Can a normal person become a titled player, even a GM?

I was asked this question (rephrased) on Facebook a few days ago. I felt that the right place to offer my opinion would be here. It will be an answer with a few points.

a) First of all, the answer is probably both yes and no. John and I are nothing special. I had “talent” for about 2200 and John maybe 1800. What I mean by this is that we got to these levels after playing chess for quite a number of years, but essentially just by playing. We did not study much before we hit the ceiling. This comes at different levels. For Luke McShane it came at 2600, while others face it at 1200 or 2100.

b) If you face the ceiling at 1200, I am honestly not so optimistic about you getting the GM title. I like to play music and I spend a lot of my time trying to improve, but I am not under the illusion that I will ever reach a professional level. This does not mean that it does not have tremendous value for me, it does. I love it.

c) The main issue with my musical ability is not that I do not have the talent of Prince or the educational possibilities of Mozart (home schooled by one of the greatest musicians of the time, his father). The real problem is more to do with the ‘10,000 hours rule’, as outlined by Malcolm Gladwell. (I know this is highly controversial, but let’s at least for the moment say that the idea of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is a good indicator of how difficult it is to learn something). I do not have five years of 2,000 hours to invest. I maybe practice 3-4 hours a week on average, 10+ hours on a good week and only 1 hour of fooling around the last few weeks. Progress is understandably slow.

The question of talent

We have debated this from time to time here on the blog. It seems clear that talent exists and

that we cannot measure it or predict it. A friend of mine has perfect pitch and a great sense of rhythm, but hardly ever practices. I am technically better than him, but those skills will take a very long time to acquire for me, if I ever get there. Clearly we did not start from the same spot.

The same with Carlsen and Karjakin. Karjakin was in the best environment any talented chess player has ever been in. He became the youngest grandmaster in history and has received an immense amount of support. He is fully focused and very ambitious. Carlsen likes to play basketball, computer games and sometimes work on chess. Still there is no doubt that the “Lazy” World Champion will win the match in November unless something extraordinary happens. (I have often questioned that Carlsen is lazy. He was called this in the 60 minutes interview, where he was also filmed up in the London Eye, thinking only about the next day’s game…)

Karjakin is obviously more talented than others. I am more talented than others. But there were also those in my generation in Denmark who were much more talented than me, and for a long time ahead of me. But at some point the work I did was more important.

A serious answer

The combination of talent and work is needed to become good at anything. It is almost (Talent) x (Work) = (Ability). The less talent you have, the more work you will have to do.

In order to become a Grandmaster, you have to invest really a lot of time and effort. You have to learn things that are not coming easy to you. You have to gain experience and so on. There are 1519 Grandmasters in the World. It is a very exclusive club. You have to make big sacrifices to make it – and not everyone will make it.

But there are other titles, like International Master, which is achievable without making it a full time pursuit. I have a number of times been seen to burst out laughing when 2300+ players have told me that they did not have what it took to become IMs. Yes, it requires work, but the level is by no means as high as becoming a GM. And it is still a prestigious title.

50 thoughts on “Can a normal person become a titled player, even a GM?”

  1. I feel this is an important subject for all chess players. All of us, even Carlsen, want to be better than we currently are. If there are any exceptions to this statement I apologize. I do question your sanity, but as chess players we are already playing with fire.

    Now, this desire to play at the highest level has the question of being backed up by data and experience. All previous records show us that the best performers in almost any field have had a strong, self reinforcing desire, to be the best at any given thing. Music, chess, sports etc. This has to do with the (1) Energy, (2) lack of material concerns, parents or guardians tend to make the pursuit of hobbies easier as the day to day needs are taken care of. (3) Abundance of extra time. (4) Addiction. Once a child becomes interested in a specific thing, it becomes almost impossible to tear them away from it. And finally (5) the ever mysterious talent.

    All of these factors play a role in the best chess players. Does this mean that young adults or older persons are unable to perform at that elite level? That is a question that is answered based on previous experience and empirical data, and the answer would appear to be no. However, there is, theoretically speaking, the chance of someone even at a later age of gaining titles and playing at a high level. The odds are very, very low. This is a somewhat depressing conclusion.

