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On Chess: Life in the trenches, earning an IM/GM Norm

Akshat Chandra is shown at the Junior Closed tournament.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

The St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center is rightfully considered the most innovative, as well as friendliest, chess club in the world. The club made its reputation by hosting elite events such as the national championships; women’s championships and junior championships, as well as the prestigious Sinquefield Cup.

The club also hosts weekly tournaments for club players and attractive competitions for master class players.  From Nov.17-22, the club hosted the 2016 St. Louis Autumn Invitational, which includes the international masters and international grandmasters tournaments. Each tournament was a 10- player round-robin with prize money as well as “norm” opportunities at stake.

In chess, the highest title is, “International Grandmaster” (IGM).  The second highest title is “International Master” (IM) and the third highest title is “Master” (FM). These titles are awarded by the World Chess Federation known by its French acronym of FIDE (hence the FIDE Master (FM) designation).

How does a person earn such coveted titles? The system is a bit complicated but the essence is a player must play 24 international grandmaster opponents and score at least 50 percent in internationally recognized tournaments. The same is true for the International Master and FIDE Master titles. You must also play against foreign competitors, as well.

To earn higher titles, you can’t just play in local events against national players – you have to face the world. When you play in a competition and earn a 50 percent score or better against grandmasters you are said to have earned a “grandmaster norm.” You’ll need three norms from three different competitions to get the title, as is the case with the other titles.

In the Autumn Invitational International Masters tournament competitors came from Russia, India, Canada, Czech Republic and the U.S. to earn the coveted “International Master” norm. In the end, two players tied for first, both achieved their third norm and thus both Konstantin Kavutskiy (U.S.) and Le Fong Hua (Canada) earned their International Master titles thanks to their winning scores of 6.5 points from nine games.

In the Autumn Invitational Grandmaster tournament, similarly, players from around the world faced one another. In the end, two players tied for first with winning scores of 6.5 points from 9 games: IM Akshat Chandra (St. Louis) and GM Priyadharshan Kannappan (India). For 17-year-old Akshat, the tournament was the culmination of a life-long dream, he made his third and final grandmaster norm and will shortly receive his grandmaster title. His family has recently moved to St. Louis, with the goal of helping Akshat train at the club for even greater successes. The move is paying dividends as he earned his grandmaster title and has benefitted from playing against a host of grandmasters who come through the club each week. Congratulations to all the competitors and especially those for earning their titles.

Yasser Seirawan is a four-time U.S. Champion and former World Championship contender. He was the dominant force in American chess in the 1980s. Seirawan is the current Grandmaster in residence at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

On Chess is provided by the chess club.