Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain, out of the millions of players around the world, there are currently only 1,721 Grandmasters.
The title is bestowed by the World Chess Federation (FIDE) and is generally held for life, though it can be revoked for serious infractions, such as cheating.
While most Grandmasters are men, women are also eligible for the title and most of the highest-ranking female chess players are Grandmasters.
To become a Grandmaster, players have to reach an Elo rating of 2,500 and win three norm tournaments.
Norm tournaments are elite competitions featuring at least three Grandmasters from different countries.
They have nine rounds and a time control of at least 120 minutes.
The Elo rating is a method for calculating the skill levels of players in a zero-sum game like chess.
A player’s rating is determined by wins, losses and draws against other players. It is also impacted by the ratings of their opponents and the results scored against them.
To be in with a chance of becoming a Grandmaster, chess enthusiasts are advised to start learning the game from a young age, put in hours of practice and compete in tournaments.
Five of the greatest Grandmasters
Just who deserves the title of the greatest chess player of all time is a subject of endless debate among enthusiasts.
However, the names below are never far from the top of any list of the all-time greats.
Here are five GMs to know:
1. Magnus Carlsen (Norway)
Magnus Carlsen has been the reigning World Chess Champion since 2013 and is currently the best chess player in the world.
Some consider him the best of all time, having secured an Elo rating of 2,882 – the highest in the history of chess – in 2014, though he believes that honour still belongs to Garry Kasparov.
Carlsen excels in a number of areas and appears to have no weaknesses.
As of February 2020, he has been on a 120-game undefeated streak in standard time controls.
2. Garry Kasparov (Russia)
Kasparov is considered by many to be the greatest to ever play the game of chess, having dominated the competition for more than 20 years.
His peak Elo rating of 2,856, reached in 2000, remained unbeaten until Carlsen topped it fourteen years later.
In 1985, Kasparov became the youngest ever World Chess Champion at 22 and a half and in 1997 he famously faced off against an IBM computer, and lost.
Since retiring in 2005, he has remained active in the world of chess while also becoming a writer and political commentator and activist.
3. Bobby Fischer (U.S.A.)
Fischer’s is one of the best-known names in chess and perhaps the most familiar to those outside of the game.
Fischer, who died in 2008, was the first U.S. World Chess Champion and remains the only American to win the title.
His most celebrated feat was winning 20 consecutive games against world-class opponents from 1970 to 1971 – an exploit experts say will likely never be repeated.
But the most iconic moment of Fischer’s career was defeating Russia’s Boris Spassky to win the World Championship in 1972, in a match that played out against the backdrop of the Cold War.
4. Jose Raul Capablanca (Cuba)
The Cuban Capablanca is legendary for going eight years without a single loss and claiming the World Championship.
Beginning his career at the age of four, Capablanca went on to beat some of the best players in the Western Hemisphere while still in his teens.
In 1922, he simultaneously played against 103 opponents, winning 102 games and drawing only one.
Many speculate that he could have achieved even more if he was playing in a different time, but Capablanca’s peak was sandwiched between the two World Wars, making international competition difficult.
5. Anatoly Karpov (Russia)
At 15 Karpov became the youngest-ever Soviet National Master, before going on to claim the world junior chess championship and eventually the World Championship.
He was the reigning World Chess Champion for a decade from 1975-1985, eventually losing the title to his great rival Kasparov after successfully defending it against him the year before.
Karpov was also the winner of the 1995 Linares tournament – considered to be the strongest tournament in the history of chess.