How to Become a Chess Master

How to Become a Chess Master

Being a chess master is not like completing a particular set of educational criteria and then pursuing a job. Chess is a game of skills. Problem-solving skills, critical thinking, patience, and strong confidence, etc… are a necessity. A player can become one when the national chess organization, FIDE awards you the title of chess master. That’s when you become an official player even though you have participated and won several games in your life.

Even though you are playing chess for a long time and have participated in various competitions, you may have wondered what’s all about this titles and rankings. From this article, you will have an in depth knowledge about the following aspects of the chess game. They are:-

  • FIDE
  • How to be a pro
  • Things to be kept in mind
  • The 20 40 40 rule
  • Some cool moves
  • Traits you must have
  • Perks of being a chess player
  • Major players in the field of chess

So let’s take a detailed look:-


The International Chess Federation is the governing body of chess and it regulates all international chess competitions. It’s a ranking system which has a rating that quantifies your skill level. 

FIDE titles and ratings are given below respectively:-

Grand Master (GM) – 2500
International Master (IM) – 2400
Women Grand Master (WGM) – 2300
FIDE Master (FM) – 230
Women International Master (WIM) – 2200
Candidate Master (CM) – 2200
Women FIDE Master (WFM) – 2100
Women Candidate Master (WCM) – 2000

  • Grand Master

It’s the highest title a player can attain in the game of chess. One can achieve the title by obtaining required title norms over 27 games and a FIDE rating of at least 2500. Also the title is directly awarded to those who satisfy the below mentioned conditions along with a 2300 rating:-

  • Reaching the FIDE World Cup’s final 16
  • Winning Women’s World Championship
  • Winning World Junior Championship outright
  • Winning World Senior Championship Outright (the 50+ and 65+ divisions)
  • Winning Continental Championship
  • International Master

They are strong chess players just below the GM’s. By achieving a FIDE rating of 2400 or more and by achieving the required title norms over 27 games will land you a international master title. The other ways where it is awarded directly are:-

  • FIDE World Cup qualification
  • Second in Women’s World Championship
  • Second or third in World Junior Championship
  • Second or third in both 50+ and 65+ division World Senior Championship
  • Winning World Junior Championship (outright or shared)
  • Second or third in Continental Championship
  • Winning  Continental (over 50 or 60) championship, or under 20 championship
  • Winning  Continental under 18 championship outright
  • Winning  sub-Continental championship
  • Winning  Commonwealth, Francophone or Ibero-American championship
  • Winning World disabled championship
  • FIDE Master

 A FIDE Master comes below the title of International Master but ahead of a Candidate Master. There is no requirement for a player to achieve norms to be a FM. By achieving a rating of 2300 or more is the usual way. Also scoring at least 65% over a minimum of 9 games at an Olympiad can qualify you to obtain a FM title. 

  • Candidate Master

 By achieving a rating of 2200 or by scoring 50% over 7 or more games at an Olympiad can land you a CM title.

How to be a Pro

You need at least 10 years or 10,000 hours of constant and deliberate practice to be a chess master. Learn some opening moves, simple tactics, and mainly go with the flow. Critically and closely observe your opponent’s move and develop skills to think exactly like them during the game. Always do early castling so that the opponent cannot directly attack your side. Develop your pieces to the centre. Manage your time while creating strategies. 

Just like a good opening, middle game and end game are critical. After developing pieces and castling, you can find ways to attack the opponent side. It’s a big challenge as your opponent also may have done the same things. So observe closely for any loop moves they have done and the game is yours. 

Continuously develop your skills by playing chess whenever you get a chance. Your determination is what matters and you can get high ratings. 

Things to be kept in Mind

Age doesn’t matter when you are truly passionate about the game. We have a 10 year old international master now and grand masters with ages 12, 13, 14, etc… So it’s all about how you approach the game. Hard work and true skills will pave the way. Practice, practice and keep practicing until you know you have reached your best. Work on your rating range continuously and polish yourself. By attaining a 1200 rating, you can claim the title of an expert. Play as much tournaments as possible and score the three norms to be a grand master. It’s a high performance level in chess tournament. Play in various FIDE with international masters and grand masters and score enough points. 

As we already discussed, chess is not something you can pursue based on your academic merits. If you are truly passionate and determined, you can achieve high heights in the field. 

