To clarify questions in the reader's mind about the requirements for a title we can say the following: To claim a title from ICCF you have to acquire 2 norms required by that title and the total of games played must be equal to or more than 24. If you don't fullfill the latter quota you will have to play another tournament and acquire a norm in that tournament to bring your “played game” number to at least 24.
There are 3 titles that ICCF currently awards. These are the IM (International Master), the SIM (Senior International Master) and the GM (Grand Master) titles. To learn how to acquire Norms you should see the chart on page 20 in the following link to find out how many points are necessary: http://documents.iccf.com.s3.amazonaws.com/Rules/ICCF Tournament Rules 01.01.2015.pdf
The award consist of a certificate and a medal and is given to you or your country delegate at the next ICCF Congress following the date of your achievement. The title is made public on the ICCF web page immediately after your country delegate makes the necessary application and you don't have to wait for the Congress for that.

But what about the level of chess you have to play for this achievement? I have to tell you that it is becoming harder everyday with the introduction of strong chess engines which are being improved on a daily basis it seems. At a time when we are hearing claims that there is no point in playing correspondence chess because computers are playing against each other and other claims of invincibility if aided by a computer, I tried to evalute 3 games won and thus helped to score the necessary points for an IM norm. I tried to give the “Human” side of the evaluation and made comments about the evaluations of the computer where appropriate.

1) Baufays,Hugues (2343) - Kural,Aziz Serhat (2349)

EU/TC10/sf2 ICCF, 10.06.2014

1.e4 c5 2.¤f3 ¤c6 3.d4 cxd4 4.¤xd4 ¤f6 5.¤c3 e5 6.¤db5 d6 7.¥g5 a6 8.¤a3 b5 9.¥xf6 gxf6 10.¤d5


Standard Pelikan position. I strongly suggest to continue with the move 10...f5 here as in the game.

10...f5 11.¥d3 ¥e6 12.0–0 ¥xd5 13.exd5 ¤e7 14.¤xb5


This move is not wrong; it is playable but loses a tempo in the opening.

14... ¥g7 15.¤c3 e4 16.¥c4 0–0 17.£d2 ¤g6 18.¦ab1 ¦e8 19.¦fe1 ¥e5!


Beginning of difficulties for White on the King's side.

20.g3 £f6! 21.¤d1?



21...¤h4! 22.¥e2 f4! 23.£b4 ¢h8! 0–1

(1) Kural,Aziz Serhat (2349) - Liebert,Ervin (2398)

EU/TC10/sf2 ICCF, 10.06.2014

1.b4 d5 2.¥b2 £d6 3.a3 e5 4.e3 a5!


Testing for possibilities to dismantle White's advance on the Queen's side.

5.b5 ¤f6 6.c4 ¥g4 7.¥e2 ¥xe2 8.£xe2 ¤bd7 9.d4 dxc4 10.¤f3 e4 11.¤e5 ¤b6 12.¤d2 £e6 13.0–0 ¥d6 14.¤exc4 ¤xc4 15.¤xc4 0–0 16.¦fc1 ¥e7 17.a4!


Black has shown that he is planning to preserve the good Bishop to possibly place it on the b8-h2 diagonal later. This move plans to exchange this Bishop from a3 and exert pressure on the c column.

17... ¤d5 18.¥a3 ¥b4 19.£b2 ¦fc8 20.¥xb4 axb4 21.¤d2 c6 22.b6!


The computer doesn't favor this move. It doesn't even analyse it; yet it is one of the most important moves that will affect the outcome of this game.

22...£e7 23.¦c5!


The setup is being prepared for an initiative on the Queen's side.

23... ¦a6 24.a5 g6 25.¤b3 ¦ca8 26.¦ac1 ¢g7 27.£d2 £d6 28.¦1c4!


The net is ready and there are few things that Black can do to avoid the following sacrifice. Of course I have to tell you that the computer did not see the following sacrifice on b4 or the plan that led to its setup.

28... ¦d8 29.¦xb4! ¤xb4 30.£xb4

The position reached after the positional sacrifice. The compuetr gives equality for the position and it is a correct evaluation.

30...£e7 31.h3 ¦d5 32.¢f1!


The advance of the King to b4 is necessary to relieve the Queen from its duties there. The computer doesn't see this march and continues to give equality.

32...¦a8 33.£a4 £d6 34.¢e2 ¢f8 35.¦xd5 cxd5 36.¤c5 ¢e7

Now I completely understand my opponent's idea to get the King to the protection of the pawns on the Queen's side but the correct line of play was to keep the Black Queen checking the f2 pawn to make sure that the White King doesn't move anywhere else. But now with the King on e7 this is not possible anymore.

