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Norms in the News

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"Noooooorrmmmmm!" - Cheers

There are so many GMs popping up these days that it's rare we bother to mention new ones unless the title is going to someone prepubescent. Exceptions are made for GMs of one's nationality other such rooting interests. In the former category, American IM Robert Hungaski just won gold at the Pan-American Junior Championship in Ecuador, an achievement that also earned him his first GM norm. (An automatic norm, I imagine, since I doubt he faced three GMs at the event. In fact, it seems there was only one other player over 2300 in the field.) He was born in Connecticut but moved to Argentina long ago, although he still plays under the US flag. I'm sure the local players and organizers are happy about that because in Buenos Aires, as in most non-European cities, it's always hard to put together enough titled foreign players to hold norm tournaments.

Five years older than Hungaski but also with eight letters in his last name (the best segue I could manage at 4am), Zambia's Amon Simutowe earned his final GM norm with a dominating 7.5/9 performance at the Euwe Stimulans tournament in Arnhem, Netherlands. He's been living in Dallas for a while where he recently graduated from UTD and its famous chess scholarship program. The Stimulans event was practically a fancy version of a "First Saturday"-style norm tournament with none of the four GMs rated near 2500 and three illustrious veterans (Gaprindashvili, Panno, Olafsson) aged 66, 72, and 72. But it's not polite to whine about title proliferation when we could do that any day (and often do) and Simutowe has clearly been playing some excellent chess. He turned in a performance rating of nearly 2700 undefeated and now only needs to get his rating over 2500 for the GM title. Kudos! Daaim has much more at ChessDrum.

That event has led to typically tricky attempts to slap labels on first this and third that. In the Chess Life Online item, Jen Shahade avoids the unfashionable "Black" and goes with "Amon will become the third GM of African descent, after Maurice Ashley (USA) and Pontus Carlsen [sic - Carlsson] (Sweden)." This is also tricky though, because Morocco and Egypt are in Africa last I checked and have both produced Grandmasters. Perhaps the key words is "descent," which might mean to rule out African-born GMs of Arab ethnicity? Seems like a lot of trouble to avoid saying what is meant, which is "Black." (Related trivia: Some Soviets disputed Eugenio Torre's claim of being the first Asian GM because a few Soviet GMs were from their far east.)

Regardless, even though Simutowe was forced to achieve it mostly living and playing abroad, he is the first GM to come out of sub-Saharan Africa. He instantly becomes even more of an impressive ambassador for the sport in dozens of African and Caribbean nations where chess isn't exactly thriving. Those who would like to cut the world championship field down by eliminating the players from the weaker regions like Africa overlook what a powerful tool it is for free publicity. Even if they only last a round, players like Simutowe, who has played in the three FIDE KO's, are followed avidly in their home nations and regions.

Lastly, it looks like India's Humpy Koneru is set to cross the 2600 mark, only the second woman ever to do so -- after Judit Polgar of course. It looks like she'll be a tantalizing 2599 on the next list. [daniel in the comments says she'll actually be 2604.] Comparing old and current ratings is treacherous, so let's see if she can make it to the top 100 next (currently starting at 2624, good heavens), a more objective measure. She's still only 20, I believe. This odd article and interview with her in The Hindu makes it sound like 1) "super GM" is a real title and 2) 2600 is still the bar. I believe it's 2700 these days, at least! And she (or the writer) forgets to include Harikrishna in the Indian 2600+ club. ht Vaibhav

Here's a project: how many countries have exactly one GM? I'll kick the list off with Bolivia (Zambrana), Costa Rica (Ramirez), and Ecuador (Matamoros).


In Dutch it's Arnhem, not Arnheim (that's what the Germans call it, though some also refer to it as "unser letzter Sieg").

Two countries with one GM

Ireland - Seamus O'Baburin
New Zealand - Chandler (despite having played his international career for England, he seems to be returning there?)

Belgium has only one native GM: Luc Winants.
There are also three GM immigrants playing under the Belgian flag.

Albania: Erald Dervishi

Luxembourg also has only one GM, Alberto David.

Incidentally, Tunisia has two grandmasters, Slim Belhodia and Slim Bouaziz.

I'm not sure if everyone from North Africa would agree with the phrase "Arab ethnicity" - I remember meeting an Algerian who was rather proud of his Berber roots.

Turkey also has only one GM: Suat Atalik.

