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How to become a candidate master in chess

chess player

If you are a decent club player or climbing the chess rankings online, you may be thinking about the potential to take your chess to the next level by attempting to qualify for FIDE Candidate Master Title. This relatively new ranking awarded by the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), the global governing body for the game, distinguishes players that have real potential to raise the prominence of their game and serves as a gateway to the higher titles, including the prestigious Grandmaster level.

The Candidate Master title is a worthy one in itself and is an attainable goal for many serious players of chess. In this short article we will look at how to become a Candidate Master in chess, with techniques and strategies to bring the title well within your reach.

What is a Candidate Master?

The Candidate Master (CM) title is awarded by FIDE to players who demonstrate the potential to become Masters in chess, literally Candidate Masters. It was introduced in 2002 and is the lowest of the title levels after Grandmaster, International Master, and FIDE Master. The elevel beneath the CM title is Category I player. 

It is loosely comparable to the ratings based Expert and Nation Master titles of the United States Chess Federation (USCF) or their Life Master life-based title.

Candidate Masters hold their title for life and as it is not discretionally awarded, any play that meets the qualifying standard can gain the title. Though ambitious players will see this title as  a stepping stone to higher titles amongs lay players it is an honourable one and held in great esteem.

In fact you may even be able to use the letters CM before your name just like the Grandmasters!

How is the Candidate Master title awarded?

The CM title is primarily awarded on a ratings basis using the eponymous Elo ratings system. This chess-rating system uses statistical probability to comparatively rank players by strength  and rate them one against another with the difference in Elo rating serving as a predictor of the likelihood of a particular player winning a match. 

Ratings are adjusted after official matches and tournmanents, making them the primary means for a player to increase in rank and obtain titles. Working out an individual players rating is steeped in mathematics but the benchmark for the Candidate Master title is an Elo rating of 2200 or more. 

chess tournament

This rating means that CMs are very strong players who actively compete in both open and closed over the board tournaments, and increasingly online. Only 15% of global players are thought to have ratings above 1400. 

To put things in perspective, out of the zillions of chess enthusiasts around the world there are only 1700 Candidate Masters. 

How to achieve the candidate master title

You can go about achieving the CM title, in more than one way. 

  • Usually, the primary focus of an ambitious chess player will be to establish the required FIDE Elo rating of at least 2200. 
  • It can also be attained by taking into account performance at a national or international level with percentage wins contributing to the title award.

Both methods will require focus, determination and hours of training and tournament play, but CM rating is the most attainable of the titles and well worth pursuing. 

To become a Candidate Master, you need to be eligible

To be eligible for the Candidate Master or any other FIDE title you will need to ensure that you are registered with FIDE. This is usually straightforward if you play in FIDE-rated tournaments in your home country. 

This can be verified via the Internation Rating Officer in your region, who will be the point of contact for validating your achievement of the qualifications needed for the CM title. The IRO should be notified in the first instance

Fees are also due

Once you have achieved the relevant ratings, either you or a sponsoring club will need to fork out some cash to cover the administrative fees that FIDE charge to confer the title.  The feeis approximately $100 (£75).

Setting your trajectory for the CM title

If you are a capable club or regional team player, dont stagnate as a big fish in a little pond. The Candidate Master title has been claimed by players as young as 7 years old!

Many capable players miss out on titles because of inadequate training and a lack of focus. These two factors make all the difference in ascending the levels of chess

Being a gifted chess player is not all nature and no nurture. If you lack the access to in-person or online chess coaching, you will need to but in the effort to improve all aspects of your game from opening through to endgame. 

By building in incremental improvements to your game, you will improve your overall performance and increase your opportunity for the valuable win that build your Elo rating. 

There are a number of books to read on how to make the leap to becoming a player thar is CM material. The study required is not for the fainthearted but by focusing your learning you can target your weakness and master strategies that will earn you points. 

A great thing about online chess is that you can watch titled players play and pit yourself against strong players online again and again. Also, expert chess players recommend shunning the fast chess games like bullet or Blitz that can ruin the concentration and stakina needed for meaty over the board tournament play.

Players that show the proficiency needed for Candidate Master are able dominate their opponent with strategies like the use of more forcing moves. 

FIDE Masters and International Masters point to the midgame as a key area where your game can be refined and your strategic powers honed. 

In conclusion

The CM title is an accessible rung on the ladder to Grand Master status and should be achievable for a determined and capable player who is willing to put in that little bit extra to improve their game.

There is never a better time to start the journey to your CM letters than now, so make the opening move by ensuring you are registered with FIDE. Every win counts.