What Is a Chess International Master? (IM)

The International Master (IM) title is highly regarded and sought after by chess players around the globe.

What Is a Chess International Master (IM)?

Chess International Master (IM):

  • Title awarded by FIDE (World Chess Federation).
  • Below Grandmaster but above FIDE Master in ranking.
  • Requires three International Master norms from tournaments.
  • Must achieve a FIDE rating of at least 2400.

Below we look in more detail about what it means to be a Chess International Master, the requirements to attain this title, and the significance it holds in the chess community.

Understanding the Chess International Master Title

The title of International Master (IM) is awarded by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), the governing body of international chess.

It is one of the highest titles a player can achieve, just below the coveted Grandmaster (GM) title.

The IM title is a testament to a player’s exceptional skill, deep understanding of the game, and consistent performance in competitive chess tournaments.

Requirements for Becoming an International Master

Attaining the title of International Master is no easy feat.

FIDE has set specific requirements that players must meet in order to be awarded this prestigious title.

These requirements include:

  • Achieving a FIDE rating of at least 2400
  • Earning three International Master norms
  • Meeting specific performance rating criteria in tournaments

The FIDE rating is a numerical measure of a player’s strength, with higher ratings indicating greater skill.

To become an IM, a player must have a FIDE rating of at least 2400. This rating serves as a benchmark, ensuring that only players of a certain caliber are eligible for the title.

In addition to the rating requirement, players must also earn three International Master norms.

A norm is a performance-based achievement earned by achieving a certain level of performance in designated tournaments.

These norms act as a validation of a player’s consistent performance and demonstrate their ability to compete at a high level.

Lastly, players must meet specific performance rating criteria in tournaments.

The performance rating is a measure of a player’s performance in a particular tournament, taking into account the strength of their opponents.

Meeting the performance rating criteria ensures that a player’s performance is consistent and not solely reliant on a few exceptional games.

The Significance of the International Master Title

The International Master title holds great significance within the chess community.

It is a recognition of a player’s exceptional skill and dedication to the game.

Attaining the IM title is a major milestone in a player’s chess career and often opens doors to new opportunities.

One of the key benefits of being an International Master is the ability to participate in prestigious tournaments and events.

Many top-level tournaments have specific entry requirements, such as a minimum FIDE rating or title.

Having the IM title allows players to compete against some of the best players in the world and gain valuable experience.

Furthermore, the IM title is often a stepping stone towards achieving the highest title in chess, the Grandmaster (GM) title.

Many players who eventually become Grandmasters start their journey by first becoming International Masters.

The IM title serves as a recognition of a player’s potential and sets them on a path toward further success.

Grandmaster vs. International Master (GM vs. IM)

Rating Difference

GMs typically have a FIDE rating of 2500 or above, while IMs have a rating of 2400 or above.

This rating gap, although it might seem small, represents a significant difference in skill and consistency.

Tournament Performance

GMs have achieved three Grandmaster norms, which are based on strong performances in specific tournaments against other GMs and IMs.

IMs have achieved three International Master norms but not the more challenging GM norms.

Depth of Understanding

Both GMs and IMs have a deep understanding of chess principles, openings, middle games, and end games.

However, GMs often possess a more profound and nuanced understanding of complex positions, subtle strategies, and intricate tactics.


GMs usually have more experience playing against top-level competition, which can refine their skills and deepen their understanding of the game.

Knowledge Gap

It’s not necessarily that GMs know something IMs don’t, but rather the depth, precision, and speed of their calculations, evaluations, and decisions might be superior.

GMs might also have a broader repertoire and more extensive preparation in openings.


GMs tend to be more consistent in their performance, making fewer mistakes over the board compared to IMs.

Psychological Factors

GMs might have a better psychological approach to the game, managing time, stress, and decision-making more effectively during games, matches, and tournaments.


In short, while both GMs and IMs are elite players, the gap in skill level is evident in the depth of understanding, consistency, and experience against top-tier competition.

The journey from IM to GM is one of refining skills, deepening knowledge, and achieving consistent high-level performance.

FAQs – What Is a Chess International Master (IM)?

1. How long does it take to become an International Master?

The time it takes to become an International Master varies from player to player.

It depends on factors such as the player’s starting skill level, dedication to improvement, and opportunities to participate in tournaments.

On average, it can take several years of consistent effort and performance to achieve the IM title.

2. Can a player become an International Master without winning tournaments?

Yes, it is possible to become an International Master without winning tournaments.

While winning tournaments can certainly help in earning International Master norms and improving one’s rating, consistent performance and meeting the required criteria are the key factors in attaining the IM title.

3. Is the International Master title recognized outside of chess?

While the International Master title may not be widely recognized outside of the chess community, it holds immense value within the chess world.

It is a symbol of excellence and is highly regarded by chess players, organizers, and enthusiasts.

4. Can a player lose the International Master title?

No, once a player has been awarded the International Master title, they do not lose it.

However, it is important to note that a player’s FIDE rating can fluctuate based on their performance in tournaments, which may impact their standing among other International Masters.

5. How many International Masters are there in the world?

As of 2024, there are approximately 4,000 International Masters (IMs) worldwide.

However, this number is constantly changing as new players achieve the title and as FIDE updates its records.

For the most current and accurate count, you would need to refer to the official FIDE database or website.

6. Can a player become a Grandmaster directly without first becoming an International Master?

Yes, it is possible for a player to become a Grandmaster directly without first becoming an International Master.

However, this is a rare occurrence and typically requires exceptional performance and achievements in chess.

7. Are there any age restrictions for becoming an International Master?

No, there are no age restrictions for becoming an International Master.

Players of all ages can work towards achieving the IM title as long as they meet the required criteria and demonstrate the necessary skill and performance.

8. Can a player from any country become an International Master?

Yes, players from any country can become International Masters.

The title is not restricted to players from specific countries or regions.

It is a global recognition of skill and achievement in chess.

9. Are there any financial benefits to being an International Master?

While there may not be direct financial benefits tied to the International Master title, achieving this level of skill and recognition can open doors to opportunities such as sponsorships, coaching, and participation in high-profile tournaments with significant prize funds.

10. Can a player with a FIDE rating below 2400 still compete against International Masters?

Yes, players with a FIDE rating below 2400 can still compete against International Masters.

Tournaments often have different sections or categories based on rating ranges, allowing players of varying skill levels to compete against opponents of similar strength.

Summary – What Is a Chess International Master (IM)?

The title of International Master (IM) is a prestigious recognition awarded by FIDE to chess players who have demonstrated exceptional skill, achieved a minimum FIDE rating of 2400, earned three International Master norms, and met specific performance rating criteria in tournaments.

The IM title holds great significance within the chess community, opening doors to prestigious tournaments and serving as a stepping stone towards the Grandmaster title.

Becoming an International Master requires years of dedication, consistent performance, and a deep understanding of the game.

It is a testament to a player’s excellence and serves as a symbol of their achievements in the world of chess.


Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *