make it to the Legend League, where special events and prizes await—at least, that’s the idea.

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How does the chess.com Players League work?

There are eight leagues in total in the Chess.com Players League, from Wood to Legend, and all active players are automatically placed in the lowest league, with the potential to advance as they play. Each division consists of 50 randomly selected players and a portion of the top advances to the next one at the end of each week. Every division starts and ends at 2pm CT (UTC -5) each Sunday, and every promotion is permanent.

Here are the levels of the Chess.com Players League:

  • Wood (top 20 advance)
  • Stone (top 15 advance)
  • Bronze (top 10 advance)
  • Silver (top five advance)
  • Crystal (top three advance)
  • Elite (top three advance)
  • Champion (top one advances)
  • Legend

You get a varying number of trophies—which I will just call points from now on because that’s what they are—depending on the time control you play (more on that below), with wins earning you more trophies than draws. Finish high enough in your division, and you will advance to the next one. Quite literally nothing will change in your regular play experience, but there is a little bit of a promised land in the final league.

Is it worth it to get to Legend in the Chess.com Players League?

In its current state, it is absolutely not worth the effort. Currently, there are no events whatsoever, prized or otherwise, in the Legends Club, and the latest development was a January 2023 blog post where the chess.com team announced the shutdown of the previous events to rethink the program as the number of Legends players ballooned over 250,000. After some account closures, the player count is just a little above 210,000 at the time of writing, but there has been no development since. It’s all a little confusing because the Legends Club has over a million members, but that’s likely discounting inactive and banned players.

In the past, a monthly Legends Arena offered players a chance to compete in 90-minute 3+0 blitz Arenas in open, U1800, and U1200 categories, with $1,050 on the line plus a couple of one-month Diamond memberships given out to five random participants. Check out the December 2022 results here for a better idea of how it all went down.

So, it’s all basically pointless. If you’re like me, however, and the obsessive-compulsive completionist in you can’t rest until you reach the highest of heights, even though it’s obviously just a stupid Skinner box, there is a fairly easy way to do so.

How to get to Legend in the chess.com Players League

By far, the easiest way to get to Legend (and to earn the maximum number of points) is to play the 30-minute 1+0 Bullet Arena tournaments over and over again. In the lower divisions, when it is easier to qualify and most of the players are not regular players, you can easily advance by just playing a bunch of normal games. But some of the people in Champions, the second-highest division, proved to be similarly obsessive as I am (and with seemingly a lot more free time), so I had to take some time to figure out the optimal way to earn league points.

A quick look at the trophy breakdown, plus a smidgen of calculation (something that should come naturally to you as a fellow chess player) will give you a good idea of what is the right avenue to pursue:

A screenshot of the points breakdown in Chess.com's Players League
Screenshot by Dot Esports via Chess.com

Assuming you play without increment, winning a 1+0 bullet game (which takes a maximum of two minutes) nets you three points. Assuming a 50 percent win rate, since you will be matched against players with a similar rating, that will net you fourteen points for a 20-minute play session. The same time will afford you three blitz games and 12 points, and just a single rapid game, which might get you a whopping 15, should you win it, but five or zero should you fall short.

Clearly, blitz is the least efficient method to gather points, but on the surface, bullet and rapid are fairly similar in efficiency. However, there’s that fourth image: arena tournaments offer bonus points. These bonus points are not clarified, so allow me to explain.

Every single Arena game win comes with a plus two-point bonus. This bonus further increases as you build up a win streak. This means that winning a bullet game in the Arena nets you at least five points. Rapid games, meanwhile, only increase from 15 to 17 at the baseline. Better still, draws are also affected, meaning you get two points instead of one as the baseline for a drawn bullet game in an Arena. Going from three to five almost doubles your points haul—and better still, not many in the Players League take advantage of this.

You might be worried that the tournament setting will tank your win rate. Thankfully (and bafflingly), Chess.com’s Arena tournaments pair players based on their rating, not their tournament score, meaning you will always end up playing relatively closely matched opponents. (To me, this is nonsensical since the big reward for performing well in a tournament is a chance to play against higher-rated opposition, and the pick-me-up for a poor start is a chance to beat up on inferior competitors, but hey, how else would a 369-rated player win an Arena event?)

That being said, Rapid Arena tournaments (10+0, 2 hours) are also worth considering, but only under specific circumstances. If you are a relatively higher-rated player—think 1800 and above—and you are playing in a timeslot where there aren’t many players, you will get the opportunity to play down: The relatively quick games and the sky-high win rate would make playing the Arena event worthwhile even with the fewer bonus points—again, as long as you can play against weaker opponents. Otherwise, grinding a couple of bullet events is the way to go.

One more thing: sandbagging, throwing games, playing multiple matches at the same time or outright cheating are all no-nos and can get your trophy count reset or lead to the closure of your account. But you would never do such a thing, would you?

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, getting to Legend in the chess.com Players League offers you little to nothing right now—but hopefully, should that change in the future, you will be right there to witness it.


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Author
Luci Kelemen
Weekend editor at Dot Esports. Telling tales of gaming since 2015. Black-belt time-waster when it comes to strategy games and Counter-Strike. Previously featured on PC Gamer, Fanbyte, and more, Occasional chess tournament attendant and even more occasional winner.