    But I offer another idea. As aged chess enthusiasts, by aged I refer to anyone over the…

  2. As aged chess enthusiasts, by aged I refer to anyone over the age of 20, what should we do with all this talk of talent, energy, time, and the odds against us? Forget it. You can not change the past, and lost time, is lost permanently. And in your research you will find nothing that will encourage you to believe you can become more than what you already are. I’ve looked.

    So, I offer my ‘aged’ friends another, and far more enjoyable question. One in which the pursuit becomes fun, and enjoyable. How strong can you become? Answer this question and see where it takes you.

  3. I think it is ultimately talent. I would like to be an IM, but, I don’t think it will ever happen no matter how hard I try. I am almost 52 now. I won the U.S. Junior Open Championship in 1983 and 1984 and placed 4th in the 1984 U.S. Junior Championship after having started playing chess in 1980 at age 15. I reached a peak ELO of 2315 FIDE in 1986 and high USCF rating of around 2390 at about that time. Then career, kids marriage etc. took over. I did not really play much until starting again in 2009. My current FIDE rating is 2152, which is terrible. I had a FIDE performance rating of 2490 in November 2012 which put my FIDE rating back to 2270 and I was somewhat optimistic. Since then it has been downhill. The kids are very tough and underrated. I get good positions against strong players and don’t finish. It is frustrating. Ultimately, I am beginning to accept that part of the talent is just finishing won games. Or perhaps I should go back to the shrink….

  4. A big part of the “10,000 hours” idea is of course that it’s *deliberate* practice, it must be active, focused and actually beneficial.

    Sometimes it seems to me that for a lot of club players their ceiling seems to be about 150-200 points above the point where they started to memorize lots of opening theory. The two 22xx players I know who got there by “pure talent” never studied theory until there, then started and their progress stalled. But I only have a very small data set to base this on.

    That said, I still spend time reading opening books, and hardly any working on Yusupov as I should. The latter needs time and energy and is hard, while opening theory feels like it’s going to be useful immediately without any work whatsoever. The empty calories of chess.

  5. I think the at the moment, not every people can became GM. I know talented people that have dedicated a long time to chess, but they are still IM, and in 99% they will never became GM. They work as chess teachers, so at least they are strongly studying chess, although probably not in the most suitable way to be a GM.

    Also, you have to take into account, that being a GM is something relative, I mean, elo is a relative thing and depends on the number of people that play chess, all this people could became a GM, if for example all countries introduce chess as mandatory at schools. The higher number of people is playing chess, the easier is to have a higher elo.
    It is interesting the case of Claude Bloodgood about elo, even if to became a GM, you additionally needs to get 3 norms.

  6. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    @Doug Eckert It’s common for older players. You don’t necessarily have to train for a marathon, but you could read up on marathon training to find out about the fuel systems in the body. And also the brain runs on the same fuel as the body. Basically you only have enough glycogen for about three hours of intense exercise, to go beyond that you need to slow down (lower intensity burns proportionately higher fat) or refuel. But it is still not enough, so you also need to train the liver to produce more glycogen while exercising.

    Similar principles apply to chess _competition_. But you do need to train the body to get the liver to perform.

  7. By coincidence, I have just read an article by Garry Kasparov, written a few years back, where he elaborates on talent as following:

    “There is little doubt that different people are blessed with different amounts of cognitive gifts such as long-term memory and the visuospatial skills chess players are said to employ. One of the reasons chess is an “unparalleled laboratory” and a “unique nexus” is that it demands high performance from so many of the brain’s functions. Where so many of these investigations fail on a practical level is by not recognizing the importance of the process of learning and playing chess. The ability to work hard for days on end without losing focus is a talent. The ability to keep absorbing new information after many hours of study is a talent. Programming yourself by analyzing your decision-making outcomes and processes can improve results much the way that a smarter chess algorithm will play better than another running on the same computer. We might not be able to change our hardware, but we can definitely upgrade our software.”

