How Many Chess Grandmasters are There? (Age, Location, Top 100)

A Grandmaster in chess is the highest title you can achieve. A grandmaster title is prized but not a prize in itself like a sportsman or team might win a title by beating all opponents in an event.

The number of Grandmasters will be ever changing, so how many are there as of today?

There are 1725 Grandmasters of chess as of February 2021 with a further 5 applications from players achieving grandmaster scores in January 2021. Women make up just 37 of this number, whilst there are currently 318 WGrandmasters in the controversial women’s Grandmaster classification.

The title of Grandmaster is achieved for attaining a minimum Elo ranking from FIDE of 2500 at any point in a career. It is not necessary to stay above 2500 to keep the title once gained. This allows for a growing number.

Read on to find out more about the top 100 Grandmasters right now including ages, where they come from and the top players.

[table id=GMFeb2021 /]

Grandmasters are ranked using the Elo system, given its name by its creator Arpad Elo, a Hungarian physicist and master chess player (talk about multi-talented!). Rather than a basic linear ranking system, this relies on statistical distribution to give an indicator of how likely a player is to succeed against opponents with similar or different rankings.

This system is seen as a touch outdated when measuring new players, as they typically have a higher chance of success that Elo’s system would allow, but it works quite well for grandmasters. This has been adopted by FIDE with a few adjustments, and you need a FIDE rating of over 2500 in order to be recognized as a grandmaster in chess.

How Many Women Chess Grandmasters Are There?

In February 2021, just 29 of the 1725 Grandmasters are women, The highest rated of them, Hou Yifan of China, the youngest ever female grandmaster, holding a standard rating of 2658. A rating that does not grab her a position in the top 100 Grandmasters right now.

Alongside the Grandmaster title, there is also a sometimes controversial, “Women’s Grandmaster [WGM] title, for which the qualification is around 200 points less than the official GM rating.

In some cases, and in particular, those of Antoaneta Stefanova [2470] and Pia Cramling [2459] the Women’s Grandmaster title is not a title they hold.

In the case of Cramling, a long-time proponent of the very top of chess’s elite insisted on playing in men’s tournaments and gained Grandmaster status in 1992, the Swede remains just behind Stefanova in the overall rankings. The Bulgarian only gained her Grandmaster status some 10 years later in 2002, becoming Women’s World Champion 2 years later in 2004 and peaking at #2 woman in 2003

The First Female Grandmaster

The first woman to be awarded the title of grandmaster by the FIDE was Nona Gaprindashvili, who achieved this rank at age 37. She has talked at length about people not taking women players seriously, and that in order to gain recognition like a man would you have to put in a lot more work.

This may have an unexpected impact on the Elo rating of female chess grandmasters, as you may have less peers at your level willing to take you seriously and accept your challenge as an opponent, causing your rating to stagnate.

FIDE has a different list of female grandmasters (WGM) as a separate title, which allows for more immediate recognition for women players (although these players are able to rank in the main list as well). Here are the FIDE’s top ranking female players as of 2021.

RankNameCountryFIDE Rank
1Hou Yifan CHN2658
2Aleksandra Goryachkina  RUS2593
3Humpy Koneru  IND2586
4Wenjun Ju  CHN2560
5Kateryna Lagno  RUS2546
6Mariya Muzychuk  UKR2544
7Viktorija Cmilyte  LTU2538
8Anna Muzychuk  UKR2535
9Nana Dzagnidze  GEO2524
10Dronavalli Harika  IND2515

In some lists, you will find female players with both GM and WGM suffixes to indicate both titles. on occasion, and as is the case with Antoaneta Stefanova [2470] and Pia Cramling [2459], you’ll find GM only.

Who is The Youngest Grandmaster in Chess?

The youngest Grandmaster is a title that doesn’t change very often. In the male class, it is a very close call whilst in the female grandmaster class, current highest-rated women Hou Yifan replaced Judit Polgár for that honor.

Current Youngest Grandmaster

[February 2021], Gukesh Dommaraju, a prodigy in the chess world hailing from India and born in 2006 is the youngest aged Grandmaster in the current top 10 of youngest chess grandmasters. He gained the title aged just 12 years, 7 month and 17 days of age.

Despite being just over twelve and a half years old when grabbing the GM title, he missed out on becoming the youngest ever by just 17 days

Youngest Ever to Become Chess Grandmaster

Sergey Karjakin remains the youngest ever player to be attributed with Chess Grandmaster status having achieved the feat at the age of 12 years, 7 months and 0 days. Just 17 days quicker than Gukesh Dommaraju although 16 years before.

There is some evidence to suggest that chess players play the best between 35-45 years of age, but players are getting better younger and younger.

The average age of a Grandmaster is 32.9 years old

List of Youngest Chess GMs In History

[table id=YoungestGMs /]

Which Country has the most Chess Grandmasters?

With 256 Russia has the greatest number of Chess Grandmasters followed by The United States and Germany filling the third spot. If considering the populace the Czech Republic, Armenia and Georgie have more Grandmasters per capita than any other countries.

[table id=GMbyCountry /]

With chess part of the national curriculum in schools in Russia and many of the former Soviet states it is no wonder we find them at the top and the former states in lofty positions within the Top 100 Countries for Grandmasters.

So there is 1 Chess Grandmaster for evert 562500 Russians.

That is fairly good density when looking at India for instance. 5th in terms of number of Grandmasters, against thier collosal 1366,000,000 population, that equate to just 1 in 21million!

Most Grandmasters in Chess per Capita?

Iceland produce the most chess grandmasters per capita with 14 grandmaster accounting for 1 in every 25,000 Icelanders. They are 44th in the table of top grandmaster nations, and just beat Czech Republic in 14th in the top 100, with 36 GM’s, accounting for 1 in 27,733. The Czechs have the highest density in the top 20 list.

These figures were sourced in February 2021, an up to date list of grandmasters by country can be found on the Federations Ranking Page on the FIDE website.

Become a Grandmaster Yourself

So, now it is time for you to work towards gaining a 2500 ranking and becoming a Grandmaster. It’s no easy feat. It takes more than 3 years to become a Grandmaster in Chess once you are on the radar and many more years to get to that level.

As we have seen, the Grandmaster title has been achieved as young as Twelve, but according to PNAS, who produced a paper called, ‘Life cycle patterns of cognitive performance over the long run‘ using chess for its research, Grandmasters show peak performance between the ages of 35-45.

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