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When is a grandmaster's title less than grand?

06

That is the subtitle of this NY Times article, which is something less than a heartwarming tale of hard work and talent resulting in amazing records. Was Sergei Karjakin's last GM norm tainted by bribery? The authors present plenty of allegations to that effect, though they stop short of making an outright claim.

The authors do not allege any chicanery in the case of Abhimany Mishra's recently earned grandmaster title, but certainly suggest that the Budapest chess scene in which he earned his norms is something of a title factory, with largely unmotivated, over-the-hill players making norm aspirants' tasks relatively easy. (The point about Mishra's opponents being nearly 50 points lower, on average, than they were in the norm events he played in Charlotte isn't obviously relevant, however, as a lower average rating means that he must having a correspondingly higher score.)

Is there any "there" there? Of course players are going to look for their best opportunities to achieve norms, and parents are going to want to help their kids get ahead. There's a huge industry of getting kids into prep schools, even elite kindergartens. When there is outright cheating, stop it; but anyone who finds the rather routine part of the article involving Mishra's family bringing him to Hungary in a race to get his norms deserves a Captain Renault award.

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