  8. My own view is:
    Strong players sometimes argue that by spending so much time and effort they became a GM. I guess it is the other way round. By having the capabilities, somewhere hard-coded inside, they got the natural drive to spend the energy and time. It is just the way the human brain works: once it detects something where it is good in, it wants more. And more. And more. Looking from this point of view, the 10k hours might be spent not so deliberately…

  9. It is comparable to a university degree. Like an engineer, and I think not as difficult as the degree in mathematics.
    Essential skills are: logic, memory, spatial visualization, wit or creativity, …
    but is not the same be economist than Nobel Prize in Economics

  10. Are there any good measures of chess innate talent akin to an IQ test for intelligence people would swear by?
    I realise that IQ is not quite the same as intelligence but it is a rough guide and I could see there being an equivalent in chess. You might give it to a bunch of budding chess players and it can predict their future elo growth above random or some other ability measure eg their SAT or IQ test result.
    It might be a test suite of tactics or positional ideas to solve or something to do with calculation or visualisation. The main thing is that it comes with reliability (ie stability over time) and valid (ie measures important aspects of chess talent). Knowing opening theory would probably succeed on the first (reliable) but not the second (valid).
    I remember Leonard Barden saying he knew Mickey Adams had talent by giving him a knight tour question and seeing how fast he could visualise say getting from square x to square y via square z. perhaps there are better ways. Freidrich Friedel uses this test from a famous Joseph study on talented youngsters
    I see this as a flawed test as the Joseph study is one of hte better known studies that even I’d seen before and so remembered the general gist of the study so would score higher than I should do if this was a genuine test.
    Similarly you can learn tactical/positional tests and so learn sequences of moves just like opening theory or mating with Bishop and…

  11. …..Bishop and Knight so I don’t feel these are suitable as a talent test unless you could guarantee their freshness -the knight tour would be much harder as you could vary the start/end squares so that there would be too many sequences to learn.
    Anyone got a better suggestion or is talent so difficult to measure that I might as well start looking for unicorns?

  12. Jacob

    Could you give an estimate on how much work/games is required (on average) to go from 2200 to IM? Suppose you also have access to a GM as weekly trainer. Also to FM?

  13. I did a double-take after reading Remco G’s post comparing working on Yusupov (“needs time and energy and is hard”) to opening theory (“useful immediately without any work whatsoever”). This certainly does not match my experience! I find both things to be hard work that requires time and energy, but working on Yusupov is fun, while opening theory is deadly boring (and not nearly as useful as most people think it is). In actual practice, I do very little of either (I’m lazy, and have a lot of other hobbies and interests), but if given a choice between those two things, I will go with Yusupov every time.

  14. On the original question of this thread, I think becoming a GM requires (1) a certain amount of talent, (2) a certain amount of hard work, and (3) the specific application of (1) and (2) to chess (because the same general talents are probably useful in a number of other areas). I think that for either of the first two, the percentage of the general population that has the required talent or capacity for hard work is relatively small; the percentage that has both is going to be significantly smaller; and the percentage that chooses to apply them to chess is smaller still. Also, there is an age factor. Children have more time and energy and learning capacity than adults, so the earlier you start, the better your chances. Put all that together, and it’s easy to see why there are so few GMs. The combination of necessary factors is pretty unlikely to occur in any given person. And if you’re over 60 and still USCF Class C (which describes me), the chances are effectively zero. I still think Yusupov can help me get to Class B, though. 🙂

  15. Jesse Gersenson

    My musicality Elo is 2380, that’s after 700 hours of practice, 1400 hours of instruction and 6000-8000 hours of playing.

    To become a ‘profecient user’ of a natural language, level C1 by the CEFR standard, takes, on average, 700 hours of directed study. I’d guess a talented student can reach the same level after 350 hours.

  16. This topic is something I thought and learned about over 40 years now. So I try to give a short summary of my opinion:

    1. The deliberate practice idea works.
    2. There are basic preconditions to this idea, as health and cognitive functioning on an average level and starting age. So some people are excluded from mastership by their fate.
    3. In a Gedankenexperiment with every person having optimal conditions to get trained there still would be differences in skills between persons.
    4. We cannot answer the question, if everybody in this Gedankenexperiment would become GM or IM. We cannot answer the question, if everybody would become a master in her/his wanted field.
    5. Many people have strong believes over this question. Most of them don’t try to collect facts pro and contra their believes. This makes discussion about it often sterile.

    Personally: The question how to learn and train to get better is for me much more interesting. Artur Jussopow has somewhere given a definition of a talented child. His eyes start to glow if you show him a chess task on board or on diagram. 4-5 years ago I started 58yo with a national rating of 1820 playing tournament chess again after a pause of 28 years. Under two chronic diseases as hindering factor (I had to retire.) I won about 40 rating points per years. My Elo is 2056 now. My best Ingo-rating was 9x near 100 (pardon me, I forgot the exact number), which is an estimated Elo of 2048-2064. As I can’t answer the question how much I…

  17. … As I cant answer the question how much I would have gained per year when I reached this level with 30 and would have continued this training then, I leave the question to your own judgment. But there is one thing I know for sure. If someone could have guaranteed me to become a GM then I would have rejected this and chosen my profession and my family.

