Ranking Chess Titles In Order (From Highest To Lowest)

Not all chess titles are created the same. Chess titles are awarded to players based on their skill, performance, and rank.

There are several different titles in chess, most of which are handed down by FIDE which is the international governing body of chess.

It can be hard to keep up with all the different titles that FIDE has to offer. Moreover, many players want to know the ranking order of the different chess titles.

No worries. In this article, we will rank the chess titles in order from highest to lowest so you can get a better understanding of their differences. We will also explore some miscellaneous titles that you may also be interested in. Let’s take a look.

Here are the different chess titles in order:

  1. Grandmaster
  2. International Master
  3. FIDE Master
  4. National Master
  5. Candidate Master

Ranking Open Titles (For Both Men & Women)

1. Grandmaster Title (GM)

The grandmaster title (GM) is the highest title a chess player can attain, and is the most difficult to achieve for a lot of aspiring chess players. According to recent data from Play Magnus, there are just over 1771 grandmasters in the world, and that number is growing steadily as time progress. However, when you compare this to the number of people who play chess altogether, the fraction is miniscule.

To be awarded a grandmaster title from FIDE, there are a few conditions that must be met:

>>The player must have an elo chess rating of at least 2500 at one time.

>>Obtain 3 norms in tournaments involving grandmasters from a mix of other countries. Norm in chess refers to a high level performance in chess tournaments where the player scores at least 2600 performance against opponents with average rating of at least 2380. See FIDE Title regulations.The player must also achieve this performance rating over 9 or more games to acquire a grandmaster norm.

>>Lastly, there are a few exceptions where you can achieve the grandmaster title directly without having to gain 3 norms. This include:

  • 1st place in the Women’s World Championship
  • 1st place in the World Senior Championship outright, both in the 50+ and 65+ divisions
  • 1st place in the World Junior Championship (U20) outright
  • 1st place in any of the Continental championship  (e.g. European, Pan American, Asian or African)
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Win any of these major championships and you will automatically attain the grandmaster title, provided that you have a FIDE rating of at least 2300.

2. International Master Title (IM)

The International Master (IM) title is the second highest title behind the grandmaster title. This title is awarded to strong players who attained at least 2400 rating in classical chess at some point. In addition, the player must obtain 3 IM norms.

While grandmaster norms are tough to come by, international master norms are just as difficult to obtain. To achieve a IM norm, you need to score a performance rating of at least 2450 over 9 games in a tournament. Similar to GM norms, the tournament must involve titled opponents from a mix of different countries or federations other than your own. More info in the FIDE handbook

There are some other conditions in which a player can be handed the IM title without going through the regular hurdles. Provided that the player is at least 2200, these include:

  • Qualifying for the FIDE World Cup
  • 2nd place in Women’s World Championship
  • 2nd or 3rd in the World Junior Championship (U20)
  • 2nd or 3rd in the World Senior Championship, in both the over 50 and over 65 divisions
  • 1st in the World Youth Championship (U18)
  • 1st in the World Youth Championship (U16) outright
  • 2nd or 3rd in a Continental championship
  • 1st place in a Continental over 50 championship, over 65 championship, or under 20 championship
  • 1st place in a Continental under 18 championship outright
  • 1st place in a sub-Continental championship
  • 1st place in a Commonwealth, Francophone or Ibero-American championship
  • 1st place a World Championship for People with Disabilities

International Masters are highly talented players, with some of them equalling the strength of a grandmaster. Their ratings are usually between 2400 and 2500. But most of them transcend to grandmaster title once they reach 2500 rating. Some simply become grandmaster straight away without ever becoming an international master.

Data shows that there are just 3,782 International Masters, which is more than double the number of grandmasters.

3. FIDE Master Title (FM)

The FIDE master title ranks below the International master title, and is the 3rd highest title a chess player can attain. FIDE master title is a lot more obtainable than GM or IM as the requirements are not too difficult to achieve. First of all, you do not need to achieve norms unlike GM or IM.

Once you’ve reached a rating of 2300, you will automatically get the FIDE Master title. There are several other ways in which you can achieve the FIDE Master title, provided that you have at least 2100 rating:

  • 2nd or 3rd in a Commonwealth, Francophone, or Ibero-American championship
  • 2nd or 3rd in the World Youth Championship (U18 and U16)
  • 1st place in a Continental under 12 championship or under 14 championship
  • 2nd or 3rd in a Continental over 50, over 65, under 20, or under 18 championship
  • 1st in the World Youth Championship (U14 and U12)
See also  Chess Points Table

4. National Master Title (NM)

National Master title is not handed to players by FIDE. It’s up to individual countries to set their own requirements of achieving National Master title. For example, in the United States, players are handed the NM title once they achieve a USCF rating of 2200 which is the same requirement for candidate master.

