How To Be A Chess Grandmaster: The 3 Simple Norms


Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen Photo credit: The Guardian

The lifelong dream of any chess player is to attain the status of Grandmaster. It is the most coveted title in the world of chess. The respect and prestige awarded to the holders of the grandmaster title are priceless. A Grandmaster title is the pinnacle of chess, second only to the world championship. As every chess player strives to achieve this, it is important to know the path leading to how to be a chess grandmaster. 

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What Exactly Is The Grandmaster Title? 

Before learning how to be a chess grandmaster, it is necessary to know what the title is all about. The title of Grandmaster (GM) is a title that is awarded to exceptional chess players by the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) which is French for “International Federation of Chess.”

Aside from the world chess championship title, the title of Grandmaster is the highest status a chess player can attain. The title is usually held for life by a player and is only revoked in rare circumstances like cheating.From the time of its creation till now, FIDE has awarded 1983 grandmaster titles. However, this number doesn’t include the 3 instances where the grandmaster titles were revoked. 

Russia has the highest number of grandmasters, with 256 grandmasters. The Youngest Grandmaster in history is Grandmaster Abhimanyu Mishra (born February 5, 2009), who got the title at the age of 12 years 4 months and 25 days, beating the previous holder Sergey Karjakin’s record, which had stood since 2002.

How to be a chess grandmaster
Grandmaster Abhimanyu Mishra Photo credit: Chess24

The oldest living person to have held the title was Grandmaster Yuri Averbakh. The latter held the title till he passed away at the age of 100. 

Grandmaster Yuri Averbakh (late) Photo credit: FIDE

How To Be A Chess Grandmaster: What Is Required?

The first part of the Requirement to be fulfilled before you can start your journey on how to be a chess grandmaster is the FIDE Elo rating requirement. A FIDE Elo rating is a method of calculating a chess player’s strength and skill level. 

The FIDE Elo rating format is a sort of leaderboard. This means that the player with the highest Elo rating is the strongest chess player in the world. To get a FIDE rating, you have to be registered with the world chess governing body (FIDE). Then, you build your FIDE Elo rating by playing in FIDE-approved tournaments. 

The FIDE live rating list for June showing the ratings of the world top 10 players Photo credit:

For a player to achieve the title of Grandmaster, they must have had an Elo rating of at least 2500 at any point in their chess career (however, they do not need to maintain this level to obtain or keep the Grandmaster title). 

The rating requirement can be fulfilled even if the player starts a tournament rated below 2500 and then reaches or exceeds a 2500 rating during the tournament but eventually concludes the tournament with a rating lower than 2500.

The second Requirement is the Grandmaster Norm. A norm is a high level of performance in a chess tournament. In many cases, a player needs to acquire 3 Grandmaster Norms to attain the Grandmaster title. 

The requirements before a norm can be received according to the FIDE handbook include: 

1. The player’s rating performance at the end of the tournament must be at least 2600.

2. At least 33% of the player’s opponents must be Grandmasters. 

3. At least 50% of the player’s opponents must hold a FIDE title. 

4. The player’s opponents must have an average rating of at least 2380. 

5. The player’s opponents must come from at least 3 different chess federations, which can include the player’s federation. 

6. A maximum of 60% of a player’s opponents can come from the player’s federation. 

7. A maximum of 66% of a player’s opponents can come from a single federation.

A player can also get the title of grandmaster without fulfilling the above criteria if they win the Women’s World Championship, the World Junior Championship, or the World Senior Championship. 

Helpful Tips On How To Be A Chess Grandmaster 

Becoming a grandmaster is no easy feat. It takes years of intense practice, hard work, and dedication. But don’t get scared. With the right mindset and a good coach, you are sure to succeed. Here are some helpful tips to help you in your grandmaster journey: 

  1. Learn The Basics: The great chess author Irving Chernev once said, “Every chess master was once a beginner.” This means that every grandmaster alive today was once a newbie. They are started by learning the basics of the game. A chess player who doesn’t understand the basics cannot succeed. So to become a grandmaster, you first have to understand the chess pieces, their movements, how to checkmate, and so on. 
  2. Have A Good Understanding Of Chess Strategy: A player who hopes to attain the coveted title of Grandmaster has to devote time to understanding chess strategy. You have to study Openings, Middlegame, and Endgame strategies to improve your chess mastery and prepare you for any challenge that may come your way. 
  3. Play Chess Regularly: Chess is a game that demands a high level of dedication and commitment. If you want to become a top player, you can not afford to slack off on your chess. You must keep playing regularly and learn from your wins and losses. 
  4. Get A Chess Coach: Having a chess coach is very important for a chess player. You need someone to guide you and help you reach your full potential. Every great chess player had a coach while growing up. 
  5. Play Tournaments: How else will you get that Grandmaster Norm if you don’t play tournaments?. You must be actively engaged in chess tournaments as they help you improve your skills and test your abilities against other players.  

And there you have it! Now you know how to be a chess grandmaster. 

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