What is the difference between a GM, FM, IM, NM ? (In context …

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    The first three titles you mention are awarded for the lifetime of the player by the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), the international body governing chess. The pecking order of the titles is: GM > IM > FM

    GM = Grandmaster, awarded to a player who earns enough norms by scoring well against other Grandmasters. Must achieve a minimum FIDE rating of 2500 at some point.

    IM = International Master, awarded to a player who earns enough norms by scoring well against other Grandmasters and International Masters. Must achieve a minimum FIDE rating of 2400 at some point.

    FM = FIDE Master, awarded to a player who reaches a FIDE rating of 2300.

    There are also rare occasions where titles are awarded for single events. For more on the norms and requirements, see the relevant FIDE Handbook page.

    NM = National Master, a title awarded by national organizations, such as the USCF for the United States, often to a player who reaches a designated national rating threshold (e.g. 2200 for the USCF)


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    Take the weakest Grandmaster around. Hell, take someone much weaker, like a garden variety master. Or maybe even weaker still, like a 2000 rated player.

    Give them not only a month off chess, but bash their brain for that month in some way. Maybe they get blackout drunk every day that month, while subjecting them to some kind of heinous torture like learning bridge for 12 hours a day or something like that.

    The day before the match, they are kept awake for 24 hours and catch a bad cold.

    They will almost certainly beat the 1400 player.

    They’re better than me in every aspect of the game.

    In the openings, certainly. You don’t get to 2500 without having a well-rounded opening repertoire. I know some openings quite well, but I have a pretty narrow repertoire compared to a GM.

    In the endgame, it’s not even close. Endings are mostly about calculation, which is obviously something a 2500 excels at. But they’re also about experience and being theoretically schooled. Any 2500 is going to crush me in that category. It’s the phase of the game where the difference in playing strength is most clearly visible.

    In the middlegame, I can sometimes hang with a 2500 in some positions. I’ve outplayed GM’s in the middlegame on two occasions to reach winning positions. In both cases, I ended up losing in the endgame anyway.

    In blitz games, I can beat 2500s, no problem. Some strong classical players aren’t that strong at blitz. Especially the older guard. In classical games, it’s a long shot. A 400 rating point difference really is a lot in chess.

    And then you get to 2600+, and I get crushed every time in every conceivable position. Those guys are on a different level. Oh, and did I mention some players are rated 2700 and even 2800? Yeah, chess is tough.

    Honestly, it’s nothing special.

    The Grandmaster title is legendary, but a GM is really just a very strong player. GMs don’t approach chess much different from other titled players or masters. They just play slightly stronger moves on average and blunder less often.

    The first time I played a GM over the board was in the Thailand Open in 2009. My opponent was a relatively weak GM (although weak is a very relative term when talking about GMs).

    After 23 moves, I had this position on the board:

    Here, I played 24.Bxe6?

    Why the question mark? Because after 24…fxe6, my plan was to force a draw by repetition with Rg8+ and Rg7+. It’s unclear if I have anything better after the piece sacrifice anyway.

    My opponent played 24…Nf6??, after which I had a winning position that I somehow ended up losing, but that’s besides the point.

    The point is that I lost my objectivity and played a suboptimal move because I had too much respect for the GM title. After something like 24.f5! exf5 25.Rg7, white has a strong attack and is clearly better. I should have simply played the position and not be too concerned about ratings and titles.

    The next time I faced a GM over the board was later that year in the Norwegian Team Championship. This time I was less intimidated, because I had already come to the realization that GMs are human.

    After 22 moves, I found myself in this awkward position with white:

    I’m very passive here, and it’s even black to move. He can consider taking on b5 to create a passed pawn, for instance.

    However, I calmly kept on trying to find the strongest moves, and eventually I managed to get a draw.

    Since then, I’ve played several decent games against GMs, although I still haven’t been able to beat any of them, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen some day. Even very strong players play poorly from time to time.

    I have in recent years had the opportunity to ask two 2700+ GMs about the difference between someone in the world Top 10 and a random strong GM rated about 2600 (roughly world Top 300). Both made it clear that the difference in skill is far greater than merely 165 to 200 rating points.

