The 2021 New York Invitationals: Recap

The first event in a new title norm series!

Introducing the New York Invitationals! Check out the website.

The first event was held at the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown Park Avenue, organized by Keith Espinosa and IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy.

New York Invitationals
The GM A section in action, with organizer Keith Espinosa looking on. Photo: Andre Harding

The Chief Arbiter and Tournament Director was … me!

Title norm tournaments are infrequent in New York City, as decent event space can be prohibitively expensive.

But what are norms?

First, all titles are awarded by FIDE, the International Chess Federation, and not the USCF or any other national federation. With that out of the way…

All you ever wanted to know about norms …

Norms are performance results needed for a title, specifically: Grandmaster (GM), International Master (IM), Woman Grandmaster (WGM), and Woman International Master (WIM).

[FIDE Master (FM), Candidate Master (CM), Woman FIDE Master (WFM), and Woman Candidate Master (WCM) do not require norms; only reaching a specified FIDE rating. Respectively: 2300, 2200, 2100, 2000.]

As I mentioned in my previous post on the FIDE Grand Swiss, players seeking GM/IM/WGM/WIM titles usually need three norms plus reaching a required rating threshold.

Rating and Performance Requirements for Norms
GM: 2500 rating and three norms with a 2600+ performance.

IM: 2400 rating and three norms with a 2450+ performance.

WGM: 2300 rating and three norms with a 2400+ performance.

WIM: 2200 rating and three Norms with a 2250+ performance.

Yes, the requirements for “W” titles are all 200 points lower than their “non-W” counterparts, but women can and do earn the “Open” GM and IM titles.

So a player can score, say, a 2600-level performance in any event and earn a GM norm? Not so fast.

Other Requirements for Norms
Number of games needed across events: At least 27.

Number of rounds per event: At least 9 (with few exceptions), but no more than 13 games will count (even if an event is longer than 13 rounds).

Titles of opponents: At least 1/3 must have the title you seek, or higher. In a 9 round event, a player seeking a GM norm must face at least 3 GMs. Also, at least 50% of opponents must hold (w)GM/(w)IM/(w)FM titles.

Minimum average rating of opponents: 2380 for GM, 2230 for IM, 2180 for WGM, 2030 for WIM. One player’s rating can be raised to 400 points below the required performance level. If an IM-norm seeker faces a 1900 player, they can consider it as if they played a 2050.

Federations of opponents: A maximum of 3/5 of the opponents may come from the applicant’s federation and a maximum of 2/3 of the opponents from one federation.

For a player from USA to earn a GM norm in a 9 round tournament held in the United States, they must face 5 or more titled players, including 3 GMs, and 4 of their 9 opponents must be from federations other than USA.

In a Swiss-System tournament, there’s no guarantee you will earn a norm even if you play well enough; your field may not meet all these conditions. In my years of directing, I’ve seen plenty of players miss out on norms simply because they faced three foreign players, instead of four.

Yeah. I hope you’re starting to see why norm events are often specially organized to ensure compliance with all these requirements!

 

Round Robin norm events

Round robins are the most reliable tournaments for title norms, because the tournament organizer can create a field that meets all FIDE requirements.

Such events normally have 10 players, meaning that each player plays one game against each of the other 9 players (9 rounds). For a GM norm event, at least three players will be GMs, given “conditions” (financial and/or other compensation) to participate. Four of the players need to play under a foreign federation.

The other players pay an entry fee to play and have a chance at a norm.

Round robins have an additional feature: since everyone knows in advance who they will play (and their rating), the Arbiter calculates how many points each norm-seeker requires to earn their norm. This is the amount of points that equate to a performance rating of, say, 2600 (for GM). There’s no guesswork during the event, or hoping for the necessary pairings.

If the average rating of a player’s opponents is 2600, they only need to score 4.5 points out of 9 for a 2600 performance (rare, but it can happen in super strong events like the Aeroflot Open).

If, at the other end, the average of a player’s opponents is the minimum 2380 … the GM-norm seeker needs to score 7 points out of 9, or “plus-five” (five more wins than losses)!

 

Back to the tournament!

We had three sections: GM A, GM B, and IM C.

GM A and GM B offered GM norms, as well as IM norms for players who did not already have the IM title. The IM C section offered IM norms only.

For all the details, see Chess Results. You can download all the games from the three tournaments, too!

The GM A section was very balanced, with just 129 rating points separating the top and bottom players, and this was reflected in the results. GM Titas Stremavicius (Lithuania) won the event with 6 points out of 9. To earn a GM norm, a seeker had to score 6.5 points.

Chess Life nov2021
Alex is once again on the cover of Chess Life!

The GM B section was quite different, headed by current U.S. Open Champion GM Aleksandr Lenderman (USA). He led the event from wire-to-wire and won with a dominant 7.5 points out of 9. Here, too, no norm-seeker achieved the required 6.5 points for a GM norm (or 4.5 points for an IM norm).

 

The IM C section was also won by the favorite, IM Zurab Javakhadze (Georgia), with a monstrous 8 points out of 9 (7 wins and 2 draws)! Zurab already has three GM norms, and just needs to cross 2500 FIDE to earn the GM title. After this event he’s 2484.

A norm was secured in this section, as FM Robert Shlyakhtenko (USA) earned his third and final IM norm. After this event, he’s very close to the needed 2400 FIDE rating as well.

 

What’s next?

Look for another norm event in January 2022 …

Stay tuned!

Watch Strong Players Play, in Person

Inspiration and Motivation

I recently wrote about my first chess tournaments. The beginning of a player’s career is critical in the development of their feelings and attitudes about the game and their own place in it.

The skittles area looks different, and yet the same. The site: Borough of Manhattan Community College. Photo: Tribeca Citizen

If you’re as clueless about chess as I was and feel you’re bashing your head against a wall — go watch strong players in person.

“Strong” depends on your level and respect for “chess authority.”

As a newbie, I was awed by the 1700s playing blitz and bughouse at the 1996 Greater NY Junior Championship organized by the Chess Center of New York.

They let me play some games, too…and crushed me in humiliating fashion.

I have never forgotten it. It kept me motivated to get stronger. Even when I sometimes wanted to quit.

A week later at the same location I watched GMs Joel Benjamin and Michael Rohde play a long series of blitz games…these guys wrote articles I read in Chess Life each month! I was starstruck.

It didn’t much matter that I finished 60th out of 65 players. Walking out of BMCC I was shaking my fist determined to improve.

Years later

During my time as Assistant Manager of the Marshall Chess Club (2003-2005) I loved watching “regulars” play. Examples: Marc Arnold, Julio Becerra, Salvijus Bercys, Jay Bonin, Fabiano Caruana, Asa Hoffmann, Giorgi Kacheishvili, Dmytro Kedyk, Kassa Korley, Irina Krush, Yury Lapshun, Alex Lenderman, Adam Maltese, Leif Pressman, Boris Privman, Raven Sturt and Leonid Yudasin. It was my favorite part of the job!

I always take the opportunity to watch high-rated players play as a player. spectator, or director. It isn’t about chess osmosis, though I do believe that exists. These experiences connect me with chess in a way solitary study and online play cannot.

The answer to chess improvement is desire…and maybe, just maybe, getting mad. You will manage a way. Watching strong players play in person, and sometimes getting your clock cleaned, can be a real help.