The 20 40 40 Rule

Time efficiency is an important factor in the game of chess. You need to quickly develop strategies according to the moves of your opponent, counter attack them by developing plans in the limited time etc… The 20 40 40 rule applies to players under 2000 rating. They should only spend 20% of their time on opening moves. Then the middle part where you develop your pieces and make strategies, keep in mind that only 40% of your time can be utilized for that. Then the endgame which is the final 40% is where you attack the opponent, goes for more points and finally defeats the king by calling checkmate.

Some Cool Moves

  • Promotion of a pawn on reaching the opposite end

Pawns are the pieces that possess the minimum points in a chess board and the ones considered to have weakest powers. But once it manages to reach the other side of the board, the pawn can be promoted to any piece that the player wishes other than a king. In most cases, the pawn is promoted to queen, but also you can promote it to a rook, bishop or a knight. 

  • Castling

It’s a move that is used to ensure the king’s safety. The king and rook are moved at the same time, whether to the queen’s side or to the other side. A castling can be performed if and only if both the rook and king has not been moved during the game and also if the squares between king and rook are totally empty. Another rule is that the king must not be in check and also you can’t move the king through a square where it would be in check.

  • En passant

It’s a French term that means “in passing” which is a confusing move for some players. It has been a matter of argument in many cases as some of the players don’t even know such a move exists. It’s a move that allows a pawn that has moved two squares to be captured as though it had only moved one. 

Traits you must have to become a chess player

  • Passion for the game

It’s a game of logic, reasoning, planning and executing. One cannot just ask you to develop these skills for the sake of being a master in chess; you have to be extremely passionate in order to pursue a career in the field of chess. Passion arises from factors that make you restless. In most cases, you will be hearing about this game for the first time from one of your friend, a cousin, or someone that is close to you. Even though age is not a determining factor to be a chess master, it’s advised that you need to practice the game from an early age. That way, you can understand each and every perspective of this game including some super cool moves, best openings, great ways to end a game just using your queen and king or a bishop, pawn and king etc… You cannot just have bookish knowledge about the game, you need to practice thoroughly and for that you need an extreme sense of passion towards the game.

  • Ambition

To dream in black and white is way better than dreaming in colours for chess players. You must have a solid mindset to get ahead in this game. This is not some 9-5 job that provides you financial security and future stability, but a passion you can pursue based on your ambition. You need to find extra time after your studies for constant practicing and everything. Play with computers so that you can know your improvement by raising the difficulty levels. Also participate in as much competitions as possible as it will give you an exposure. Playing with different people with different strengths and weaknesses will work in favour to you. Keep in mind that never to get comfortable in playing in one particular colour. In international games and all, you will have to play a number of rounds where you have to play in both white and black pieces. So practice in both. 

  • Hard work

There’s nothing called an easy way in the game of chess. There are straight ways but never simple ways. You have to work very hard to achieve something in this field. Merely knowing how each pieces move, how many points each pieces possess, etc… won’t make you a good player. That won’t even make you a player. You need to learn about the game from all perspectives and that’s possible only through practice, determination and hard work. You can only play in international chess tournaments if you have the correct set of skills and ratings and that cannot be achieved from considering this as a side hobby. You need to be serious about this, you can access special coaching, learn about each and everything about this game by investing yourself. 

  • Patience

There’s a high chance that maybe your primary attempts to shine through the game may not be a success. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop. Only after a series of games you will be recognized. Participate in school level and local level competitions first, learn the process, then improvise and make a strong entrance (again and again and again). Also to achieve great positions like grandmaster, international master and so on, you definitely ahs to go through a series of hardships. There will be moments you want to give up and you will almost give up, but trust the process and wait for your turn. During the game also, you need to be patient and think about the next moves in a clear and calm mind. If you are in a hurry to just move your pieces here and there without strategically developing them, you will obviously lose the game. So be patient and make decisions.

  • Confidence

Believe in yourself. Your abilities and innate skills are really a gift and continue to work on them rather than letting your insecurities win over you. Believe in the decisions you take, the choices you make and just let it be. There will be times that things may won’t work in your favour, but find the mistake and correct it yourself. The one person who has to trust you in this whole world is you and that’s what all matter. While playing, sit in a posture that makes you relaxed and feel confident. You need to be sure about your moves as there’s a rule called ‘touch piece’ in chess, i.e. when you touch a piece, you have to move that piece. So if you nervously touch a piece without proper plan and intention to move that piece out of your anxiety, you will lose the flow of game. Also the opponent will sense that you’re panicked and nervous, so it will work in favour to the opposite side. So appear confident and for that there is only one way, be confident. 