    • Opening knowledge. The top players all have polished repertoires full of poison with white and rock solid with black. Their laptop contains dozens, if not hundreds, of improvements (novelties) in topical lines.
    • Consistency. Everyone may lose one game, but to stay at the peak, you cannot slump against anyone, certainly not someone rated much lower.
    • Defensive resilience. Elite players have the knowledge, determination and psychological toughness to draw many difficult positions.
    • Technique. Any GM knows how to convert a winning position, but the strongest players will convert even the tiniest advantages.

    Bear in mind that all Top 10 players are strictly chess professionals who literally live on the 64 squares. The typical 2600 GM (excluding up and coming teens) must work to pay the bills, either by teaching chess or a parallel career. Not surprisingly, the elite are able to play a more polished game of chess.

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    As other answers have revealed, the lowest rated GM on the current FIDE list is Vasily Malinin (2100). However, although he did indeed qualify as a GM, there are some doubts as to whether this was achieved fairly as outlined in Polish Wikipedia Wasilij Malinin – Wikipedia, wolna encyklopedia . It is certainly very odd for a player to suddenly appear on the international scene in his late thirties, achieve GM norms and the requisite Elo rating in obscure Russian international tournaments to claim the title less than 3 years later, and then see his Elo plummet for the rest of his career to end at such a low level at a relatively youthful 64.

    By contrast, the second lowest rated GM is Nikola Spiridinov (2141) who did maintain GM strength from the 60s to the early 80s, was Bulgarian Chess Champion in 1969, and continued to be a formidable player for some while after his best years. His current rating is the latest point in a gradual decline, and as he is now 81 it is hardly surprising he is playing, on average, well below his best.

    The third lowest rated GM, Mihai Suba (2151) was, like Spiridinov, a strong GM at his peak (he defeated Karpov!), but he is now in his 70s and clearly his powers of concentration are not what they were.

    And so it goes with most of the other GMs rated under 2300.

    I’ve said a bit more than than the other answers available when this was written as I find the question a little unfair. The GM title is awarded to players reaching the required standard and unlike, say, the world championship title, it is held for life. Most players reach a peak in performance sometime in their 20s and maybe maintain the standard until they reach their 40s or early fifties, then see a slow or even rapid decline. Many players on realizing they can no longer compete as they once did retire from competitive play and perhaps make a living as coaches or writers, but some prefer to play on. The lowest rated GMs are almost all of the latter kind and, as they age, their rating falls. But they are still GMs and, whilst they may not be able to keep it together in strenuous tournaments and, therefore, find themselves losing rating points, they can show their class in individual games.

    It seems to me to be quite unkind and rather destructive to wonder about the current low ratings of elderly GMs as if that somehow puts in to question their hard-earned GM status. Rather we should be grateful that these old pros are still out there playing, and still making themselves available to give the young guys some free chess lessons.

    There’s lots of useful chess content on THE CHESS SPACE

    Edit. It has been pointed out to me in a comment that Spiridinov has died since I wrote this answer. RIP.

    It depends on how you understand playing passively. For those who do not visualize the game in-depth, playing passively means not creating threats in the short or medium term.

    For those who know the game better, on the other hand, playing passively is about not playing with a game idea or opposing the ideas that the opponent tries or may try. It sounds similar, but there is a difference due to the depth and the rival’s activity being part of the concept.

    To explain the point through its premises. In chess, an attempt is made to paralyze the rival game through threats and other logical restrictions on his movements so that when one creates threats, his pieces cannot “come” to solve them. This is known as “piece activity” – or “activity.” Then, when a series of moves are made that do not imply threats or obvious logical restrictions, they speak of playing “passively.” It is like a scale where it is suggested to add weight on the plate that corresponds to us to unbalance the activity in our favor, in the idea that if one does not do this, then the rival will be able to add weight on his plate and unbalance the activity in his favor without opposition.

    But the latter is not valid in every case. It is possible to visualize the game with enough depth to understand that in some instances, the rival may increase his activity but that at a certain point, the resources to continue doing so will run out so that we are left free to develop our activity without opposition. It occurs to me to think of a 100 km race between a car and a bicycle, where the cyclist accepts the race because he knows that the rival’s car consumes a gallon every 40 km and that it is all the available fuel. Incidentally, this is the rationale for many defensive methods against harum-scarum attacks. Still, it is also applicable without an attack involved, in the way that our activity does not paralyze the opponent but because he is immersed into passivity by not allowing him opportunities to develop any activity. This treatment is commonly known as positional asphyxia and is often compared to the attack of a boa constrictor.

