International Grandmaster

The five original grandmasters of chess,  from left to right: Lasker (seated), Alekhine, Capablanca, Marshall, Tarrasch (seated)

The five original grandmasters of chess, from left to right: Lasker (seated), Alekhine, Capablanca, Marshall, Tarrasch (seated)

The title International Grandmaster is awarded to world-class chess masters by the world chess organization FIDE. Apart from "World Champion", Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain.

It is a lifetime title, in chess literature usually abbreviated as GM or IGM (this is in contrast to FM for FIDE Master and IM for International Master.

GM, IM, and FM are open to both men and women. A separate gender-segregated title, WGM for Woman Grandmaster, is also available, but is something of a misnomer. It is awarded for a level of skill between that of a FIDE Master and an International Master. In 1991 Susan Polgar became the first woman to earn the GM title under the same conditions as the men, and these days most of the top 10 women hold the GM title.

The requirements for becoming a Grandmaster are somewhat complex. A player must have an ELO chess rating of at least 2500 at one time (although they need not maintain this level to keep the title). A rating of 2400 or higher is required to become an International Master. In addition, three favorable results (called norms) in tournaments involving other Grandmasters, including some from countries other than the applicant's, are usually required before FIDE will confer the title on a player. There are other milestones a player can achieve to get the title, such as winning the World Junior Championship. Current regulations may be found in the FIDE Handbook [1].

International Grandmaster titles are also awarded to correspondence chess players, and composers and solvers of chess problems.


Origin and Current Statistics

The title "Grandmaster" was first formally conferred by Russian Tsar Nicholas II, who in 1914 awarded it to five players (Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch and Marshall), who were finalists of a tournament in Saint Petersburg which he had partially funded. The tournament was won by Lasker ahead of Capablanca.

FIDE first awarded the International Grandmaster title in 1950 to 27 players.These players were Bernstein, Boleslavsky, Bondarevsky, Botvinnik, Bronstein, Duras, Euwe, Fine, Flohr, Gruenfeld, Keres, Kostic, Kotov, Levenfish, Lilienthal, Maroczy, Mieses, Najdorf, Ragozin, Reshevsky, Rubinstein, Samisch, Smyslov, Stahlberg, Szabo, Tartakower, and Vidmar.

In 1972 there were only 88 GM's with 33 being Russian. In July 2005, the FIDE ratings list included over 900 grandmasters; see list of chess players and category chess grandmasters for some of them. The increase is at least partly due to the greater ease of travel, which makes it simpler to organize the international tournaments required to provide norm opportunities.

The Grandmaster title retains its prestige because it represents a very high level of chess performance against other titled players. A chess master is typically in the top 2% of all tournament players. A Grandmaster is typically in the top 0.2% percent at the time he or she earns the title. [2]


A player whose ELO rating is over 2700 is sometimes informally called a "super-GM". From 1970 when FIDE first adopted the ELO rating system to July 2005, there have been only 35 players who have achieved a peak rating of 2700 or more. Below is a list compiled by Przemek Jahr. This list however does not account for the inflation of ELO ratings over time, as is evident by the fact that almost all of these peak ratings are from recent years.

Rank Rating Player Date Country

  1. 2851 Garry Kasparov 1999.07 Russia
  2. 2809 Vladimir Kramnik 2002.01 Russia
  3. 2797 Viswanathan Anand 2001.07 India
  4. 2788 Veselin Topalov 2005.07 Bulgaria
  5. 2785 Bobby Fischer 1972.04 USA
  6. 2780 Anatoly Karpov 1994.07 Russia
  7. 2763 P�ter L�k� 2005.04 Hungary
  8. 2758 Alexander Morozevich 1999.07 Russia
  9. 2755 Michael Adams 2000.07 England
  10. 2752 Vassily Ivanchuk 2005.07 Ukraine
  11. 2751 Alexei Shirov 2000.01 Spain
  12. 2747 Peter Svidler 2004.01 Russia
  13. 2745 Gata Kamsky 1996.07 USA
  14. 2743 Ruslan Ponomariov 2002.04 Ukraine
  15. 2739 Evgeny Bareev 2003.10 Russia
  16. 2735 Judit Polgar 2005.07 Hungary
  17. 2732 Alexander Grischuk 2003.07 Russia
  18. 2731 Etienne Bacrot 2005.04 France
  19. 2724 Levon Aronian 2005.07 Armenia
  20. 2724 Boris Gelfand 2005.07 Russia
  21. 2715 Valery Salov 1995.01 Russia
  22. 2714 Loek van Wely 2001.10 The Netherlands
  23. 2712 Nigel Short 2004.04 England
  24. 2710 Alexander Beliavsky 1997.07 Slovenia
  25. 2706 Rustam Kasimdzhanov 2001.10 Uzbekistan
  26. 2706 Ivan Sokolov 2004.01 The Netherlands
  27. 2705 Mikhail Tal 1980.01 Latvia
  28. 2705 Alexey Dreev 2003.10 Russia
  29. 2705 Vladimir Akopian 2005.07 Armenia
  30. 2702 Michal Krasenkow 2000.07 Poland
  31. 2702 Ilia Smirin 2001.07 Israel
  32. 2702 Alexander Khalifman 2001.10 Russia
  33. 2702 Zurab Azmaiparashvili 2003.07 Georgia
  34. 2700 Vladimir Malakhov 2004.01 Russia
  35. 2700 Viktor Bologan 2005.04 Moldova

Title Inflation

Some people have argued that the players currently awarded the title of Grandmaster are not as dominant as those five original Grandmasters were in their day. Three of the original Grandmasters became World Champions, and Tarrasch was regarded as the strongest player in the world in the period between the decline of Steinitz and the rise of Lasker.

This argument says that the title of Grandmaster ought to be reserved for those who, at some time in their lives, become serious contenders for the World Championship, or who have actually held that title. Otherwise, a "super-GM" designation becomes necessary in order to refer to that group, leading to an accumulation of superlatives.

See also