The Ultimate Guide to Become a Chess Grandmaster

What Does it Take to Become a Chess Grandmaster?chess pieces on a board with article title overlay

  • Opening Preparation: Become an opening expert in various openings; understand your variations and know the theory.
  • Calculation Skills: Improve your calculation methods, systemize your calculation and solve chess puzzles to improve your pattern recognition.
  • Endgame Skills: Chess Grandmasters often outplay their opponents in the endgame; study key theoretical endgames also excel in practical endings.
  • Focus: Chess Grandmasters are professionals with a fighting attitude.
  • Psychological Strength: Develop a never-give-up-attitude, get the right mindset to win your games.

Earning a chess title, especially the grandmaster title, is not a piece of cake. Few make the cut, and those who do go down in history alongside Bobby Fischer. Many people work very hard on their chess, but their Elo rating stagnates. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication in order to get a chess title.

There are around 800 million chess players in the world and only about 1500 of them are grandmasters. Hence, only about 0.3 % of all registered FIDE players currently hold a grandmaster title.

Still, many chess players wonder if they have the potential to become a grandmaster. What are the official requirements to get a grandmaster title? What does it take to become a grandmaster? What chess skills do you need to play at grandmaster level?

One of the most important skills you need both at the board and away from the board is good time management. Here is Super GM Vallejo Pons sharing what he has learned about time management while playing against the very best in the world.

There’s plenty of debate on what makes a chess grandmaster and what it takes to become one. Subsequently, the following article is devoted to the question “What is a Chess Grandmaster?”

Current Regulations To Become A Chess Grandmaster

The chess title Grandmaster is awarded to chess players by the world chess organization, FIDE. Apart from becoming World Chess Champion, being a Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can reach.

Other official FIDE titles are Candidates Master (CM), FIDE Master (FM) and International Master (IM). Many chess enthusiasts often use the unofficial title “Super Grandmaster” to refer to the world’s best chess players with a 2700+ ELO-rating.

How to become a grandmaster checklist

Once a player becomes a chess grandmaster, the title is held for life. There is a Woman Grandmaster title with lower requirements specific to women. However, the Grandmaster title is open to men and women.

To achieve a GM title, chess players usually need to achieve norms in internationally rated tournaments. In order to get 1 GM-norm, a player has to fulfill the following criteria:

  1. The player must play at least 9 games in the tournament (with some exceptions you can read in the FIDE Handbook).
  2. The player has to play against at least two players from federations other than his own chess federation. (with some exceptions you can read in the FIDE Handbook).
  3. At least 50% of the player’s opponents have to be titled-players. On top of that, at least 1/3 (with a minimum of 3 opponents) of the opponents have to be Grandmasters.
  4. The minimum rating of the player’s opponents is 2380.
  5. The Performance Rating of the player who wants to achieve the GM-norm has to be at least 2600.

These 5 criteria are the most important ones you need to fulfill in order to reach 1 GM-norm. Still, it has to be said that there are some more detailed regulations in the FIDE Handbook.

In order to get the Grandmaster title, a player usually needs to get 3 GM-norms (with some exceptions again). In addition, your FIDE rating has to have passed 2500 rating at some point in order to become a Grandmaster.

All the small details aside, it quickly becomes obvious that it is really tough to become a grandmaster. The following example highlights this. Achieving a performance rating of 2600 or more if the rating of your opponents is 2380 means that you need to score at least 7 points out of 9 games.

As you can imagine games at the top level are extremely tense and complicated affairs. Being able to narrow down your options in complex positions is a critical skill you need to master to become a grandmaster. Here is Super GM Vallejo Pons to teach us how to deal with analysis paralysis.

The Youngest Chess Grandmasters Ever

The record for the youngest grandmaster is currently held by Abhimanyu Mishra, who beat out the former World Chess Championship Contender Sergey Karjakin.

Abhimanyu was only 12 years 4 months and 25 days old when he earned his grandmaster title. Sergey earned the Grandmaster title at the age of 12 years and 7 months.

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen is the eighth youngest GM in the world.

How To Become A Chess Grandmaster

Becoming a grandmaster list of Do's and Don'ts

Plenty of skills and attitudes are needed in order to become a Grandmaster. Here’s a brief overview of the most important aspects required:

