As well as FIDE norms, you need a certain Elo to obtain a certain title. Women need around 200 points lower Elo to obtain the analogous women's only title:

  • Grandmaster (GM) 2500+
  • International master (IM) 2400+
  • FIDE master (FM) 2300+
  • Candidate master (CM) 2200+

  • Woman grandmaster (WGM) 2300+
  • Woman international master (WIM) 2200+
  • Woman FIDE master (WFM) 2100+
  • Woman candidate master (WCM) 2000+

I have read many times the reason why women don't reach the super GM level is social and not cognitive. For example in this interview to WFM Rodrigo she is asked:

XL. Why are there still no women in the elite?

M.R. For various reasons, but basically for two. For a statistical question (we are less players) and for a cultural factor. Evolutionarily, women are more used to collaborating and men to compete. It is an imprint that comes to us from the hunter-gatherer tribes. In addition, the male brain processes visual information faster, which favors the recognition of patterns on the board, while women have more developed memory. But in ten years we will see girls fighting for the world title.

So why is FIDE giving titles to women with less chess knowledge than players who have the equivalent open title? I know there are fewer women players than men, but women can play in men's tournaments.

  • That's quite a comment, that men's brains are different in their abilities. I reject this as dangerous nonsense. Forget not, Judit Polgar the best in the world for her age, set records and I don't know what the odds would have been set against her eventually becoming world champ when she made GM, but I would have glad put up a lot at anything over 20:1. Same could have been said of the sisters. Let us get rid of any separate treatment of women in chess.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 21:19
  • That quote by M.R. does not give remotely any evidence that if a (woman, man) pair were raised under the exact same conditions, over some distribution of possible conditions, that the woman is expected to perform any worse than the man. Commented May 10, 2023 at 0:30

4 Answers 4


I think WFM Rodrigo is correct when she says that the reasons are statistical and that having fewer female players means having far fewer players at the top.

If you assume that males and females have the same mean and standard deviation (we shall see soon that this assumption is false) and you draw the two normal curves you see that the curve with fewer members (females make up only 15% of FIDE registered players) tails off to zero long before the one with more members.

However WFM Rodrigo also mentions "cultural" reasons. Translated into mathematical terms I think she is suggesting that females have a lower mean (average) FIDE rating than males. This we can check by loading the latest FIDE rating data into a database and doing some SQL queries.

Doing that gives us:

Mean = 1505, standard deviation = 339

Mean = 1675, standard deviation = 346

We see that there is little difference between male and female standard deviation but the mean female ELO is 170 points lower than the mean male ELO. This is half a standard deviation which is a lot. It looks to me that WFM Rodrigo is right about this too.

Comparing these figures with the rating differences between the open (there are no male only titles) titles and the female only titles it looks like FIDE are being generous to the females by a margin of 30 points. Perhaps they rounded the difference up to the nearest hundred?

  • 1
    A slight nitpick re the rounding: is 'latest' data perhaps not as relevant as compared to data immediately prior to when the women's fide titles were 1st released? maybe the difference is at the time was around 190-210 points and then that's why they made it 200 points. of course, 170 is still close enough to 200.
    – BCLC
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 8:02
  • I don't think the average rating of men and women is a relevant statistic at all. For starters, female players are on average much younger, so we should correct for that.
    – David
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 11:23
  • @David well relevance is 'subject to gradation', sooo...do you mean it's: not really relevant? not as relevant as other statistics (that are as practical to compute)? completely irrelevant like 0%?
    – BCLC
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 13:38
  • 1
    @BCLC I mean it in the sense of "It's anecdotal". If the chess world was flooded by 20,000 new eight-year-old boys overnight, the average rating of men would sudenly become lower, but that doesn't mean men became "worse" at chess. It's not a matter of "how much is enough" but about calculating more relevant metrics.
    – David
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 22:10
  • 1
    @BCLC It could be, but I think the best option would be to calculate a different mean for each possible age.
    – David
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 7:44

Note: This addresses the previous revision of the question w/c said 'Women need less ELO to obtain the same title than men.'

It's not the same title. Women Grandmaster (WGM) for example is clearly less prestigious than GM because the requirements are lower. FIDE isn't giving out the same title to women who have less knowledge than men, they are giving out exclusive titles for women. In the same way there are female players who have achieved the actual GM title (e.g. Hou Yifan is a WGM and a GM).

As for why they would do that - why not? Chess is heavily male dominated, and a WGM title makes the game more inclusive. Can you think of a good reason not to have the titles?


I suspect it's related to why women can compete in women's chess championships without being a GM.

  • Eg 1 the US women's chess championship or the british/UK women's chess championship have been recently won by non-GMs: Nazí Paikidze, Jennifer Yu, Sabina-Francesca Foisor, Jovanka Houska (current), Akshaya Kalaiyalahan.

  • 1.1. The current US women's champion is GM Irina Krush, who has last been champion for 2012-5. However for 2016-9, Krush participated in all, but besides that e didn't win, actually none of the winners were GMs! See for yourself: 2016, 7, 8, 9

  • Eg 2 Wait actually I just looked up to be sure and apparently WGM is even good enough to compete in the world's women chess championship:

You can see this as like 'semi-begging' the question in the sense of converting to another question on women's chess championships, but as for this current question...


I think these recent results show (well at least for the UK and the UK/Great Britain) that 'WGM' as in '2300+' (and norms or whatever else is required) is good enough to compete in (at least local/national if not international) women's chess championships.

So, if we suppose on the contrary that we didn't/don't have women's titles, then we'd be describing winners/runner-ups of women's chess championships as just FMs. I believe the WGM title would be more descriptive for these winners/runner-ups.


  1. Of course, you can argue, since/if/if it would be that many WGMs now/later on as compared to before are also IM, that we might increase WGM to 2400+ from 2300+ so as to distinguish a WGM like Nemo Zhou [see here] from a WGM like IM Jovanka Houska (current British women's champion), but that's another story.

  2. If in the future winners/runner-ups of women's chess championships and even most participants are GMs, then who knows maybe requirements for women's titles will increase, maybe even to the point that they will be the same as the open titles (and thus there would not need to be women's titles).


I think they can have the same requirements if there were more women exclusive tournaments. In this way it's less difficult to obtain say 2500+ for WGM if women play only other women as compared to getting 2500+ if women are up against both men and women.

Plainly, there are not so many of these tournaments, so the next best thing is to just do make the requirement lower.

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