I’m a Life Master!

by admin on October 15, 2010

These are four words that I never thought I would get a chance to say. But now the US Chess Federation has gone and changed the rules!

As many of you probably know, the USCF used to have a Life Master title that was based on rating: if you played 300 games with your rating above 2200, then you earned the designation of Life Master. However, that title has been re-designated as an Original Life Master. I doubt very much if I will ever meet the qualifications to be an Original Life Master, because I’m far short of 300 games and my current rating is so far below 2200.

But as of September, the USCF now has a whole new set of “norm-based” titles — not just for Life Master, but for every rating category (Candidate Master, Category 1, etc.). The idea is that if you play in a tournament of 4 rounds or more, and you have a score that is at least 1 point more than a player of rating X would be expected to achieve (where X is a multiple of 200), then you earn a norm for that rating category. If you get five norms, then you earn title X.

The USCF computers have now gone back and computed all the title norms achieved since 1991. And guess what? I have five Life Master norms! So I am now a Life Master and have been one since last year (although it’s only been official since last month). Here are the five tournaments that earned me the title:

1994 Cardinal Open (Ohio): 3.5/5, sixth place. This tournament moved my USCF rating from 2226 to 2257, my all-time high.

1994 Lawrence Pfefferkorn Open (North Carolina): 3.5/5, fifth place.

1995 Atlantic Class Championships (West Virginia): 3.5/5, fifth place. This one moved my USCF rating from 2164 to 2205. Sad to say, that is the last time that I ever cracked the 2200 threshold.

1999 CalChess Labor Day Open (California): 4/6 (including a full-point bye in round 1!), fifth place. Notable for the fact that I drew against Walter Browne on board one in the last round — the first time I ever scored a half point against a grandmaster.

2009 Western States Open (Reno): 4/6, twelfth place.

Had I known that it had been ten years since my last Life Master norm, maybe I would have felt a little bit more pressure last year in Reno! And if the norm-based title system had been in effect from 1999 to 2009, I would have been tossing and turning in my bed at night for ten years, wondering if I would ever earn my fifth norm.   😉

To find out if you have earned a USCF norm-based title, go to the Players and Ratings area of the U.S. Chess website and click on “Player/Rating Lookup.” Then enter your own name. You should see your general information page, which now contains a new line that didn’t exist until a month ago — “Highest USCF Norms-Based Title Earned.” You can click on the title to get more information about how you earned it. This will take you to a page that shows only the last event that earned you the title (in my case, the 2009 Western States Open). If you want to see all five events that earned you the title, go to the bottom of this page and click on “Norms History.”

What do you think about the new USCF life titles? Good idea, bad idea, bogus? I can see arguments both ways. The Original Life Master title rewarded you for playing a lot of chess. The new Life Master title rewards you for having outstanding tournaments, not just for playing a lot of games. I do think the Original Life Master title is a little bit harder to achieve, though. (Obviously, since I never earned that one.) What about the lower norm-based titles? Do you think that anyone will be proud of earning, for example, a 2nd Category Player title? Will anyone even realize they have earned it?

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