The World Chess Federation, FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), awards several performance-based titles to chess players. Titles generally require a combination of Elo rating and norms (performance benchmarks in competitions including other titled players). Once awarded, FIDE titles are held for life. Other than the women-only titles outlined below, FIDE titles are achievable by both male and female chess players.
FIDE's first GMs were:
Candidate Master (CM)
The most usual way for a player to qualify for the Candidate Master title is by achieving an Elo rating of 2200 or more. Candidate master ranks below other open FIDE titles, but above the WFM and WCM titles.
FIDE Master (FM)
Introduced in 1978, FM ranks below the title of International Master but ahead of Candidate Master. The most usual way for a player to qualify for the FIDE Master title is by achieving an Elo rating of 2300 or more. The current title regulations can be found in the FIDE handbook.
The FIDE November 2010 ratings list records 5731 FMs.
International Master (IM)
The title International Master is awarded to strong chess players. Instituted in 1950, it is a lifetime title, usually abbreviated as IM in chess literature.
Normally three norms in international tournaments involving other IMs and Grandmasters are required before FIDE will confer the title on a player. IMs usually have an Elo rating between 2400 and 2500. Sometimes, though, there may be an IM who has not yet become a Grandmaster but has a rating greater than 2500.
The IM title can also be awarded for a few specific performances. For example, under current rules, the runner up at the World Junior Championship will be awarded the IM title if he or she does not already have it. Current regulations may be found in the FIDE handbook.
After becoming an IM, most professional players set their next goal as becoming a Grandmaster. It is also possible to become a Grandmaster without ever having been an International Master. Larry Christiansen of the United States (1977), Hao Wang of China, and former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia all became Grandmasters without ever having been an IM. Bobby Fischer of the United States attained both titles solely by virtue of qualifying for the 1958 Interzonal (IM title) and 1959 Candidates Tournament (GM title) entirely bypassing the usual process of achieving norms at each level only incidentally becoming IM before GM. However, the more usual path is first to become an IM, then move on to the GM level.
International Master titles are also awarded to correspondence chess players by the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF), and composers and solvers of chess problems (see titles in chess composition).
An International Master is usually in the top 0.25% of all tournament players at the time he or she receives the title. The November 2010 FIDE rating list records 3036 players holding the IM title.
The title Grandmaster is awarded to outstanding chess players by FIDE. Apart from World Champion, Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain. Once achieved, the title is held for life. In chess literature it is usually abbreviated to GM. The abbreviation IGM for International Grandmaster can also sometimes be found, particularly in older literature. This title can be awarded to the players with an Elo rating greater than 2500. Players with an Elo rating greater than 2700 are often called Super-GMs. There were 50 players in the December 2013 FIDE ratings list with a rating of at least 2700. Viswanathan Anand, Garry Kasparov, Magnus Carlsen, and Vladimir Kramnik are a few examples of Super-GMs.
Beginning with Nona Gaprindashvili in 1978, a number of women have earned the GM title. Since about 2000, most of the top 10 women have held the GM title. A separate, gender-segregated title, Woman Grandmaster (WGM), is also available, but is something of a misnomer. It is awarded to women who attain a level of skill between that of a FIDE Master and an International Master.
FIDE also awards separate Grandmaster titles to composers and solvers of chess problems (see list of grandmasters of the FIDE for chess compositions).
The December 2013 FIDE rating list records 1441 players holding the GM title, of whom 31 are women.
Though other FIDE titles are not gender-segregated, the following four titles given by FIDE are exclusive to women.
Woman Candidate Master (WCM)
Woman Candidate Master is the lowest-ranking title awarded by FIDE. The requirements for the WCM title are easier than those for the lowest-ranking unrestricted title, Candidate Master, as a rating of 2000 is sufficient for the title.
Woman FIDE Master (WFM)
The WFM title is just above Woman Candidate Master in the women-only titles given by FIDE. The minimum rating for receiving this title is 2100 and is lower than that of its unrestricted counterpart, FIDE Master.
The November 2011 FIDE rating list records 1126 women holding the WFM title.
Woman International Master (WIM)
Woman International Master is next to the highest ranking title given by FIDE exclusively to women. FIDE first awarded the WIM title (formerly called International Woman Master, or IWM) in 1950.
The WIM title has lower requirements than the unrestricted FIDE Master title. The runners-up in the World Girls Junior Championship are automatically awarded the WIM title. The current regulations can be found in the FIDE handbook.
The November 2010 FIDE rating list records 599 women holding the WIM title.
Woman Grandmaster (WGM)
Woman Grandmaster is the highest-ranking chess title restricted to women aside from Women's World Champion. FIDE introduced the WGM title in 1977, joining the previously introduced lower-ranking title, Woman International Master.
The WGM title represents a level of chess skill lower than that of the unrestricted Grandmaster (GM) title, and WGM requirements are also a little bit lower than the requirements for the unrestricted International Master (IM) title. The winner of the World Girls Junior Championship is automatically awarded the WGM title. The current regulations can be found in the FIDE handbook.
Many strong female players hold the IM title in addition to the WGM, and since about 2000 the top 10 women players have been mostly GMs. (The winner of the Women's World Championship is automatically awarded the GM title if she does not already hold it.) As of May 2013, FIDE rating list records 279 women holding the WGM title alone and an additional 29 who are GMs.
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