The World Chess Federation, FIDE, 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 titles were awarded in 1950 and consisted of: 27 Grandmasters (GMs), 94 International Masters and 17 International Women Masters. FIDE’s first GMs were Ossip Bernstein, Isaac Boleslavsky, Igor Bondarevsky, Mikhail Botvinnik, David Bronstein, Oldřich Duras, Max Euwe, Reuben Fine, Salo Flohr, Ernst Gruenfeld, Paul Keres, Borislav Kostić, Alexander Kotov, Grigory Levenfish, Andor Lilienthal, Géza Maróczy, Jacques Mieses, Miguel Najdorf, Viacheslav Ragozin, Samuel Reshevsky, Friedrich Sämisch, Vasily Smyslov, Gideon Stahlberg, László Szabó, Savielly Tartakower, and Milan Vidmar. In 1957, FIDE introduced norms (qualifying standards) for FIDE titles.
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 FIDE 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.FIDE Master titles are also awarded to composers and solvers of chess problems
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 a very strong 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), Boris Gelfand of Israel (1988), and former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia all became Grandmasters without ever having been an IM. 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. Vishwanathan Anand, Garry Kasparov, and Vladimir Kramnik are a few examples of GMs. Players with an Elo rating greater than 2700 are often called Super-GMs. There were 40 players in the November 2010 FIDE ratings list with a rating of at least 2700.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 International Correspondence Chess Federation awards the title of International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (ICCGM).The November 2010 FIDE rating list records 1299 players holding the GM title.
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 for receiving this title is lower than that of its unrestricted counterpart, FIDE Master.The November 2010 FIDE rating list records 1043 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 significantly lower than that of the unrestricted Grandmaster (GM) title, and in fact WGM requirements are a little bit lower than the requirements for the unrestricted International Master (IM) title as well. 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 full GM title if she does not already hold it.) The November 2010 FIDE rating list records 254 women holding the WGM title alone and an additional 24 who are full GMs.