  18. I wish I had the 10,000 hours and a trainer to find out. As I indicated above, I made FM, but, hit a wall. Regarding the comment on training like for a marathon, I agree with that. I am doing two bike rides a week of 20 – 25 miles, tennis once a week. But, my 60 hour per week job makes fitting in meaningful chess study very difficult. I am playing in Chicago Open next weekend, 9 rounds strong open section and then an IM Norm round robin two weeks later. Other than 2 of the IMs, I am by far the oldest participant in the IM norm event.

    At times I feel like I am on the right track, but there is so much to work on to get good. Holes in the opening repertoire, very important in a round robin where everyone can prepare for you. Spending time doing tactical exercises and endgame exercises, but, I am not sure if it is focused on the right things.

    Yasser Seirawan gave me some great advice in two areas. First, he said at my age, early 50s, when it is your move, you calculate variations. When your opponents move, look at the position to figure out what your plan should be and key points, but don’t calculate variations. The calculation will wear you out. Second, the idea is to put together a strategic opening repertoire where I understand the positions and there is as little memorization as possible. That sounds simple, but, there is still a lot to know.

    The truth really seems that the players who make GM has some innate feel for where the pieces should be. The…

  19. Jacob quotes Gladwell for the 10,000 hours and deliberate practice. Well, the guru of deliberate practice and the originator of the term “deliberate practice” has finally written a book for the masses to explain his research:
    Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool – Peak – Secrets from the New Science of Expertise 2016
    I have also been very interested in this issue. I think there is a very huge variance in what we think as talent (cf the quote from Kasparov, which I also read a few years ago). Need discussion and agreement before we can proceed.
    In child development, currently I think the key factors which lead to a child learning and progressing (and transposing to adult learning and progressing, perhaps?) are 1) Carol Dweck’s growth mindset; 2) Angela Duckworth’s “grit” (her book just published); 3) Cal Newport’s deep work (book just published); 4) Drive/habit (perhaps Pink’s book on Drive); 5) Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence (leading to different ways of learning) and perhaps Scott Barry Kaufman’s Ungifted (and his work generally int his area); 6) Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi’s Flow; 7) motivation (“positive thinking”(?) a la Gabriele Oettingen’s book on motivation?

  20. Perhaps this book will have views which is representative of the debate:
    The complexity of greatness : beyond talent or practice edited by Scott Barry Kaufman 2013

  21. @Remco G: My apologies, I sort of knew that’s what you meant. But see, for me it doesn’t even “feel” that way. Studying opening theory is sheer drudgery for me, and it’s also a bottomless pit. You can’t just say “I’ll spend a month or two building an opening repertoire, and then I can work on other stuff.” If you try to build a complete opening repertoire, you might as well rename yourself Sisyphus — you will never get to the other stuff. Also, it is my feeling that openings are much easier to understand once you know the other stuff — because then you can see *why* the book moves are preferred over other moves, rather than just taking someone’s word for it. Not to mention that it’s extremely annoying to put in a bunch of hard work learning everything there is to know about some opening, only to have your opponent go out of book (or into some obscure footnote) on move 3. Now you’re on his turf — you both have to “just play chess”.

  22. Nevertheless, I have bought a whole bunch of opening books from Quality Chess, and plan to look at them some day. 🙂

  23. Back in the nineties, when I was young, I knew someone, same age like me with the same stalled rating at around 2000. When everybody else did start focussing on education, he dedicated himself fully to the game, including trainers, obviously he was young and did not need the money. A few years later I met him again and he had improved his rating by around 300 points and had become a decent Fide-Master. At this time his rating had already got stuck again for quite a while and he had different plans. Now, compare this to Jacob`s rising from a stalled 2200 to 2500 over a few years. And then, finally, read Artur Jussupows introduction to Dworetzki`s Endgame Manual, where it is suggested to bring a talented 🙂 player from 2200 within 4-5 years to the Grandmaster title applying Dworetzky`s methods. But the GM title corresponds to a 2500 rating. So here we have the formula: with very hard work and years to spend you will rise by 300 points when starting from a stalled rating. And no, 2000 is not enough to become a GM, even if you spend the deliberate 10k hours at the board.