In this case, one could argue that the National Master title is just on the same level as Candidate master.

However, in England, the minimum requirement to obtain National Master title set by the English Chess Federation is 2250. Comparing the numbers, National Master title in England would be ranked higher than Candidate master. Therefore it all depends on the country.

Even though National Master is not a FIDE title, it is still considered higher than that of candidate master. Why? Because national master is much harder to obtain in most countries than candidate master. Even in Canada, you have to obtain 3 norms to get National master title.

5. Candidate Master Title (CM)

Candidate master is ranked below FIDE master and National master, and is the lowest title. Once you’ve reached a FIDE rating of 2200, you are automatically given the title of Candidate Master, otherwise abbreviated as CM.

However, you can achieve Candidate master title with a rating lower than 2200 but higher than 2000. For example if you score 50% over 7 or more games at an Olympiad, or perform well at continental or national events.

You’ll find most candidate masters between a rating of 2200 and 2300. Many of which advance to become FIDE masters once they achieve a rating of 2300 or more. According to reports from chess.com, there are roughly 1,700 active candidate masters, which is almost equivalent to the number of grandmasters previously mentioned.

Ranking Chess Titles For Women 

Women’s titles are exclusive to women only and can be held simultaneously with open fide titles. Though frowned upon by some players, these titles are meant to encourage women to participate more in chess. The downside is that by giving them free cookies, it becomes even more of a challenge for women to compete at the highest level. They need to go through the same hoops as men if they are to perform equal or greater than their male counterparts.

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Nevertheless, these title are 200 elo rating points less than the requirements for the similarly named open titles. Therefore, to gain WGM title, you will need to have a elo rating of 2500-200 = 2300 rating.

With that said, here is the order of women’s title in chess:

1. Woman Grandmaster Title (WGM)

Woman grandmaster title is the highest title that is exclusive to women. It is higher than the open FIDE master title but lower than the International Master title. If you win the World Girls Junior Championship, you are awarded the WGM title by FIDE.

2. Woman International Master (WIM)

2nd highest title among women is the Woman International Master title. The requirements compared to open IM title is a lot lower. Finish as a runner up in the World Girls Junior Championship and you’ll automatically be given the WIM title.

3. Woman FIDE Master (WFM)

Woman FIDE master is the 3rd highest title exclusively for women. Unlike reaching 2300 for open FIDE Master title, WFM is given to female players if they obtain a rating of 2100 or more. That is 200 elo points lower.

4. Woman Candidate Master

The lowest female title is candidate master and is obtained by reaching a FIDE rating of 2000 or more.

Source: FIDE Handbook Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/chapter/B01Regulations2017

Online Titles

Online titles are titles that are less common and are awarded to players with lower ratings. These are usually arena tournaments that are earned online using FIDE’s server. Once you obtain an over the board FIDE title, it is replced with the Arena title.

Here are the different arena titles in order:

Arena Grandmaster (AGM) highest ranked online title.


  • 150 bullet games
  • 100 blitz games or 50 rapid games
  • performance rating of over 2000.

Arena International Master (AIM) 2nd highest ranked online title


  • 150 bullet games
  • 100 blitz games or 50 rapid games
  • performance rating of over 1700.

Arena FIDE Master (AFM) 3rd highest ranked online title

  • 150 bullet games
  • 100 blitz games or 50 rapid games
  • performance rating of over 1400.

Arena Candidate Master (ACM) lowest ranked online title

  • 150 bullet games
  • 100 blitz games
  • 50 rapid games
  • performance rating of over 1100.

You can earn other titles online apart from the ones listed. For example, Lichess.org award its own unofficial title called Lichess Master. It is only awarded to highly notable players who are good citizens of Lichess. It’s offered to you, and then you have the choice to accept or reject it.

Apart from online title, arbiters, trainers and tournament organizers are also given titles by FIDE based on how well they perform.

The two types of titles awarded to arbiters  are International Arbiter (IA) and FIDE Arbiter (FA)

The trainer titles (from highest to lowest order) are FIDE Senior Trainer (FST), FIDE Trainer (FT), FIDE Instructor (FI), National Instructor (NI), and Developmental Instructor (DI).

Tournament organizers are given the title FIO, which stands for  FIDE International Organizer.