They also have GM Mikhail Gurevich but he has immigrated there from the ex-Soviet Union.

Hi Mig,

Usually, I say Black or Black-American because of the problems you mention. That's what Chess Life Magazine does too. The mistake probably came from reading somewhere that Amon is possibly the first Sub-Saharan African GM, and having that language on the brain. In fact, I'm going to change it now.


Congrats to Hungaski. His path, though, suggests that the USCF should be doing more to factor in foreign results of "American" players, to keep USCF ratings reasonably accurate in rare cases like Hungaski's, of rising US-affiliated players who live abroad (or travel a lot). Here's why.

To avoid any misunderstanding of what follows, I'll start with two important caveats: First, I feel that Sam Sloan's proposal that USCF rate ALL major foreign events (such as Olympiads) is impractical; I don't know what the best solution is. Second, I don't mean to disparage Hungaski in any way. I'm not suggesting he did anything unethical when he played under an outdated (and ridiculously low) USCF rating in at least one big-money class section that I'm aware of. (He won it it in a cakewalk.)

In July 2004, I faced Hungaski in the Under-2200 section of the World Open. It was round 7, I think; he was 6/6 at that point. He must have been 15 years old.

He was already a FM, with an official 2275 FIDE rating, and maybe at least one IM norm under his belt (he got the IM title less than a year later, I think). But because he'd been living in Argentina and playing only in foreign- or FIDE-rated events for some time, his USCF rating remained a mere 2075.

In the preceding round I'd been on the board adjacent to Hungaski, and watched him destroy the strong Corey Accor even though he'd arrived nearly an hour late for their game.

I was in peak form throughout that tournament, playing at a consistent 2370 clip, including my game with Hungaski. Yet in our game, there was no question who was the better player. I had White and made sure to play a solid opening -- there was $10,000 potentially on the line, after all. Still, he soon gained the initiative and kept me under pressure throughout. With great effort, I managed to salvage a half-point.

Remaining 1/2 point ahead of the field at that stage, Hungaski drew his final two rounds, finished tied for 1st-2nd, and took home $7,500. Less than a year later, he was an IM.

Again, I'm not implying that Hungaski did anything wrong; he was under no obligation to report his foreign results to get them USCF-rated. (But it would have been a nice thing to do, like Fabiano Caruana did in his own case -- see the discussion on the thread devoted to Caruana.)

Existing USCF rules and practices make it perfectly legal for a person to enter a class section in the circumstances described above.

But I think those rules and practices need to be changed -- for reasons that should be clear from the above.

From the World Open website (http://www.chesstour.com/wo04.htm): "Players who fail to disclose foreign or FIDE ratings may be expelled." It's not a USCF rule, and I'm not sure if it's against the USCF rules, but it is threatened by the WO organizers. I'm fairly certain that foreign or FIDE ratings go over looked every year at the WO.

Established USCF rating takes precedence over any other in US events. Disclosure of foreign or FIDE rating language only relates to unrated (by USCF) players.

Rating foreign events (thus doubling FIDE) is indeed a stupid idea. There are plenty of more important things for USCF to apply its resources to, including relations with FIDE.

The solution is of course to abolish the ridiculously high class prizes (and obviously reduce the entry fees as well). How crazy would it look to you if they had high cash awards in marathon running for the first finishers over 3 hrs, over 4hrs, over 5hrs, etc.?

Robert is a great guy and has been improving by leaps and bounds lately. He's had a great Aeroflot Open tournament in Moscow this February (2400-2550 FIDE rating section), but that didn't get mentioned anywhere in the US.

Congrats to Jon for his great effort that salvaged a draw against such a strong player.

Actually, that requirement to disclose foreign or FIDE ratings has only been applied to foreign players -- i.e., players whose FIDE affiliation is not US, and/or who don't have an established USCF rating.

It's meant to prevent foreign "ringers", often titled foreigners who routinely dominated the lower sections of money US events (like the old New York Opens) in the 1970s and 1980s, until about 15 years ago when organizers at last started basing prize eligibility on such players' foreign or FIDE ratings.

(I was gonna say 20 years ago, but stopped myself. I played in the U-2200 section of the New York Open in 1990, I think it was. The section was won by N. Kalantarian, then the champion of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. He's now an IM, although I don't know whether he earned the title before or after 1990.)