37.£b5 ¦b8 38.¢d2!


Now the loss for Black is unpreventable but I have to tell you that the computer doesn't see the loss and gives Kd2 as the second move with equality evaluation at depth 50!

38...f5 39.¢c3 g5 40.¢b4! 1–0

Now after I played the move Kb4 and forced an anlysis from there, the computer changed its evaluation and started giving a win to White! This game is a very good example of a win that the computer could not fathom.

Now there are many ideas here for White. The Qe2-h5 maneuver, the Nxb7 idea and the Qd7+ if the Black Queen moves too far away.

(1) Vekelis,Gintaras (2351) - Kural,Aziz Serhat (2349)

EU/TC10/sf2 ICCF, 10.06.2014

1.d4 ¤f6 2.¤f3 g6 3.c4 ¥g7 4.¤c3 0–0 5.e4 d6 6.h3 e5 7.d5 ¤a6 8.¥g5 £e8

9.¥e3!? ¤h5 10.¦b1 f5 11.b4 £e7!

Preventing c5 for a while.

12.¥e2 ¤f4 13.0–0 ¤b8 14.¦e1 



An attempt to sneak away the Bishop from f1 and play g3 etc. later.

14...¤xe2+ 15.£xe2 f4 16.¥d2 g5 17.c5 g4 18.hxg4 ¥xg4 19.¦ec1 £e8 20.£d3

Centralizing the Queen and moving it away from the pin.

20... a6 21.¤e1 ¦f7

The last two moves of Black was for the protection of the c7 square.

22.a4 ¥f6 23.f3 ¥c8 24.¤d1 ¥h4 25.¦b2 ¥g3 26.£a3 ¤d7 27.¤d3 ¦f6 28.cxd6 cxd6 29.¤1f2 ¦g6 30.¦bc2 ¤f8

A classical King's Indian game where White has the intiative on the Queen's side and Black will try to infiltrate on the King's side.

31.b5 ¥d7 32.¥b4 £e7 33.¢f1 h5 34.bxa6 ¦xa6 35.a5 £h4 36.£b3 ¥b5 37.¤h3 ¦a8 38.¥d2 ¥a6 39.¢g1 ¤d7!!


Computer's 3rd move. It is threatening a distant sacrifice on g4 among others. Now White can prevent this, but only through a major reshuffle of his pieces. In my view this is the winning move that may not attract the attention of many chess players.

40.¥b4 ¦f8 41.¢h1 ¦f7 42.¦b2 ¢h7 43.£c2 £e7 44.£d1 £d8

The White Queen's entry to c7 is not a major problem but the entry of the Rook should be prevented.

45.¦cb1 ¦fg7 46.¥c3

White is hoping for a sacrifice on b7 and the advance of the a5 pawn.

46... £h4 47.¥b4 b6!


If White takes on b6 and then on d6 the Knight infiltrates through the c4 square.

48.¦c1 ¤c5 49.¤xc5 bxc5 50.¥c3 £e7 51.¦a1 ¥h4 52.¦aa2 ¦g8

Black is preventing the last White dynamic which was taking on f4 with the Knight and exchanging the Bishop with the Rook on g7.

53.¦b6 ¥c8 54.¦b8 c4!


This move should have been taken into account. Now the Black Queen can control g1 from a7. The march of the a6 pawn is perevented by enforcing tactics. Balck has a clear winning position.

55.£f1 £a7 56.£b1 ¢h6 57.a6 ¥xh3 58.¦xg8 ¦xg8 59.£g1 £xg1+ 60.¢xg1 ¥d7

Black has won a piece and the a6 pawn does not present a danger but careful play is needed.

61.¦b2 ¦a8 62.¦b6 ¢h7! 63.¦xd6 ¥b5 64.¦b6 ¥xa6 65.¥xe5 ¥g3!

In other variations White takes f4 and a very complicated endgame with reciprocative chances presents itself.

66.¥c3 ¦a7 67.¢f1 ¥c8 68.¦b8 ¦a3 69.¢e2 ¦xc3 70.¦xc8 ¦c2+ 71.¢d1 ¦xg2 72.¦c7+ ¢g6 73.d6 ¢f6 74.¦xc4 ¢e6 75.e5 ¦f2 76.¦d4 ¦xf3 77.d7 ¥h4 78.¢e2 ¦f2+ 79.¢d3 ¢xe5 80.d8£ ¥xd8 81.¦xd8 ¢f5 0–1

The title of this report should have been “The Level of Chess You have to Play in order to Achieve a Norm in ICCF Nowadays”. I leave it to the readers to make their own conclusions.

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