Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Coveted Titles -

The Coveted Titles -

The Coveted Titles

Here and there we can hear about people either wanting to earn a chess title, or wondering how and what for they are earned. Instead of offering a link to a formal encyclopedic page about this matter, I would rather share with you some insights based on my professional experience.

What are titles used for?

Titles are a sign of official recognition of a person’s playing strength at a certain period. Once you earn one, you get to keep it for the rest of your life. The main functions of titles are as follows:

  • Bragging rights. Some players are particularly proud of their titles, and hang the diploma on the wall next to a PhD certificate or other prestigious awards. As the general public associate proficiency in chess with a high IQ and other valuable personal qualities, the title-holders believe that it will improve their image. Spoiler: each title-holder gets a cute diploma and a badge, but wearing the badges is widely considered to be goofy and old-fashioned. Now you know why there are no pics available of pros with GM/IM badges.
  • Creating a hierarchy among players. Generally speaking, at first you fight for a rating/grade. Then titles come into play. Having a title is beneficial in terms of getting special conditions from organizers, becoming a more recognized coach or author, finding sponsors or receiving stipends from certain institutions, free memberships from top chess websites, etc. Afterwards, when you surpass the grandmaster mark, it’s about rating, achievements (like winning national, continental, international championships and super tournaments) and popularity. The top players are known by last names or nicknames (Kaspy, Topa, Chucky, Moro, etc.), so adding a title next to their names is somewhat belittling. As a fellow GM pointed out, “When you say GM Kasparov, you probably mean Sergey Kasparov from Belarus, otherwise it’s simply Kasparov”.
  • Source of money for FIDE. To apply for an international title, one normally has to pay a fee to both FIDE and the national federation. For example, to become a GM-elect, one has to provide about $500. If your application is declined (e.g. due to some mistake in the papers), you don’t get the title and lose the money, having to re-apply. All this hassle (collecting tournament reports, contacting your federation, waiting for a few months for the decision) and expenses are the reason why many people don’t apply for every title they are eligible for. All this results in non-titled players rated 2300-2500.

FIDE and local titles

The official titles recognized by FIDE as of today and most typical ways of earning them are:

Candidate Master/Women’s Candidate Master – reach a published FIDE rating of 2200/2000

FIDE Master/Women’s FIDE Master – reach a published rating of 2300/2100

International Master/Women’s International Master – reach a published rating of 2400/2200 and earn three norms

International Grandmaster/Women’s International Grandmaster – reach a published rating of 2500/2300 and earn three norms

In case you are interested, you can check out the FIDE handbook for some additional special ways of earning a title.

The professional chess community is rather snobbish, so, due to historical reasons and cultural stereotypes, the candidate master titles are widely frowned upon by adults and rarely applied for. FIDE Master (aka “fee master” among some venomous pros) is a semi-professional title that can be earned, for instance, via winning the Amateur World Chess Championship. IM/WIM and GM/WGM are professional titles also known as “master” and “grandmaster”.

While many countries have their own local titles, those are not as widespread as the international ones granted by FIDE. As is most popular among US players, I guess there is no need to elaborate on the American system of titles. Russia also has its own classification of grades (4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, candidate master) and titles (master of Russia, grandmaster of Russia). Naturally, as a way of showing off, the requirements for becoming a Master of Russia /Grandmaster of Russia greatly surpass those for IM/GM, so very few players have them.

How hard is it to earn a title?

Depending on how easy or challenging it was for a certain individual to reach his current chess level, the estimates differ. Seasoned club players tend to believe that special talents are called for to become FM or above. Elite grandmasters like Aronian or Grischuk will tell you that mediocre studies and lack of talent may still take you up to 2500. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I would also like to emphasize that one should be playing chess only if he loves the game, not for the sake of earning the title. This approach will both help save nerves and ensure you are not wasting time in case something does not work out. I would also like to abstain from giving any numbers in terms of how many years are required: this is highly individual, and depends on how productively you study and play. Just one remark for day-dreamers: even the world’s best chess prodigies have to dedicate from 8 to 10 years of persistent work to become GMs. For most grandmasters it takes much longer. Nonetheless, I regularly get messages from beginners and club players along the lines of “Hi, I like chess and want to become a GM in a year or two. Any advice?”

Rating inflation and new titles

There are always some past-oriented people who will be telling you that “2500 in 1980 is worth 2700 in 2011” and generally implying that the old masters were better than the current ones, as well as making claims about “rating and title inflation”. This statement is only partially true: when the GM title was officially introduced by FIDE in 1950, it was awarded to 27 world class players, potential or past WC challengers. Nowadays there are over 1300 GMs in the world, and the difference in skill is huge: an old and rusty grandmaster may be rated 2300, while Carlsen, Anand and Aronian are hovering above 2800.