  1. Opening Preparation:
    Grandmasters usually play various openings or at least different lines within an opening system. What’s more, they are absolute experts in the openings they play. They do not only know about typical plans, idea and tactical patterns in their openings. They also memorize a ton of theory. They analyze their lines very deeply and often know their opening until the middlegame or even endgame.
  2. Calculation Skills:
    Without good calculation skills, it’s nearly impossible to play a good game of chess. Chess is a concrete game and the better you become, the more concrete it gets. If you want to play at a very high level, you can’t rely on general concepts. The calculation is one area of the game in which grandmasters usually perform a lot better than average club players. Improving your calculation methods (e.g. look for forced moves like checks or captures first) helps you to systemize your calculation. Thus, you’ll be able to calculate faster and more precisely.
  3. Endgame Skills:
    Grandmasters often outplay weaker opponents in the endgame. Many club players believe that with reduced material, it is a lot easier to play. However, it is far from that. Endgames are one area of the game where most club players struggle. Grandmasters are familiar with the most important theoretical endgames and plenty of essential endgame principles. Other principles include “Don’t hurry”, “Plus-equal mode”, “Cutting off the King” and more.
  4. Focus:
    If you want to become a chess Grandmaster, you need to be professional. It is important to sit at the board the entire time and focus on the game. Many average club players prefer to leave their board quite often during the game and watch other games or talk to their friends. In order to compete with such high-level players, you need to have a fighting attitude. On top of that, you also need a lot of dedication at home. Playing at Grandmaster level starts with investing countless hours of chess training at home. You need to have a clear study program and be willing to do all the hard work.
  5. Psychological Strength:
    On your way to becoming a Grandmaster, you will suffer many painful defeats. You might be close to a GM-norm and lose an important game in the last round. Losing and failing is agony. Only a few sportsmen can handle it. In order to become a Grandmaster, you need to develop a never-give-up attitude.
  6. Money:
    Last but not least, becoming a Grandmaster is expensive. You need to buy several good chess books, chess DVD series, and chess software. You need to pay strong chess coaches and you also need to travel to tournaments. Usually, the right tournaments are far away. This can require significant time and financial resources.

Train Your Way to Grandmaster Status

The Vallejo Method Chess DVDs

As we’ve seen in this article, a lot of different skills are required to become a chess grandmaster. FIDE’s regulations make it tough to reach such a high level, but also different chess training aspects are extremely challenging.

Still, every journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. Do you want to get some great insights into grandmaster Play by a strong Super Grandmaster? Click here and get a special discount on “The Paco Vallejo Method” by GM Paco Vallejo Pons (2716).

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10 comments on “The Ultimate Guide to Become a Chess Grandmaster

  1. andrew skilbeck says:

    My chess.com rating is 1340 at the moment. haha that’s what happens when you hardly ever play chess.

  2. Eric Stevens says:

    Came here to find out how many IM’s there are in the world and wound up in the middle of an argument about decimals.

    Anyway, here is the CORRECT formula… 3.14159(y” + y = 0, y(0)=2, y'(0)=1) then divide the whole thing by Bobby Fischer’s IQ and you’ll have your answer.

  3. Vincent says:

    He said that it is only for registered FIDE players and he doesn’t say that it is out of 800M.

  4. Travis says:

    How come there are so many but only few are known

  5. John says:

    Sorry, but check your math (or your typing). Even if he wanted to calculate 1500 out of 800M that would be 0.000002, so you were off my 1 magnitude yourself.

    1. KEITH says:

      1,500/800,000,000 = 0.000001875. In order to convert this to a percentage you have to multiply it by 100 = 0.0001875 which rounds to 0.0002%. Mark was correct in his calculation.

  6. Mark says:

    1500 GMs is about 0.0002% of all players not 0.3%! You got that wrong by only 3 orders of magnitude.

    1. Fernando iChess says:

      The author gives the percentage from the total of FIDE registered players, not from all the players in the world.

      1. Mark says:

        Yes but it’s confusing in the context and misleading. The point is what percentage of the total population are grand masters and to show that there are very few.

        1. Lucas says:

          Nah… Just pay attention and you will get it. Not that hard

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10 comments on “The Ultimate Guide to Become a Chess Grandmaster

  1. andrew skilbeck says:

    My chess.com rating is 1340 at the moment. haha that’s what happens when you hardly ever play chess.

  2. Eric Stevens says:

    Came here to find out how many IM’s there are in the world and wound up in the middle of an argument about decimals.

    Anyway, here is the CORRECT formula… 3.14159(y” + y = 0, y(0)=2, y'(0)=1) then divide the whole thing by Bobby Fischer’s IQ and you’ll have your answer.

  3. Vincent says:

    He said that it is only for registered FIDE players and he doesn’t say that it is out of 800M.

  4. Travis says:

    How come there are so many but only few are known

  5. John says:

    Sorry, but check your math (or your typing). Even if he wanted to calculate 1500 out of 800M that would be 0.000002, so you were off my 1 magnitude yourself.

    1. KEITH says:

      1,500/800,000,000 = 0.000001875. In order to convert this to a percentage you have to multiply it by 100 = 0.0001875 which rounds to 0.0002%. Mark was correct in his calculation.

  6. Mark says:

    1500 GMs is about 0.0002% of all players not 0.3%! You got that wrong by only 3 orders of magnitude.

    1. Fernando iChess says:

      The author gives the percentage from the total of FIDE registered players, not from all the players in the world.

      1. Mark says:

        Yes but it’s confusing in the context and misleading. The point is what percentage of the total population are grand masters and to show that there are very few.

        1. Lucas says:

          Nah… Just pay attention and you will get it. Not that hard

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