The title of International Master (IM) is a prestigious recognition in the world of chess, bestowed by the International Chess Federation (FIDE). It stands below the Grandmaster (GM) title but still signifies a high level of mastery and expertise in chess. This article explores the journey to becoming an International Master, including the requirements, ratings, and a brief history of the title.

Understanding the International Master Title

What is an International Master?

The International Master is a permanent title awarded to strong chess players. Established by FIDE, the world chess federation, the IM title is one step below Grandmaster, the highest title a chess player can achieve. Players with this title are recognized as top competitors capable of displaying high levels of strategic understanding and tactical sharpness.

Requirements for Becoming an International Master

Earning IM Norms

To become an International Master, a player must achieve three International Master norms, which are high-level performances in tournaments meeting specific criteria set by FIDE. These criteria include:

  • Competing in a tournament with a mix of participants from different countries.
  • Playing against a certain number of existing titleholders, including other International Masters and Grandmasters.
  • Achieving a performance rating over a set threshold, typically around 2450 ELO, depending on the event.

Rating Requirements

In addition to earning norms, a player must also reach a FIDE rating of 2400 at least once in their career. This rating is a numerical index calculated based on a player’s game results against other rated players. Reaching this rating demonstrates consistent performance at a high level of competition.

Historical Background

Origin of the Title

The title of International Master was introduced by FIDE in 1950 as part of a new system to recognize elite chess players. The system was designed to help formalize the ranking and development of top players internationally.

Notable International Masters

Many renowned players have held the title of International Master before advancing to Grandmaster status. The title has been instrumental in developing the careers of numerous chess prodigies around the world.

Path to Achievement

Tournament Play

Serious chess players seeking the IM title often participate in numerous international tournaments to gain exposure to diverse playing styles and to meet the requirements for norms. These tournaments are crucial for accumulating the necessary experience and points.

Continuous Learning and Improvement

Aspiring International Masters must commit to continuous learning and improvement. This involves studying chess theory, mastering various openings, understanding endgames, and analyzing games played by themselves and others.

Coaching and Mentoring

Working with a coach or mentor who is already an IM or GM can provide invaluable insights and guidance. Professional coaching helps refine a player’s strategy, tactics, and overall game understanding.


Achieving the title of International Master in chess is a significant accomplishment that marks a player as one of the elite. The journey to this title requires dedication, strategic planning, and a deep commitment to the game of chess. With the right approach and continuous effort, the dream of becoming an International Master is within reach for talented and dedicated players. This title not only elevates a player’s standing in the chess community but also opens doors to further achievements and recognitions, including the coveted Grandmaster title.

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