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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Grandmaster vs. Super GM

Recently, there was a discussion on a chess forum I’m part of about GMs versus Super GMs. One beginner thought that a GM was a GM, and they were all pretty much equal. They aren’t, and that’s a fact. Sure, a GM might be able to score a draw or even a win against a Super GM here and there, but in a match, the “regular” 2500 GM stands no chance. None whatsoever. But why?

You may say to yourself, “It’s only 200 points difference, and I’ve seen 1400s beat 1600s, so the 2500 definitely has chances. Right?” Well, let me put it like this: To rise from 1400 to 1600, all it takes is practice, a little opening and endgame knowledge, and some tactics training. Those 200 points aren’t very difficult to gain for most average players.

At the top level though, rising from 2500 to 2700 is a ridiculously long trip. Consider this: The 2500 GM is a [I]grand master[/I] at the game of chess. He knows everything there is to know about the game, he’s seen every type of attack and defense come and go, and he is part of the chess elite. So, how come he can’t beat 2700s? If I knew that, I’d be rated higher than I am.

I read an interview once with a GM (I can’t remember which one, and it irks me, but he was in the 2650 Elo range) where he was asked what separated him from a 2300 rated FIDE master. His answer? “2300s do not understand chess.”

What? That statement hit me pretty hard at the time, for two reasons: Firstly, I cannot imagine being rated 2300 in the first place, much less 2600. Second, and most important, was that the GM was probably telling the truth. If that isn’t awe-inspiring, I don’t know what is.

So, in the same light, might the 2700 GM say the same thing about a 2500 GM? Maybe. Board vision, calculation ability, sheer experience – all these things come into play at the top level. I do not believe that just anyone can train hard and become a GM, much less a Super GM. I think you either have it, or you don’t. I imagine that most everyone who loves playing the piano would also love to become a famous concert pianist. However, it just isn’t in the cards for everyone. On top of hard work, dedication, and love for what you do, an exceptional amount of talent must be present. That’s what I believe, anyhow.

Those of you who are members of the ICC and have watched Hikaru Nakamura blow other GMs off the board in one-minute chess, over and over, know what I mean. If study time alone could bring that kind of power, his opponents would have it all over him because he’s just a kid. It isn’t just study and dedication, though; not all of it. That kid is talented, and there is no doubt in my mind about that.