To become a chess grandmaster you need three norms and a FIDE rating over 2500, but how exactly do you get a norm? In short, a norm is a great tournament performance played against very strong opposition. Let’s break down each piece of the norm puzzle.
To get score a GM norm in a chess tournament you must first have a performance rating for the tournament of 2600 (technically 2599.5, rounded up to 2600). If you play a tournament and face all opponents rated 2600, you would need to score 4.5/9 to have a performance rating of 2600.
The better your opposition, the fewer tournament points you need to score. The FIDE handbook gives a quick guide for how many points you need to score versus different average opposition in order to get a 2600 performance rating.
In the table above, if you play a 9 round tournament against players rated, on average, 2460 you will need 6.5 points (4 wins and 5 draws, for example) to win a GM norm. If you play an average opponent of 2680 or greater, you would need just 3.5 points (7 draws and 2 losses, for example).
In a round robin norm tournament you can work backwards to see how many tournament points you need in order to get a norm. Calculate the average rating of each opponent you will face in a tournament and use the above table to see how many points you need in order to get a norm.
In open tournaments the performance rating calculation is more difficult. Your average opponent rating will swing drastically from round to round. Try this free (and very yellow) performance calculator to see your performance for a tournament.
In addition to a 2600 performance rating you must also play against a particular set of players. One third of your opponents during a tournament must hold the title of Grandmaster, and one half of your opponents must be titled.
You also need to play against players from federations other than your own. You must play two grandmasters from separate federations, that do not belong to your own federation. For example, if you are from the US, you must play two grandmasters from separate federations. You cannot play three grandmasters from the same federation to be eligible for a norm.
For a typical nine-round tournament you can only play six (6) players from a single federation. In the same nine-round tournament, you can play a maximum of five (5) players from your own federation.
There are a just a couple of “gotchas” when it comes to opponent rating. The first is that you are are allowed to raise one opponent’s rating to a floor of 2200. Often in large open tournaments very strong players will get paired down substantially in early rounds.
Getting paired against a player rated 1800 can make it difficult to meet norm requirements as it drags your average opposition rating down. To make up for this you can count one opponent as a 2200 regardless of their rating. Note that this can only be done for one game.
Your average opponent rating must also exceed 2380. If your average opponent rating is below 2380 you are not eligible for a norm, even if you meet all other requirements.
A norm tournament must be at least nine games in total. It can be advantageous to play ten game tournaments to give you an extra chance at a norm, due to two minor rules.
First, you can drop a win in the first round from your performance if it benefits your overall performance rating. For example, if you win in round one versus a 2245-rated opponent, and win round 10 versus a 2548-rated player, you can take the nine-game performance from rounds 2-10 as your performance rating.
This rule also works the opposite way. If you meet the norm requirements in rounds 1-9 of a 10 round tournament then you get a norm regardless of your round 10 result. This means you can drop your round 10 game altogether in order to secure a norm.
There are three factors that play in to scoring a GM norm. First, you must have a performance rating of at least 2600. Second, you must play a diverse set of opponents to meet FIDE requirements. Third, the tournaments that are eligible for a GM norm needs to be nine or more rounds.
Interested in becoming a grandmaster? See our rating comparison page to see how close you are to 2600 FIDE.