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On Chess: Xiong and Zierk succeed at Chess Club’s GM Norm Invitational

International Master Steven Zierk
Ben Finegold

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis held another GM norm tournament July 16-22, 2015.  These tournaments are important for rising stars trying to earn the most coveted title in chess: Grandmaster.

The International Chess Federation, or FIDE, has a set of criteria to determine how one can earn the title. 

  • One must have three Grandmaster “norms” or performances in three different tournaments.
  • Each tournament is required to have at least three Grandmasters participating and at least nine rounds. 
  • Finally, there must be four different countries (or federations) represented.

Luckily, with the powerhouse Webster team nearby, and its many foreign International Masters and Grandmasters, finding the appropriate participants is easier than most would expect.  Usually, due to such stringent rules, GM norm tournaments are few and far between.

The GM Norm Invitational was very successful. International Master Steven Zierk, who has rarely played chess recently due to his studies at MIT, surpassed the qualifications for earning a GM norm by scoring 6.5 points out of nine games. This is Zierk’s second GM norm, and he needs only one more to earn the coveted title. Zierk, who won the World U18 Championship in 2010, is considered a great American talent.

GM-elect Jeffery Xiong, who just finished the U.S. Junior that closed the day before the GM Norm Invitational began, continued on with strong play. Xiong was the winner of the GM norm tournament with an undefeated 7 points from nine games, winning five and drawing four.  Xiong is one of the highest ranked players in the world under the age of 16, and is expected to play in several U.S. championships in the near future. Xiong will be an official GM next month when the FIDE Board meets in Baku.

Before the Chess Club opened seven years ago, the United States had very few tournament in which upcoming players could earn their Grandmaster titles. With the norm tournament series, almost all of the top young chess players in America have come to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, with many making multiple appearances to earn norms and eventually the GM title.

The club tries to hold two norm events each year along with the many other prestigious competitions: U.S. Chess Championship, U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, U.S. Junior Closed and the Sinquefield Cup. The tournament was broadcast live on many chess sites so people from all over the world could watch their favorite players and see high-quality chess.

This is the first GM Norm Invitational this year to  be followed by our next GM norm event between late November and early December. If anyone is interested in participating in the upcoming GM norm tournament, please contact info@saintlouischessclub.org.

Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and was dubbed “The 40-year-old GM” after receiving the title in 2009. In between, Finegold was a U.S. Junior champion in 1989, a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993 and a competitor in nine U.S. Championships. He is a popular scholastic coach and commentator for elite events. On Chess is provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.