    Are there any grandmasters who successfully apply this kind of “temporary passivity” regularly? Of course. Even two world champions (Petrosian and Karpov). I remember Karpov’s games in which his pieces returned to the first rank, and it seemed that they did nothing, but his rival was left in a situation where it was better for him not to try to move anything because it would only weaken his position. Nevertheless, such games are tremendous displays of in-depth chess comprehension.

    Is it the most realistic game of 2022?

    The game deserves praise for its impressive graphics and visuals, plus a great soundtrack.

    In terms of number of moves I’ve seen 1-minute games where each player made well over 200 moves. Those games usually featured a lot of trolling, like moving back and forth in a drawn opposite-colored bishops ending and moving a pawn every 50 moves.

    It can potentially help pay for your school, entirely, for the entirety of both an undergraduate + graduate degree. There are several universities, like the University of Texas at Dallas, or Webster University, that offer full chess scholarships for elite players (minimum requirements typically IM title, but for the top of the top at Webster, you’d need to be a GM).

    In addition, there are several other universities that offer less, but decent, financial support and incentive for titled and/or professional chessplayers, such as Texas Tech, UMBC, Lindenwood, etc.

    So, if you are looking to get into one of these schools, being a titled chessplayer can reward you with (often very high-valued) competitive scholarships. If not, there is no way that a credential like a title in chess could possibly ever hurt an application to a place of higher education.

    Speaking as a former UtD Chess I scholarship recipient.

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    I will offer a fairly non standard answer, based on experience.

    I have been saying for a long time, that there are only two kinds of chess. Correct chess, and incorrect chess. There are moves, tactics, ideas, that get a “2” in front of them (as in a 2000+ plus would play it), and those that get a “1” in front of them (as in, a player under 2000 might play it.)

    You are either playing something the right way or you are not.

    This is an over-simplification, of course, but for the purposes of getting over 2000, it works. Obviously a GM knows things a 2100 does not. But we’re not aiming for GM yet in this discussion, and you certainly can’t if you are playing “1” moves or ideas.

    If you are 1800 and you are stuck, then you are doing something the wrong way.

    You need to find out what those things are. You also need (and this is important) to know what non-chess things are affecting your performance.

    I found a valuable learning tool is going over “mismatch” games. Some people say “go over games of 2700 players”. I say don’t. You aren’t ready to learn from that because those guys are playing on multiple learning layers above you. I say get games where a 2300 beats a 2100. Can YOU beat a 2100 (more than occasionally)? Look at this 2300 or 2400 doing it often as “just business”. HOW is he doing that? See? You’re going to see and hopefully learn from this, from how a person is beating a 2100. What tactics? What methods to gain or maintain an advantage? How to recover from a bad position?

    Likewise a 2500 beating a 2300. HOW is he or she doing that? You get to see technique. Blunders punished. Advantages nurtured to success.

    And what if the lower player wins? That is valuable too.

    If one of these players made such a mistake in a game against YOU, would you know how to take advantage of it? Could you win?

    So, in summary: Find the parts of the game where you are making “1” decisions and fix those elements. And go over “mismatch” games and learn how to punish mistakes.

    Once your game has mostly “2” moves and ideas and far fewer “1”’s, and you learn how to bring it home, you may find you have a “2” chess game, and the rating would by nature have to follow you there.

    This is not true premise to base your cheat accusations on, rating is not everything in chess, I know Russian non-rated players that beat GM’s in the parks regularly, there is even an in-joke that in some parks the Russian GM’s go to find their chess gurus.

    If you judge the game by the best moves played you have nothing, I have a rating of 2200+ and I have played nigh-perfect computer games so that does not mean I am cheating.

    In fact you are very wrong to suggest that cheating can be found in game, in fact cheating can be found if we look at all the factors OUT of the game, the times the player visits bathroom, his clothes, check for wiring, odd behavior, whispering, irregular time discrepancies (lot of time for simple capture), conditions, sponsorship etc.

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