  24. Depends on the age of the normal person.

    Yes: a normal 4-year-old with an abnormally supportive environment can become a GM.
    No (probably): no normal person who began chess as an adult has become a GM.

    Imagine a healthy, normal, retired 65-year-old begins playing chess and puts in 10,000 hrs of deliberate practice. How many GM norms do you think that person will earn?

    Q: has any 60+ person begun to play chess after retiring from work and scored even one IM norm?

  25. @Bulkington
    A chap in the UK called Jeff Horner progressed from FM to IM after retirement, when basically his time freed up..

    I would be curious if people who do coaching like Jacob or Andrew would feel confident if someone approached them in similar situation to Terry Chapman in UK was 10-15 years ago. I.e reasonable talent, still in 40s and had time, money and desire to get to IM level.

  26. Soviet School

    The experiment has already been done by the Polgars, if you train kids from young they can get really good just like if you put someone young in an new country they become fluent in the local language.
    For adults looking at English GMs my feeling is skill at chess is strongly linked to some sort of abstract IQ Nunn, Mestel, Speelman , Miles .They were all mathematicians of high ability. Or you have GMs who’s start really young like Short, Adams , McShane, Gawain Jones. No ‘normal’ adult are going to compete with these people. Having said this improved computers and books do mean that the typical bright person can get very good at chess.

  27. Bulkington, thanks for the encouragement. I am spending some time prepping, but with my work schedue, it is not enough. Unfortunately, I know that. I am also trying to work on physical fitness and mind set also. All the games are just a battle. Nothing easy. Chicago Open 40/2 time control then game 30 is a bit easier to manage than the norm tournament where it is G 90 + 30 seconds. The problem for us older players is that at the end, it is basically a test every 30 seconds and stamina. In the last one I played in last October, I played GM Denes Boros in round 1, I managed to hold a draw from a slightly worse position that Denes pressed me for 110 moves. In round 2 I achieved a winning position against Ruifeng Li, who is a very strong IM, after 40 moves in a very complex position, I missed and had a slightly worse but teneble ending. I lost on move 105 and was completely exhausted. Things went downhill badly after that…I am trying to learn from these experiences. But, there are a lot of nuances and pieces to figure out.

    Soviet School, I think it takes more than training at a young age, it also takes a lot of talent. There are huge numbers of kids now that have full time trainers etc. only a few make it through. The Polgar sisters are huge talents. We here about them because of that. The ones that aren’t huge talents, you never hear about. They also worked extremely hard also, but, I think it takes both. Your last sentence is the key, “improved…

  28. The experiment was done by Polgar, but only 1 (or 2?) of his sisters became GM. I think that he also tried to do the same with some other kids from Africa, and he failed or not complete the process.

    Soviet School :
    The experiment has already been done by the Polgars, if you train kids from young they can get really good just like if you put someone young in an new country they become fluent in the local language.
    For adults looking at English GMs my feeling is skill at chess is strongly linked to some sort of abstract IQ Nunn, Mestel, Speelman , Miles .They were all mathematicians of high ability. Or you have GMs who’s start really young like Short, Adams , McShane, Gawain Jones. No ‘normal’ adult are going to compete with these people. Having said this improved computers and books do mean that the typical bright person can get very good at chess.

  29. @PaulH
    Regarding Jeff Horner, he was a strong player for decades, around IM strength or so throughout that time. He won oodles of tourneys. (Lovely chap too, btw). He just rarely played outside the north-east, and did not get to tourneys where norms were available till after retiring, that’s all. Perhaps not the best example here.
    I did read of some fella who retired, had some time, then promptly scorched norms and his title, was on one of the chess portals somewhere. Maybe 3-4 years back, dunno. Give me 20 years, I’ll be expecting to do the same…;)

  30. @SimonB
    Bolton is in north-west England, not north east. Many Lancastrians would take umbrage at the confusion! 🙂

    But yes my point exactly, I was replying to reply to comment about Doug above, who seems to be in somewhat similar, perhaps a few steps behind, situation to Jeff I think….

  31. @Fer
    Yes, only 2 of the 3 sisters became a GM, while the third got a mere IM title. Whether this counts as a success or a failure is left to the reader. Wikipedia says that the “experiment” with children from a developing country never materialized.

