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Thanks to the T&T’s Ministry of Tourism and the First Citizen Asset Management Ltd., many local and regional players can get their International Chess Titles. But what exactly are these titles?


Chess players strive for international recognition through the FIDE rating they acquire (FIDE is the world chess body – www.fide.com). The FIDE rating, also known as FIDE Elo after its inventor Arpad Elo, is usually a 4-digit number showing their relative strength of chess players. In the FIDE system it starts from approximately 1000, and right now the top player, World Champion Magnus Carlsen has a rating of 2881 as at April 1, 2014. But this isn’t the only indication of chess skills. The world body, FIDE, also has 4 international chess titles.

The Candidate Master (CM) title is usually for players who attain a minimum rating of 2200, but may be awarded for special performances at top international tournaments. At present Trinidad & Tobago has only 5 CMs: 14-year old Joshua Johnson, 11-year old Sean Yearwood and University student Allan Munro; we also have 16-year old female champion Javanna Smith and former 7-time female champ & University student, Aditi Soondarsingh. Since the SubZonal 2.3.5 (right here in Trinidad) is in fact a first round qualifier of the World Chess Championship, the CM title will be awarded to any player who scores 4.5 points of the total possible 9.

The FIDE Master (FM) title is usually for players who attain a minimum rating of 2300, but may be awarded for special performances at top international tournaments such as the SubZonal 2.3.5. At present Trinidad & Tobago has only 6 FMs, the first ever being Ryan Harper. The other FMs are Christo Cave, Quinn Cabralis (youngest ever), Mario Merritt, Frank Yee and Michael Pouchet. At the end of today’s final round, all non-titled players or CMs who score 6 points of a possible 9 will be awarded the title of FIDE Master. It is hoped that we shall get at least 2 more FMs today.

The International Master (IM) title is usually for players who attain 3-spectacular performances (also called NORMS) at top international events, and attain a minimum rating of 2400. This is not an easy feat and as such T&T has no IMs. Our close chess friend Jamaica however has 1 IM (Jomo Pitterson) while our other very close chess friend, Barbados, has 2IMs – Terry Farley & Kevin Denny. The IM title may however be attained at very very special tournaments such as the SubZonal 2.3.5. Today, Ryan Harper is in with a chance to become Trinidad & Tobago’s first ever IM. Let us support him to do it.

Of course the most prestigious title is that of Grand Master (GM), for players who attain a minimum of 2500 rating and attain 3 GM NORMS. Again there are very very very very special tournaments at which this title may be gotten in “one shot”, such as the World Senior Championships. The English-Speaking Caribbean has no GMs to date, and indeed our sub-zone and zone have very few. It would be remiss of me however not to highlight the fact that our neighbour Cuba did however produce a World Champion in the person of Jose Raul Capablanca. He is considered one of the most brilliant masters of all-time and his games are required reading for those studying to become IMs and GMs.

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