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Marc Cressac; Chess Fact-Checked by Marc Cressac | Updated 2022-06-17
Founder of Chessily.com

Grandmasters in Chess: The World’s Best Players

The title of Grandmaster is the most prestigious and highest FIDE title in chess. In this article we’ll be answering every question you might have on the topic of GMs. Let’s go!

What is a Chess Grandmaster?

Grandmaster is an official FIDE title, which is awarded to chess players with exceptional capabilities. Generally, chess Grandmasters have a FIDE Elo rating of 2500 and above, while Grandmasters above 2700 are informally called “Super-GMs”, referring to their supernatural playing power.

The GM title is usually held for life, though it can be revoked by FIDE for gross violations of ethical standards, such as the anti-cheating regulations. A popular example of this happening was Gaioz Nigalidze, a Gerogian Grandmaster who was found cheating with electronic devices hidden in the tournament’s bathroom.

How Good Are Grandmasters At Chess?

It is quite hard to get a grasp for how incredibly good Grandmasters are at chess. Luckily, the Elo rating system provides a good basis to calculate the odds of winning against other players. Let’s do a bit of math!

For the sake of this calculation, we’ll assume that the Grandmaster has an Elo rating of 2600; obviously there are stronger and weaker GMs. At rating differences of 735 and above, the chance of the weaker player winning are 0%. That means, players under a rating of 1835 have a 0% chance of winning, when paired against a Grandmaster. And remember: 1835 is a rating very few chess players even achieve at all!

Even Candidate Masters, which have a rating of 2200 and above, only  win a theoretical 8 out of 100 games against a GM! Against Super-GMs, that number becomes even more crushing: Magnus Carlsen, who has an Elo rating of 2864 (June 2022), has a 95% win rate against your average Candidate Master.

There are less than 2000 Grandmasters in the world. If we assume that 1 billion people have played at least one game of chess in their life, then you could say that a Grandmaster is at least better than 99.9998% of all chess players in the world – incredible!

How Do You Become A Chess Grandmaster?

Well, obviously, you need to be incredibly good at chess! But even then, the process of actually becoming a Grandmaster is quite tedious. Let’s look at the requirements for getting the title of Grandmaster in detail.

  1. You need to have achieved an Elo rating of above 2500 at any point in your career. This is already incredibly hard and not achievable for the majority of people. Crushing, isn’t it? But; if you start early enough, train consistently and have the required brain power, it is not impossible to reach this stage.
  2. You need to achieve at least three norms in viable tournaments. To win a norm, you need to achieve a tournament rating of 2600 across at least 9 rounds, while playing at least 50% titled players and at least 33% Grandmasters. Wow.
  3. Administrative hurdles. And there are obviously some small administrative requirements you need to overcome. First off, you need to be registered with FIDE (which you should be anyway, playing in those types of tournaments), and pay a title fee to the FIDE. But if you’ve got points 1 and 2 down, we doubt you’ll fail at this step towards your Grandmaster title.

So; you might have guessed it: Becoming a Grandmaster in Chess is no easy feat.

How Many Grandmasters Are There In Chess?

As of June 2022, there are a total of 1766 Grandmasters in the world. You can find the updated number on https://ratings.fide.com/ – select “Grandmasters” in the advanced search to see how many entries there are.

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