I'm pretty sure that CCA, the now-defunct HB, and other organizers of big-money tournaments have had a long-running policy of relying on only USCF ratings, for US players -- which Hungaski would be (or would at least LOOK like), since he retained his US affilation (within FIDE) while living in Argentina.

In other words, his situation is one which falls through the cracks in current procedures. (And you're right, there are other individual cases of pertinent foreign or FIDE ratings being overlooked at the World Open. In this case, however, even if the officials knew about Hungaski's FIDE rating, it would have been ignored in favor of his probably obsolete USCF rating, since he was considered a US player, for whom the practice has always been to rely solely on the USCF rating.)

Wasn't there a case recently where a Nordic (Norwegian or Swedish, I think) player has played in the USA as a kid -- got a rating around 1100 or so. Then, we went back to Scandinavia, played a lot, became an FM.

He went back to the US, still having his 1100 or so rating, and destroyed the competition in a class section?

I am probably getting the details wrong, but I think that this is the gist of the story. Does anyone know/remember this?

No -- I retract what I said. This guy did not enter a class section... He entered the Open section at the North American Open, and although his official rating was 1049, his FIDE rating was 2380. It looks like the USCF assigned him a provisional rating close to what he should be rated at.


So, good for him.... I'm glad he entered the proper section.

koneru humpy will be 2604 in the next list from the points she's gained from the last list.
She has played three tournaments. but yes, counting 2600 as super GM is a bit silly.

I think that the early to middle 90's may have been around the time that 2700 started to be deemed super GM. Like I said before, if 2600 is still going to be considered super than 2700 has to be super duper.

Ireland, Ecuador, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Kyrgizstan, Tajikistan, Luxembourg, Bolivia, UAE, Andorra, Monaco, Palestine, South Korea, Albania, Morocco, Myanmar have exactly one GM

Thanks Mig!

Amon has worked so hard for this achievement and such a wonderful young man. He has had so many battles, but he made a concerted decision to forgo graduate school to go after the GM norm. He is very proud of his accomplishment and let there be no doubt... he is a VERY strong player. I invite you to watch him mix it up with Nakamura (and other heavyweights) on the ICC under the name "Solomons." Good stuff!

The African Championships starts tomorrow in Namibia and perhaps all six Grandmasters will be there.

"Black" is still good. (smile)

I tried to look into the foreign vs domestic rating thing when I played my first event in the US after ten years abroad. As far as I could tell, since I still had a USCF rating from the three events I had played before leaving the US there was no obligation to disclose anything to anybody. That old USCF rating was around 1800 and my last Argentine rating was around 2300. I was going to play on my friend Rob Huntington's team at the Amateur Team East on board one with a bunch of 1700-1900's, so it was necessary to explain by email to the organizers about my foreign rating. I sent contact info for the Club Argentino director to the USATE guys, probably Doyle, so they could verify it, which they said they did, and they listed me as 2300 for the event.

I went through something similar before playing in that year's World Open open section. Since I wasn't trying to play in a class section it probably didn't matter to anyone, but I didn't want there to be any impression of impropriety since I was something of a public figure after my years running KasparovChess. But since I'd been inactive for so long in Argentina - stopping five years before they went online in 2002 - and since they never seemed to put foreigners on their official lists anyway, I probably could have sneaked into a class section in Philly. And considering my horrible result I probably should have! (Funny, I just noticed that one of my losses there is given as a win for me in the databases. I lost on time in a winning position, one of four losses on time.)

My friend Javier (Terrence, actually) Erbe, an American who had lived in Argentina for decades, didn't get his official Argentine rating until he got his Argentine passport. We used to be paired by the lists the club event director kept. Just in case anyone thought the US system was messed up! At least they rate everyone who plays in USCF events, regardless of their federation. Heck, I appeared on a Chilean rating list after playing in one weekend event on vacation!

Lord, I just noticed that the venerable and lovely Club Argentino has perhaps the world's ugliest website. Sad. http://www.argentinodeajedrez.com.ar/

Daaim, you missed your big chance to say "Black is OK!"

south korea? wow, I didnt suspect that at all... the myanmar guy even played at hoogovens (or wijk aan zee already, dont know), but the country ratings were largely contested for some time...
monaco? thats another one...
japan should have nakamura credited :)

heh... myanmar player were floored in 2000? the graphic is quite interesting...
efimov, monaco...
alexey kim, is he really korean?

