How to become a titled player?
Training & Psychology

How to Become a Titled Player?

How to Become a Titled Player?

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?

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 for 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 ratings. They could not study chess for many years, simply 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?

How to become a titled player?

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 in 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 an 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 become a titled player faster and easier.

Advice # 1 You Need to Interact with Titled Players Regularly.

Advice 1

Imitation is the most natural (and effective) learning method for us to become a Titled Player.

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 interactions regularly. Only then will you be able to develop the 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).

Advice # 2 Play in Round-Robin Tournaments.

Advice 2

To get the FM (Fide Master) title you only need to reach a 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 a 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 available.

Below I’ll provide some ideas from my student IM José 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

Scandinavian Defense

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 position openings variations and to analyze your opponent’s playing style, strengths, and weaknesses. In the course “the Grandmaster Secrets”, 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 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 the 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 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 if you must play for a win.

Advice # 3 Observe Games by Your “Chess Hero”.

Imitation is a most natural and effective learning method. That’s why it’s so useful for you to choose “your chess hero” and to observe his/her games. Now, here are some important observations that you should take into account:

  • If you study different chess books, videos, etc., you see the games of many different players. All of those different styles and ideas can mix up things completely for you.
  • Select a single chess hero and focus on his games. After some learning, you’ll notice the typical plans and ideas used by this player. Doing this will help you more easily adopt their method of play.
  • Choose an attacking player. Since the attack is the main way to a win, one must master this skill before anything else. Although Karpov, Petrosian, etc. are great players, they are not suitable for the role of your chess hero (they may be suitable AFTER you become a titled player).
  • Chess history knows a lot of great attackers: Morphy, Tal, Shirov, Kasparov, Spassky, Tolush, Alekhine, etc. –you can easily choose the one you like better.

Advice # 4  Play a Series of Tournaments. At the Very Least, Play Training Games before a Tournament.

It’s a different thing to study chess than it is to play chess. These things require a somewhat different mindset.

Those players who don’t understand this make 1 typical mistake. Before a tournament, they study chess intensively: reading books, studying openings, etc. After that, they go to a tournament and play badly. Following that, they become frustrated and can’t understand what has happened.

However, there is a simple explanation (known by most professional players). You need “to switch your brain” from training mode to practice mode. While preparing for a tournament, you need to play chess. At this point, it’s too late to read books –you can’t change your overall chess strength in a few weeks anyway.

Playing 2-3 tournaments in a row can be a solution as well. During the first tourney, you’ll warm up (🙂), while in the next tournaments, you’ll show your best performance.

Advice # 5 Study Chess Properly.

Together with “Advice #1”, these are the most important factors to become a Titled Player.

It’s a pity to see how many people spend/waste time on Internet blitz and tactical puzzles, and after that wonder why they are not progressing.

Luckily for chess players, they have A Universal Lame Excuse (🙂): “I don’t have chess talent”. It’s so convenient to say it. Now it’s not your fault anymore, you’ve somehow shifted responsibility to God. People like this psychological trick so much that I propose to establish an abbreviation ULE: Universal Lame Excuse. Now if somebody starts explaining to you that “he thinks that maybe he does not have enough talent for…” – you can just reply: “I know, it’s ULE” 🙂

Note: While I can’t explain everything about chess training in this short article, you can always find a lot of related free lessons on this website, or you can simply study my chess courses: Link ( )

To conclude here, let’s train your calculation skills.

Training Section

Exercise 1

Black to move. White installed a deadly pin on Black’s knight. Is there any way for Black to escape?

How to become a titled player?

Exercise 2

White to move. White has a very strong attacking position and a lot of tempting continuations. Nevertheless, Black has somewhat covered his weaknesses. Can White still break through?

How to become a titled player?

Exercise 3

White to move. This is a very practical position. A lot of endgames end up with positions where you need to calculate who’ll promote a pawn earlier. Your task here is to calculate the move 38.Ba5 and to determine the final result of the game.

How to become a titled player?

Answer to Game 1


Answer to Game 2


Answer to Game 3


P.S. In case of any questions or comments, you are highly welcome to write them below.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want GM Igor Smirnov to help you get better at chess, watch this Masterclass.

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