Chess World Competitions

There are lots of chess tournaments out there, with the first ever international tournament having been held in 1851 in London. Today, they are the gold standard chess competition in serious players. Although many chess clubs hold their own tournaments, there are some well-recognised tournaments for individual players such as the Tata Steel Chess Tournament and, of course, the Chess Olympiad which is the chess world’s version of the Olympic Games.

World Chess Competitions

How Are Chess Tournaments Organised?

The majority of chess tournaments are ruled and organised in line with the FIDE (World Chess Federation) handbook which lists regulations and full guidelines for the conducting of tournaments. All of the tournaments follow the chess game rules strictly. There are three styles of the tournament – the round-robin, the Swiss system or the eliminate style.

Tournaments are classified by the FIDE depending on the participants’ ELO rating. Category 1 is the first category for any master-level tournament. In this category are players with average ELO ratings of 2251-2275. Categories increase in increments of 25 points with the strongest tournaments having 23 categories for players with average ELO ratings of over 2800.

The World Chess Championship

The world chess champion - Magnus Carlsen

The WCC or World Chess Championship is the tournament which determines the world chess champion. Played once every two years, the current champion is Magnus Carlsen who has held the title since 2013.

The very first WCC was held in 1886 between Wilhelm Steinitz and Johann Zukertort. Steinitz was the winner of this early tournament. Although between 1993 and 2006 a rival PCA championship was held, this was reunified with the WCC in 2006.

As part of the WCC, there are separate titles and events for players aged under 20, women and seniors. As part of the tournament, there are also niche championships such as the World Computer Chess Championship and the World Blitz Chess Championship.

Which Titles Are Awarded in Chess Tournaments?

There are many chess titles, which vary depending on which organisation is granting them.

  • Class and Expert titles – these are based solely on ratings. They are informal titles which are used when players have the following ratings:
    • Expert: 2000-2199
    • Class A: 1800-1999
    • Class B: 1600-1799
    • Class C: 1400-1599
    • Class D: 1200-1399
    • Class E: 1000-1199
  • Master titles – national chess federations award master titles to honour their country’s strongest players. A national master often has a rating of 2200 or more, with senior masters being those who have a level of 2400 or more. A life master is a player with a 2200 rating for 300 games or more.
  • FIDE Titles – these are awarded by the FIDE. They require a very high FIDE rating, and the very highest titles will require a strong performance in a tournament against another elite player. Once an FIDE title has been awarded, it will never be taken away. The titles include:
    Candidate master – any player who has an FIDE established rating of 2200 or above
    FIDE Master – (FM) this is given to players with an established FIDE rating of 2300 or more
    International Master – (IM) this is awarded to players with an FIDE established rating of 2400 or more and who have proven their strength over three tournaments with impressive results against strong competition.
    Grandmaster – (GM) this is the title most non-players are aware of. It is the hardest title to earn as the player has to have an established FIDE rating of 2500 or more.

Women have several FIDE titles which are exclusively awarded to them. These include:

  • WCM (Woman Candidate Master)
  • WFM (Woman FIDE Master)
  • WIM (Woman International Master)
  • WGM (Woman Grandmaster)