On the other hand, the statement about rating inflation is neither confirmed by my professional experience, nor by logic or by recent studies. Computer technologies have revolutionized the game and greatly enhanced the speed of mastering chess. Nowadays you don’t have to live in the USSR to get access to recent games, useful educational materials, top coaching, and regular tournament practice. The Internet and software have made it possible for anyone to reach a great level of mastery previously available only to a select few. Therefore, as pointed out in a recent scientific paper quoted by Forbes, there is no rating inflation (and maybe even a slight deflation) going on. It’s just that more and more people are becoming proficient at chess and earning the GM title. Btw, the requirements for obtaining it are also not static: earlier one had to perform at 2500+ level to gain a norm; now the requirement is 2600+. That does make a difference for many people.

As to introducing new titles: I don’t think it is that necessary. The rating and person’s name pretty much speak for themselves. Of course, FIDE could establish the super GM title (for 2700+, 2750+, being in the top-10-20-50-whatever). However, I am not sure it would change much as of now, as most people rated over 2700 are still young and well-known: there isn’t much difference in saying “Nakamura” and “super GM Nakamura”, is there? In the future, however, this might become a reasonable step towards acknowledging some veterans’ achievements.

Personal touch

As I get LOTS of questions regarding my title, here’s a recap:

2001 – I became Woman FIDE Master

2002 – Woman International Master and Master of Russia

2004 – Woman Grand Master (and at about that time met all the requirements for IM)

2006 – Grandmaster of Russia (#101 in the history of the country!)

While I have met the rating requirement for the GM title (2500+), I still need to play more in men’s events to earn enough norms. In fact, the only benefits of earning this title will be a) that few women have it – only 25 in the history of the game b) people will stop bugging me with the question “why WGM, not GM?”. Guess it’s worth the effort. Smile

Back to chess

Today’s annotated game will be round 9 of the Polugaevsky Memorial against FM Artur Dimukhametov. Earlier he beat my husband with White in an IM-event in Moscow, so some revenge was called for! Wink

