Chess classes, titles and norms explained

What I have learned recently is that there are “chess titles” and “chess classes”…

With so many Colorado players crossing over the 2000 mark lately, there has been some confusion – for example if someone gets over 2000 – they are not necessarily a “candidate master”.

Klaus Johnson wrote a really good explanation about the difference between chess classes and chess titles, which cleared up the confusion that I had. 

Klaus writes:

Expert is a class, not a title. It can be gained and lost. Players who are currently rated 2000-2199 are experts. Players who were once rated 2000 or higher but are no longer experts, but “ex-experts”

Candidate Master (USCF) is a title. A player must have been rated 2000 at some point, AND must earn five different norms. A norm is awarded if a player scores MORE than 1.00 more in a tournament than a 2000 was “supposed” to score. Norm tournaments must be at least four games and one can’t play any opponent more than twice. The Candidate Master title is a lifetime title, so once one meets the requirements, he/she is a Candidate Master for LIFE.

chess norm

You need 5 chess norms for a candidate master title


National Master (NM) is a title that is earned when one achieves a 2200 rating (established) for the first time. No norms are required, but it too is a lifetime title. Buck Buchanan and Imre Barlay are two examples of national masters who are no longer rated 2200 or higher but who still hold the title.

Life Master (LM) is confusing because there are two separate titles. The Original Life Master (OLM) is an old title that is earned when one plays at least 300 games with at least a 2200 rating. The “new” Life Master title (LM) is very similar to the Candidate Master title, one must earn a 2200 USCF and earn five separate norms, where a norm is only earned if a one scores MORE than 1.00 more than what a 2200 “should” score.

OLMs receive a 2200 floor. National Masters can ‘only’ have a 2000 floor (or 2100 if they’ve reached 2300).

A player who is provisional 2200 would not have the NM title , however he would be master CLASS. He would be eligible to play in sections that are 2200+ (all USCF Grand Prix tournaments) Original life master is still tracked by MSA. If you go into the game statistics of newly minted NM Zachary Bekkedahl you can see that he has 14 games towards his 300.






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