Getting those Title Norms you know you deserve!?

Sherwood, Russell  Tuesday, April 18, 2017

In a prior article, I reviewed a path to the CCE Title but considering my own aspirations I thought it useful to review the approach I believe is necessary for Higher Titles.

The first thing we need to consider is getting access to the right level of Tournament. Although CCM, IM, SIM and GM Norms become available at Category G,1,4 and 7 respectively very few Norms are scored at these levels because you are required to score around 79% - around 7 wins out of 12 games, which In modern CC is almost unheard of.

Preference is given instead for 3 Categories Higher (J,4,7 and 10) where the required performance drops to 4 wins from 12 games – difficult but not impossible.

So from a practical view, we need to build out rating up as high as possible to be able to try and gain access to these higher level events – either via direct access (such as Master Norm Tournaments) or selection (such as Invitational or National Team events). Outside of these the best possible option for an aspiring player is the Champions League, where even in the lowest Division events up to Category 3 are possible without either the rating limit or selection process seen in most other events.

 To boost our rating, we have to look to primarily win games against lower rated players. This is worthy of a very extensive article in its own right but the basics include:

  • Going into Opening variations which are not fully clear
  • Not following worn out book lines
  • Not slavishly following engine advice

Let’s assume we have reached the position of being able to secure entry to a suitable event. For me there are now three areas we now need to consider:

  • General Event Preparation
  • Specific Opponent Preparation
  • Opening Preparation


All of these overlap to a certain extent, starting with:


General Event Preparation

Here we have several considerations:

  • What are my performance requirements for the Norm?
  • What other objectives do I or are my opponents likely to have for this event? (e.g. Do I want to be promoted to the next round of an event)
  • How important is this event to me? (Am I willing to risk losing when trying to win?)
  • Are there wider considerations? (Team event place additional constraints on players)

These combine to give a general picture of the event and what is required of you to achieve your goals!

In addition, at this point it can also be a very useful exercise to determine the “average” expected Outcome of the event – this can be built up in a spreadsheet quite quickly and can give an indication of potential targets and threats.

Specific Opponent Preparation


If we have built the spreadsheet mentioned above we can have a very useful indication in terms of games we are expected to win and lose. This can also be done by a simple examination of our games. As a general rule anyone we are more than 100 Elo above we should be looking to win against, Anyone more than 100 Elo above us a draw is our likely target and anyone else a draw is also a likely outcome.

From above we now have a basic list of likely targets but this is almost certainly going to be inadequate for us to reach out goal. The list above is based on the statistical outcome of the rating formula, which is generally correct over a large number of games but we now need to look at the games that buck the trend.

At this point we now start to look closely at our opponents. A very basic method is as follows:

  • What is happening to their ratings over the last 5-6 rating lists, Up, down, Flat or Choppy? Ideally our targets are on the way down, but choppy is also of interest!
  • How many games are the playing (whilst we cannot see this directly the number of games finished per rating period is a good proxy), If this number if too high it increases the potential for errors and gives us an insight into their approach.
  • What is their Win/Loss/Draw ratio over the last few rating periods? Some players (especially those with flat or choppy ratings) tend to fall into two groups: Those who Win/Lose and those who draw. For our purposes, the Win/Lose player tends to make a better target for a result.
  • What Title do they have? Whilst I believe there is a sell by date on titles (those from before 2012 are from the pre-engine age and probably less of a threat than those achieved more recently. On the flip side to this, do remember that those same players do tend to have well rounded positional chess skills)
  • How active are they? What have their recent results been like? For example, if someone is a SIM but their recent performances have been IM or lower level this might indicate possibilities?
  • What other information can be gathered? Age, FIDE Rating, published ideas, Team participation. All potential little nuggets.


All of this, when added to the statistical numbers, should now allow us to identify our target games and the move onto Opening Preparation.

Opening Preparation


Our first consideration is Opening strategy – Do we look to gain results via safe or challenging openings? In its simplest form do we meet 1.e4 with a Sicilian or go 1..e5 and head to the Berlin Wall?  This should be influenced by our opponent’s likely choices.

Again, an in-depth article is necessary here but in basic steps:

  • Obtain a large database of our opponent’s games
  • Examine it for general considerations – are there lines we don’t like to play? Or do they play the same lines as we do?
  • Examine their wins and losses in detail – Do they use tend to novelties early or late or look to win in the endgame?
  • Do they seem to understand the opening themes of the lines they play (do you understand them?) If not them early deviations or move-order shenanigans may be possible
  • Chessbase’s Prepare for and Dossier tools can be very useful here.
  • We now can build lines to be able to set our opponent new challenges.
  • At this point, we now are able to start playing and we if we have done our homework there should be very few surprises (for us!)

As we are now playing a few other considerations come to mind:

  • Don’t play into drawish lines early on (unless that’s your objective) – you don’t want to draw early with someone who then loses a number of other games – better to work harder in the game so the potential for a result remains longer.
  • Take notice of your opponent’s time handling method – if they play very quickly this may indicate insufficient analysis (although it could indicate prepared lines!) or do they run their clock down (at which point an unusual move could cause panic!)
  • Take your time – double  Triple check your analysis.
  • Be patient, especially in favourable or winning positions – the result will come in the end and if they are delaying excessively there are approaches to deal with this!


Good Luck and Good Norm Hunting!

Updated Tuesday, April 18, 2017 by Russell Sherwood

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