  32. @SimonB
    🙂 If you are the Simon B who is English teacher in Japan we once played in some under 18 county event in like 1992 ….me for Lancashire, you for Warwickshire or Oxfordshire (forget exactly)…of course you won! But did not realise you originally came from “up north” too!

  33. I did once beat Jeff Horner in a rapid play with 1. e3 He was one of the players, like John Littlewood, who never got many chances for IM norms.

    I have got my highest ever BCF rating at the age of 58, so improvement is possible when you are semi-retired and have time to study.

  34. (Talent) x (Work) x (Interest) = (Ability)

    I think it is very important to be interested in chess.
    You will not get very far if you have talent and work hard if you are not deeply interested in chess.

    I have seen many players who have both talent and work hard but do not love chess enough. During my School years I met players who were more talented than me that worked as hard (or harder) on chess as I did.

    The problem was that those players were mainly concerned with the result. They did not love the game enough. And when they had some major setbacks they stopped playing.

  35. @Steven Carr
    Your grading progress is impressive! Do you have any tips beyond investing time eg are you working on openings or endings? Working the “old fashioned” way with books or using the computer a lot?

  36. I use the computer a lot, mainly to solve tactics. This is simply because it is so easy to find tactics problems. I do do some endings and openings. Perhaps I should do more.

  37. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    Jupp53 wrote: “5. Many people have strong believes over this question. Most of them don’t try to collect facts pro and contra their believes. This makes discussion about it often sterile.”


  38. I think Jonathan Hawkins has shown it is possible. He went from 179 ECF (2042.5 FIDE equivalent) in 2005 as a 22 year old, to IM in 2010. It then took him another 4 years to gain the GM title, however, he was arguably already at GM strength back in 2011, work commitments seem to have prevented him from getting his norms quicker, he definitely was GM strength from 2012 onwards. Therefore he did it officially in 9 years, practically in 6-7 years from around 2000 FIDE strength.

  39. ‘Normal’ people becoming GM? Hmmm.
    It also perhaps depends on how little attention you are prepared to pay to personal hygiene. Same y-fronts for a week? Check. Unwashed hair? Check. Single pair of old socks. Check.
    Then there’s a chance.

    Oh, and @PaulH. Yes, ’tis me. Rossolimo …g6 iirc? Like Fischer – Spassky, the b4 gambit. That you? That fits for a memory of a game about 23-24 years ago v Manchester in the U18s. I was Warwickshire board 1 (and team organizer / manager).

  40. @SimonB
    Yes your memory is good…but Lancashire not Manchester. A very good tournament with the likes of Stewart Haslinger and Luke McShane playing on lower boards….

  41. First tournament is done. I consider myself average player, 2152 FIDE, FM title, 51 years old. Results by round.

    1. IM W 2412 1-0 Good start win over young IM with at least 1 GM norm.
    2. GM B 2481 1/2 Worse the whole game saved draw in worse rook endgame in time trouble.
    3. IM B 2433 0-1 Positionally dubious decision early and a loss. Why 2 Blacks in a row???
    4. GM W 2533 1/2 I should have kept pressing a persistent advantage I had…2465 so far.
    5. FM W 2332 1/2 Missed a win and he created a fortress…2438 Still a chance
    6. FM B 2337 1/2 Worse the whole game, found good moves to hold 2421 Still a chance.
    7. GM W 2518 0-1 Pressing the whole game and terrible strategic blunder norm chances over…
    8. …B 2208 1/2 Took too many chances to try to win lucky to draw….3.5 – 4.5
    9. Did not play

    Maybe there is hope But, these were all tough games. The GM games in rounds 4 and 7 were critical. The reality was I was tiring badly by round 7 and games 7 and 8 were not pretty. I have to get past that. End of next week is the next try.

  42. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    It sounds like you have the ability, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it done in “x” number of attempts. I have known “IM-strength” players who went years without a norm. They eventually got the title, but unless you go to Europe it takes some doing. Getting a norm is a little difficult because you have to play actually above the IM-level for 9 rounds. Sometimes the difference is just a little luck, for example: you get an easy win for a change in an early round (maybe somebody falls into your preparation instead of the other way around), so you get some extra sleep, so the later rounds you have that little bit of extra energy for the time pressure. Kind of like catching a lot of green lights during the commute to work.

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