Country with only one GM: India (in 1988)

Considering a #2 women player a super GM doesn't look silly though. Of course that is super women GM. I think that is what Humpy means when she says India had only Anand and Sasikiran as super GMs. It looks to me, for her, the criteria for men is 2700. I may be wrong.

It should read "Considering a #2 women player above 2600.."

Congratulations to Humpy Koneru. Of course, she is just about to age out of the "Juniors" lists, so it is important for her to make a leap in rating. She's probably looking behind her, trying to forestall the day that Hou Yifan overtakes her....rather than harboring hopes that she'll now be able to catch up with Judit Polgar.

Alexey Kim, the South Korean GM, is indeed an unheralded addition to the ranks of GMs. His surname seems Korean enough. South Korea is one of the few developed countries that frequently fails to send a team to the Chess Olympiad.

Although it seems that the USCF does their best each time to make US participation an iffy proposition.

I have lived overseas for much of the past 14 years, playing chess quite a bit at times and earning a FIDE rating well over 100 points higher than my USCF rating. However, when I tried to email the USCF about this rating disparity (when I was about to play some tournament in the US) they didn't respond, and they certainly didn't update my USCF rating. If I have hardly played using my USCF rating in nearly two decades and I have a valid higher FIDE rating, it would seem only right IMO to update the USCF rating to coincide with the FIDE rating.

Knight_tour, there is an established procedure for doing that (updating your USCF rating to reflect your FIDE-rated results). Unfortunately, all the burden of it falls on you, the player. You have to file a formal application to have your foreign results USCF-rated, AND you have to pay the rating fee. (For more about this, see the discussion on the recent thread about Fabiano Caruana.)

The USCF normally does not rate foreign tournaments; they will rate a particular tournament if they receive a properly submitted request by a US participant -- which must mean any participant who has a USCF rating, even if the US isn't their official federation.

The USCF HQ won't respond to just an email telling them someone has a higher FIDE (or foreign) rating. An individual organizer might, especially if there's a question of eligibility for a class section or class prize.


Is it so easy? There are rules about paying for rating individual events (notified in advance):

"Any USCF member planning to play in a foreign FIDE-rated event that is not listed on our website may register that event for USCF rating by submitting a form promising to report the results along with a fee of $25.00."

Your FIDE rating may be the aggregate of 100's of games, surely you don't have to pay for rating of each past tournament you played in?

Is there a one-off fee to just update USCF rating, based on current FIDE rating?

I didn't say it was easy. And I'm unfamiliar with the details; I'm repeating what I read on another blog (from USCF officials, I think).

I am pretty sure there is no procedure to "just update the USCF rating, based on current FIDE rating", whether involving a "one-off fee" or not. An organizer in such an instance might choose to assign a player a higher rating based on their FIDE rating; but that's only for section- and prize-eligibility and pairing purposes; it would not affect the player's USCF rating.

I think you are right; it IS burdensome for a player to go through the procedure to have their own foreign results USCF-rated -- all the more so if it involves hundreds of games.

As I said way up on this thread, I don't know what the best solution is. Sam Sloan has urged the USCF to rate ALL major foreign events; but that would be impractical and uneconomical. On the other hand, situations like the one brought up by knight_tour's comment here, and the (opposite) paths taken by Hungaski (described in my earlier comment on this thread) and Caruana (see the thread on him), suggest that the present policy, in which any individual USCF member both holds the option and must bear the financial burden of having their own foreign results rated, isn't good either.

sry but vinay bhat will *not* get his gm title. he still has to reach 2500...and is very far away.

But although Mig points out Amon Simutowe still needs to get the rating ("and now only needs to get his rating over 2500 for the GM title"), everyone else seems to be counting him as a GM already.

Even a few lines later Mig does that too ("he is the first GM to come out of sub-Saharan Africa").

"sry but vinay bhat will *not* get his gm title. he still has to reach 2500...and is very far away."

What do you mean? Bhat is 2450 on the July '07 list, which doesn't even include his norm-winning tournament performance, so it's bound to be even higher on the latest list. So I don't see how he is "very far away" from 2500.

thanx g for the correction. i was under the impression he was somewhere in the lo-2400's. this is good news then, he is much closer than i thought.

you're right, 2450, i should have remembered it because i remember celebrating when i thought he was going to make gm. plus the tournament. so he could be quite close.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 30, 2007 4:21 AM.

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