How Many Chess Grandmasters Are There?

Chess, the battle of intelligence in the most high stakes way. As millions of people play for pleasure, money and titles, the Chess industry is now worth over 40 million US dollars.

Any gender, any race and any age can partake in the tournaments or just play to keep the mind active making it the perfect activity for everyone. 

How Many Chess Grandmasters Are There

But what’s the point in partaking in these high stakes tournaments? Titles. As you progress through the levels of success, if you’re wanting to become a professional, that is, you begin to earn more prestigious titles.

The highest title being Grandmaster, other than World Champion. And with chess being around for years, how many Grandmasters of Chess are there? 

Keep reading to find out!

What Is A Grandmaster?

Aside from world champion, the GM title is the highest honor a chess player can obtain, and it is held for life once earned. The International Chess Federation, FIDE, bestows it to those who have won the Grandmaster tournament.

GMs are the world’s best chess players, and even the most gifted players must compete in rigorous tournaments to earn the title.

Not only are grandmaster hopefuls put through meticulous testing, it can take a long time before they are awarded the title of grandmaster. Contestants, on average, complete for 8-12 years depending on their passion, commitment and skills. 

How To Become A Grandmaster

How To Become A Grandmaster 

In 1950 the first Grandmaster titles were awarded to 27 players,  and the requirements for becoming a GM have varied throughout time.

A player who earns a 2500 FIDE classical (or standard rating and three GM norms is now awarded the title of GM by FIDE.

Each GM norm is exceedingly difficult to achieve, and there are numerous guidelines for determining what constitutes a norm.

In a nine-round FIDE tournament, you require a 2600+ performance rating, and several of your opponents must be from different federations/countries and titled (additional rules and restrictions may be found in FIDE’s handbook)—this is for one norm. 

Another norm that must be achieved in order to receive a GM norm is that the tournament must be nine or more rounds. Although there are a few rules. First, if a win in the first round helps your total performance rating, you can drop it from your performance.

For example, if you win round one against a 2245-rated opponent and round ten against a 2548-rated opponent, you can use your nine-game performance rating from rounds 2-10.

This rule also applies in the opposite direction. You obtain a norm regardless of your round 10 outcome if you meet the norm conditions in rounds 1-9 of a 10-round event.

This means that in order to secure a norm, you can completely abandon your round 10 game.


Completing a tournament with a performance rating of at least 2600 is one exception to obtaining a Norm.

Another noteworthy exception is that whoever wins the Women’s World Championship, World Junior Championship, or World Senior Championship receives the grandmaster title automatically.

How Many Grandmasters Are There?

According to the FIDE database on November 28, 2021, there are 1742 chess grandmasters and 1315 active chess grandmasters. The International Chess Federation FIDE bestows the grandmaster title on chess players once they have achieved 3 GM-norms or a performance rating of at least 2600 in one tournament. 

Let’s break it down. 

How Many Female Grandmasters Are There?

How Many Female Grandmasters Are There

Whilst chess isn’t a discriminatory league, there are still separate categories for women. There are currently 39 female grandmasters, with only 30 being active.

However, this does not include those awarded the Women Chess Grandmaster Title (WGM). 

Women’s Chess Grandmaster is a title reserved exclusively for females.The requirements for attaining the Woman Grandmaster Title (WGM) are less stringent than those for the International Master (IM), but more stringent than those for the FIDE Master (FM). 

With that information in mind, there are now 317 contestants competing in the Women Chess Grandmaster Title. Remember this is different from the Grandmaster Title!

And the number of active competitors within the Women Chess Grandmaster Title is 186. 

What Is A Super Grandmaster?

No you aren’t being tricked. Grandmaster is the highest formal title a player can receive before becoming World Champion.

However, the term Super Grandmaster is given to those who are considered the world’s best chess players and are contenders to become World Champion. These players have an impressive Elo rating of over 2700. 

According to the FIDE Top 100 Players November 2021 ranking, there are 37 chess players with ratings of over 2700.

As of November 2021, there are 37 Super Grandmasters in total. This is subject to change as more players gain a performance rating of 2700 or above. 

Can You Lose The Grandmaster Title?

In the event that a player is found to be using the FIDE Title and rating to undermine the ethical principles of the league then the player will have their Grandmaster Title revoked.

They can also lose their title if they are found to be breaching the anti-cheating regulations during a tournament which they are made aware of whilst applying for the tournaments. 


Looking to become a Chess Grandmaster? Be prepared for hours of learning, training and competing. With players taking an average of 8-12 years to achieve the title of Grandmaster this is no easy feat.

The average age of players earning the Grandmaster Title has decreased from 26 in the 1950’s to 18 in the 1990’s. However, this has caused it to be more fascinating and impressive if you gain the title after the age of 30! 

Grandmaster title contestants require 3 GM-norms in order to be awarded the title. This must take place over nine tournaments with several of your opponents being from different federations and/or countries.

Scoring an incredible 2600 performance rating however will take you straight to being a Grandmaster without the hassle of getting 3 GM-norms. 

With 1742 GM’s since 2021, winning the title of Grandmaster just keeps getting juicier!

So, are you ready to become a serious Grandmaster competitor? Or will you stick to playing for fun in the park?

Jenna Ostria
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