So You Want to Get a FIDE Title Norm?

So now your FIDE fever has reached new heights and you want to try to get a FIDE title! You’re seeing people in your local community get them and you think you’ve got what it takes to get one as well. So let’s then talk about how to get that to happen.

FIDE has 4 titles which require achieving levels of performance called ‘norms’. These titles are Grandmaster (GM), International Master (IM), Woman Grandmaster (WGM), and Woman International Master (WIM). Now of course those titles with the word ‘Woman’ in them are only open to females. There are other titles as well such as Candidate Master (CM), Woman Candidate Master (WCM), FIDE Master (FM), and Woman FIDE Master (WFM). These 4 titles are based on achieved ratings. For title norm tournament purposes, the CM and WCM title are not meaningful (this is really more for organizers but if you are thinking of applying for one to increase your chances to get access to an invitational event, don’t bother). You can find the rating requirements here -

There are multiple ways of getting norms as the previously mentioned link will tell you, many of them based on performance in FIDE World or Continental events. We’re going to ignore those as they are specialty cases, and not for everyone. There are two common tournament types to achieve FIDE title norms in, open and closed. Let’s talk about the differences.

An open event is your regular big Swiss event like the Chicago Open or World Open. Anyone can enter and play. You get a wide range of players from all over the country and the world because there are large cash prizes. There are risks associated with this type of event, which we’ll discuss shortly. Then there are closed events which are by invitation only. These are tightly controlled events, with limited players. Of course there are risks with these types of events also which we’ll discuss. And regardless of open or closed event, the minimum number of rounds (and the most prevalent) is 9. You can’t get a norm (aside from special events as listed in the link above) in less than 9 rounds. All examples we discuss will be 9 rounds.

As previously stated, open tournaments are common and you can go pay your registration fee and play in them. You may run into the situation where an organizer limits the number of players under a certain rating but that’s only to prevent too many lower rated players from being included in the mix because an Average Rating of Opponent (ARO) is very important to norm seekers. In order to achieve a norm there are a few requirements:

(1) Number of titled opponents you’ve met

(2) Number of titled opponents for the type of title norm you’re seeking

(3) ARO and the associated required score

(4) Minimum number of federations not your own that you met

(5) Maximum number of opponents from your own federation

In a Swiss event, you and the organizer have no control over any of this. So you will run the risk of not fulfilling the requirements necessary. Some people think ‘Oh the tournament director can alter the pairings to help me out’ – well that’s really incorrect and there are case examples when that was done and FIDE rejected the norm. If you’re lucky enough and you play in a big Swiss, points 4 and 5 above can be disregarded but it’s a crap shoot if the event will pull in enough foreign and titled players to disregard those points (this topic will be discussed more in the article – So you want to organize a FIDE title norm event?).

Another risk is running into unrated or low rated players. Given the nature of the Swiss this can happen easily. The FIDE rules allows you to raise the rating of your lowest player to a ‘floor’ but this is good only for a single player (the lowest rated one) and that floor isn’t high at all. And should you run into 2 unrated players then your norm chances have gone out the window.

In a closed event, which is typically a round robin, the organizer has gone through great pains to ensure that all requirements have been met. It’s up to you to score the required number of points! The real risk in a closed event is if a player decides to up and leave. Unless the organizer secured a sizeable deposit or a contract with proper language in it, the only incentive for the ‘disappearing player’ to stay is being black listed with other organizers.

You might be thinking that you can run into the same problem in an open event because people withdraw. That is correct, but that’s part of being an open event – open to enter and exit. The same risk exists that a person knows you are in the running for a norm and for whatever reason they choose to forfeit the game by not showing up. Unfortunately you’re out of luck because unplayed games cannot be counted towards your norm. This risk exists for both types of tournaments but is more likely to happen in Swiss events (in my opinion) because the reality is that you’re ‘norm hunt’ approaches its climax in the latter third of the tournament when you realize that ‘yeah I have a serious chance here’.

The norm hunt isn’t something to undertake lightly for a player (or an organizer!) because you’re investing a lot of time in preparation (if you’re taking it seriously) and also expending a lot of money through entry fees, airfare/car, and 5-6 nights hotel stay. Of course this doesn’t include if you’re hiring a trainer as many people do.

Sevan A. Muradian is the owner of the North Shore Chess Center where he runs FIDE rated tournaments and FIDE title norm tournaments along with regular USCF rated events and where the Chicago Blaze US Chess League team plays out of. For more information visit the chess center website at