How to Become a Titled Player? (part-1)

Would you like to become a titled player (FM, IM, GM)? Most chess players would answer “Yes, it would be cool!”
This can be pretty nice indeed. Titled players have more possibilities to play in strong tournaments, better financial conditions, free access to Internet resources (game zones, etc.), more respect, higher self-confidence during a game, and the list can go on…
Getting a chess title is more important for professional players, but even if you are an amateur you’ll still find some useful ideas for raising your chess level.

So, how to become a titled player? You may be thinking the answer is obvious: one needs to train intensively and play in tournaments. Although this is certainly correct, there are some other important things as well.
I know some players who study chess for 8-hours a day during many years, and they are not even International Masters. On the other hand we know quite a lot of very young players with 2300-2600 rating. They could not study chess for many years, simple because their overall age is too small. :)
Thus it’s not just a matter of intensive training. So what helps some players achieve FM/IM/GM titles quicker than others?
Those who don’t know the answer to this question can say: “It’s because of their talent.” 
This reminds me of ancient people who explained lightning by saying “These are God’s arrows.” :) This is a good way to sidestep the question, but certainly we can provide a lot more precise and clear answer.
Perhaps you’ve heard about a chess school of the former USSR. It ALWAYS produced a lot of strong players. Does this mean they all have that specific “God talent”? Of course it does not, and of course we can give a more rational explanation.
By the way, I became International Master at 13 years old; and I’ll be glad to share some “secrets” of young titled players with you! :) On a serious note, I’ll now give you some practical advice that will help you to become a titled player faster and easier.
You need to interact with TITLED PLAYERS regularly.
Imitation is the most natural (and effective) learning method for us. When you play or communicate with strong players, you adopt their strengths and adapt to their level.
It’s important to emphasize that you need to have such interaction REGULARLY. Onlythen will you be able to develop necessary skills and correct habits.
Let me strengthen this idea even more: it’s IMPOSSIBLE to get to the next level in chess if you do not interact with players on that level. Unfortunately this is the reason why some people with big aspirations for chess can’t achieve any significant results. Often they live in small cities and don’t have strong players around.
Nevertheless, nowadays you have some great opportunities. So how can you get in touch with titled players? There are a few main ways.
  • Play in strong tournaments.
  • Play on Internet game zones, and try to choose stronger opponents.
  • Find a good chess coach. You can read my article about coaches here: LINK
  • Join your local chess club (if you have one, and if there are strong players there).

Play in ROUND tournaments.
In order to get a FM (Fide Master) title you only need to reach 2300 rating. Here my main advice is to play in strong tournaments.
If the average rating of your opponents is 2100, you’ll have to obtain 101% of the scores (:)) for reaching 2300 rating. It’s gonna be difficult.
On the other hand, if your opponents are rated 2350 on average, you may make a couple of draws and maybe even lose a game or two. Practically this is a much easier task.
If your goals are higher, and you want to become an IM or a GM, the situation is more complex. In addition to raising your rating, you need to obtain a few IM/GM “norms”. Here I recommend that you play in round tournaments with IM/GM norms availability.
Below I’ll provide some ideas from my student IM Jose Gascón Del Nogal.
A round-robin tournament (or all-play-all tournament) is a competition “in which each contestant meets all other contestants in turn”. In chess, playing round-robin tournaments can have advantages if you know how to prepare for that.
Advantages of the round-robin format
1. Know your opponents: In round-robin tournaments, normally you should know what players you are going to face before the competition starts. That allows you to prepare some opening variations and to analyze your opponent’s playing style, his strengths and weaknesses. In the course “the Grandmaster Secrets” (link), GM Igor Smirnov explains very nicely how we can do that.
2. It’s easier to raise your FIDE rating than in Swiss tournaments.
There is a very simple explanation for this. In a Swiss tournament, you play against players that have a score similar to yours. Hence you play against equal level opponents.
In a round-robin tournament, you will meet all players anyway, with the clear advantage that you also have to play against those players that are playing badly.This can help you to raise your rating.
NOTE: This is only an advantage if you are in a good shape; because if you aren’t, it can happen to the contrary – you can be in last place and in the next round you should play against the player that is top of the table. Thus you need to prepare for the tournament very well.
3. The round-robin tournaments are better for obtaining IM and GM norms.
This is because, before the tournament starts, you already know that, for example, with 7 points out of a possible 9 you will make an IM norm. Thus in the last 2-3 rounds you know if it’s fine for you to make draws or you must play for a win.
Let’s stop for today, and in the next part of this lesson I’ll provide further advice. In the meanwhile, you may test your chess skills in some of the cool positions below.
Leko – Wang
Black’s turn
White installed a deadly pin on Black’s knight. Is there any way for Black to escape?
Short – Fier
White’s turn
White has a very strong attacking position and a lot of tempting continuations. Nevertheless, Black has somewhat covered his weaknesses. Can White still breakthrough?
After you find a solution in both positions, please download the whole games and check your solutions for yourself: LINK