Dimukhametov, A. (2320) vs. Pogonina, N. (2442)
Lev Polugaevsky Mem | Samara RUS | Round 9| 13 Jul 2011 | ECO: E32 | 0-1
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Bd2 b6 ( 6... Qe7 ) 7. e4 e5 8. a3 Bxc3 9. Bxc3 Qe7 10. Bd3 ( 10. dxe5 Nxe5 11. Nxe5 dxe5 12. Be2 O-O 13. O-O Bb7 14. f3 Nd7 15. b4 Rfd8 ) 10... c5 11. d5 ( 11. dxe5 Nxe5 12. Nxe5 dxe5 13. O-O O-O ) 11... Nf8 12. h3 Ng6 13. g3 ( 13. O-O O-O ) 13... O-O 14. O-O-O a6 15. Rdf1 ( 15. Nd2 Rb8 16. Kb1 b5 17. Ba5 h5 ) 15... Rb8 16. Nd2 b5 17. b3?! ( 17. Ba5 ) 17... b4 18. axb4 ( 18. Bb2 bxa3 19. Bxa3 a5 ) 18... cxb4 19. Bb2 Nd7 20. h4 Nc5 21. h5 Nh8 22. h6 g6 23. f4 f6 24. g4 Nf7 ( 24... g5 25. f5 ( 25. fxg5 fxg5 26. Rxf8+ Qxf8 ) 25... a5 ) ( 24... Bxg4? 25. f5 ) 25. g5 fxg5 26. f5 Bd7 27. fxg6 hxg6 28. h7+ Kh8 ( 28... Kg7 ) 29. Be2 a5 ( 29... g4!? 30. Qd1 ( 30. Rfg1 Ng5 31. Bxg4 Bxg4 32. Rxg4 Rf2 ) 30... Ng5 31. Bxg4 Ngxe4 32. Nxe4 Nxe4 33. Bxd7 Qxd7 34. Qc2 Qg4 ) 30. Qd1 Kg7?! ( 30... a4 31. bxa4 Ra8 32. Bg4 ( 32. Qe1 Nxa4 ) 32... Nxa4 ) 31. Qe1? ( 31. Rf2 ) 31... Rh8? ( 31... Nh6 32. Rfg1 Rh8 ) 32. Qf2? ( 32. Qg3 ) 32... Rbf8? ( 32... Nh6 ) 33. Qh2 g4 34. Kb1 Qg5? ( 34... a4 35. Bc1 ( 35. Rfg1 Qg5 36. Bc1 Qh6 37. Qg3 Qf4 ) 35... Ra8 36. Bd1 Rhf8 ) 35. Bc1 Qe3 ( 35... g3 36. Qg2 Rxh7 37. Rxh7+ Kxh7 38. Rh1+ Kg8 39. Nf1 Qe7 ( 39... Qf6 40. Nxg3 Qg7 41. Rg1 g5 42. Bd1 ) 40. Nxg3 Ng5 41. Rh6 ( 41. Nf5 Bxf5 42. exf5 Rxf5 43. Qh2 Qh7 44. Qg1 Qe7 45. Qh2 Qh7 ) 41... Be8 ( 41... Kg7 42. Qh2 Rf4 43. Rh8 Nh3 44. Rxh3 Bxh3 45. Qxh3 Nxb3 46. Nh5+ gxh5 47. Qxb3 ) 42. Bd1 Rf4 43. Ne2 Nd3 44. Nxf4 exf4 45. Bb2 Nxb2 46. Qxb2 Qxe4+ 47. Bc2 Qe1+ 48. Ka2 Qe5 49. Qxe5 dxe5 ) 36. Bd1 Nd3 37. Qh4 ( 37. c5 Qg5 38. c6 Bc8 39. Qg3 Nxc1 40. Kxc1 Rxh7 41. Rxh7+ Kxh7 42. Kc2 ) 37... Nf4? ( 37... g5 38. Rxf7+ Kxf7 39. Qh6 Ke8 40. c5 ( 40. Qg6+ Kd8 41. Rh6 Qe1 42. Qxd6 Qxd1 43. Qb8+ Ke7 44. Qd6+ ) 40... Nxc1 41. Nc4 Qf2 42. Nxd6+ ( 42. Qxd6 Qa2+ 43. Kxc1 Qa1+ 44. Kd2 Qc3+ 45. Ke2 Qf3+ 46. Kd2 Qc3+ ) 42... Kd8 43. Qxg5+ Kc7 44. Qxc1 ( 44. Qxe5 Nd3 45. Nb5+ Kd8 46. Qb8+ Ke7 47. Qd6+ Kd8 48. Qb8+ ( 48. Bc2? Qxc5 49. Bxd3 Qxd6 50. Nxd6 g3 ) ) 44... g3 45. c6 Bc8 46. Nxc8 Rxc8 47. Bg4 g2 48. Rd1 ) 38. Qe7 Bc8 39. Rxf4? ( 39. Nf3 Qxe4+ 40. Bc2 Bf5 ( 40... Qe2 41. Ng5 ) 41. Bxe4 Bxe4+ 42. Ka2 Bxf3 43. Rh2 Re8 44. Qd7 ) 39... Qxf4 40. Nf3? ( 40. Rf1 Qh2 41. c5 ) 40... Qxe4+? ( 40... Re8 41. Qh4 Qxe4+ 42. Ka1 Bf5 ) 41. Bc2?? ( 41. Kb2 g5 42. Bxg5 ( 42. Bc2 Qxc2+ 43. Kxc2 Bf5+ 44. Kd1 Re8 45. Qa7 gxf3 46. Bxg5 Rxh7 47. Rg1 ( 47. Rxh7+ Bxh7 48. Qd7 Bd3 49. Bh6+ Kxh6 50. Qxf7 Bg6 51. Qf6 a4 52. bxa4 Rc8 ) 47... a4 48. Qe3 ( 48. bxa4 b3 ) ( 48. Qxa4 f2 49. Rf1 Reh8 50. Qa7 Rh1 51. Qxf2 Rxf1+ 52. Qxf1 Bg4+ 53. Kc1 Nxg5 54. Qg1 Rh4 55. Qe1 Rh5 ) 48... Rh3 ) 42... Rxh7 43. Qf6+ Kg8 44. Bc2 Qxc2+ 45. Kxc2 Nxg5 46. Qxg5+ Rg7 47. Qh6 gxf3 48. Qxd6 Rg2+ 49. Kd3 f2 50. Rh8+ Kxh8 51. Qxf8+ Kh7 52. d6 Rh2 ) 41... Qxf3 42. Bh6+ Kxh7 43. Rh4 g3 ( 43... Rd8 ) 44. Bxf8+ Kg8 45. Bh6 ( 45. Rxh8+ Kxh8 46. Qe8 Bd7 47. Qb8 ( 47. Qxd7 g2 48. Qa7 Qf1+ ) 47... Bf5 ) 45... Rxh6 46. Rxh6 Bf5 ( 46... Nxh6? 47. Qe8+ Kg7 48. Qxg6+ Kf8 49. Qxd6+ ) 47. Rxg6+ Bxg6 48. Bxg6 g2 49. Bxf7+ Qxf7 50. Qd8+ ( 50. Qg5+ Qg7 51. Qd8+ Kf7 52. Qd7+ Kg6 53. Qg4+ Kf6 ) 50... Kg7

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