Some of the other skills that you need to have are a strong character, so that you can present yourself well in a game. Your moves determine you and only a person who is self relied and strong can succeed in this field. A fighting spirit is also a good skill when it comes to chess. Even though you are losing the game, you can uphold the spirit of your game. Rather than just accepting your defeat during the middle of a game, fight and attack as much as you can and collect the opponent’s points. Even if it’s a pawn, don’t spare the chance. You can make the game a draw or a stalemate, when you act accordingly. 

Let’s look at some more traits:-

  • Ability to Focus
  • Adaptation
  • Problem Solving
  • Ability to Manage Pressure
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Pattern Recognition

The Perks of Being a Chess Player

You might have wondered why most of the people who play chess excel in academics. The answer is very simple that the studies have proven that the systematic learning of chess can increase your IQ level. This is a game that requires high concentration and determination. Your observation power increases after each and every game. You are literally polishing your brain each time you play a game. When you play chess on a daily basis for more than 4.5 months, there will be a significant increase in your IQ level. 

High intelligence comes with added advantages. It will help you to develop a perspective about anything you do. You are playing a game that need high level of thinking where you have to understand each and every movement of your opposite player and then creates a strategy to counter them. If you have noticed, a skilled chess player can say where is each and every piece in a chess board, even during the middle of a game because you won’t even move a piece without definite motive in this game. Your mind is going through a series of thought process, where you identify the opponent’s motive, then ways to defend them and more importantly a plan to block that piece. So your brain is constantly working to give you a clear cut idea and that will help you to develop your skills. 

In addition to that, it helps you to improve memory. As we already mentioned, you are polishing your brain by continually thinking and rethinking strategies and plans which will help you to have a good memory power also. Studies have shown that playing chess decreases the chance of dementia, as it helps in the functioning of your brain. Your memory will get sharp not even during the game but also in your life when you constantly practice the game. 

The other added advantages are this will help you to boost your planning skills, increases self awareness and also elevates your creative side. 

Major Players in the Field of Chess

It’s hard to compare one player with another player of different era just by their ratings. There have been greatest players in chess while looking back at the history and the major names among them are:-

  • Garry Kasparov 
  • Anatoly Karpov 
  • Magnus Carlsen 
  • Wilhelm Steinitz 
  • Jose Raul Capablanca 
  • Bobby Fischer 
  • Alexander Alekhine 

Indian Chess Players

  • Viswanathan Anand
  • Pentala Harikrishna
  • Vidit Gujarati
  • Koneru Humpy
  • Harika Dronavalli


Around the sixth century, chess was invented in India and was popular by the name ‘chatrang’. It has transformed over centuries by taking new shapes and names. From India, the game was spread to Persia first and when the Arabs conquered the country, chess was spread to the Muslim world and all over Southern Europe. The current form of chess was roughly evolved in Europe during the 15th century.

The game is a representation of a battle and has several historical references. The first ever world champion was Wilhelm Steinitz and is also considered as the father of modern chess.

Now according to rankings and statistics, Russia is the best country in chess and Ukraine follows the list. Israel and china are in third and forth position. Russia has 186 grand masters in their account while Ukraine has 69. There are 34 in Ukraine and 22 in china. 

The major and ultimate objective of playing chess is to checkmate the opponent’s king. You can do it in three moves (through fool’s move), in the middle of a game, or through the entire course of the game. During the beginning of the game, each side starts with 16 pieces. In which 8 of them are pawns, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 2 rooks, and a king and queen each. 

A pawn can move two steps forward if it’s the first move and capture a piece diagonally. There is no backward motion possible for a pawn. The two bishops, one white and one black can move diagonally to left and right but a white bishop can only move through white squares and the black bishop through black squares. Backward movement is also allowed. The knight is the only piece that can jump over another piece. It moves in an L shape. The rook can move horizontally or vertically to the left and right. The queen is the most powerful piece and it can move like a rook that is horizontally and vertically to left and right and can also move like a bishop diagonally but through both black and white squares. Now, last but not at least, the most important piece-the king. Always remember to keep your king in the safe side because the game will be over if your king is blocked by your opponent.

Also read how long is 10000 hours? 10000-hour rule

How to Become a Chess Master

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