Elisabeth Paehtz Becomes 40th Female GM In History

Elisabeth Paehtz Becomes 40th Female GM In History


IM Elisabeth Paehtz is now GM Elisabeth Paehtz. Germany’s number-one female player scored her third GM norm at the 2021 FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss in Riga, but then an earlier norm was declared invalid. At a recent FIDE Council meeting she was awarded the GM title after all, which makes her the 40th female GM in history.

Paehtz’s excellent performance of 7.5/11 in Riga last year was good for her third GM norm. Well, that’s what she thought, as she had two earlier norm certifications, for her performance in the 2010-2011 Bundesliga as well as the 2016 European Women’s Individual Championship in Mamaia, Romania.

However, soon after Riga, she learned that her 2016 norm had been declared invalid. Why? Because she had faced just two grandmasters in Mamaia, instead of the required three.

The chief arbiter at that tournament is the highly experienced referee Ashot Vardapetyan of Armenia. He had declared her GM norm valid anyway because of his interpretation of the FIDE Handbook, which mentions possible exceptions to the minimum of three GM opponents, such as Olympiads and continental championships. For the latter category, however, it was unclear whether this was about only team events or also individual events such as the European Championship Paehtz played in.

At the time she was not sure about the situation, so Paehtz asked international arbiter and lawyer Klaus Deventer whether her norm is indeed valid. Deventer expressed his doubts and decided to ask Werner Stubenvoll, also an international arbiter and at the time the chairman of the FIDE Qualification Commission, which is responsible for verifying norms. Stubenvoll confirmed the validity of the norm with a lengthy explanation, after which the case about the second norm was closed for Paehtz. However, after Riga, her 2016 norm was still declared invalid.

Luckily for her, this wasn’t the end of the story as other officials and arbiters within FIDE had different opinions about the matter. “The Handbook was very confusing, and also, it keeps on being updated,” said Paehtz. “Multiple arbiters declared my 2016 norm valid, so that shows how confusing things were.”

Elisabeth Paehtz Riga 2021 Grand Swiss
Paehtz facing IM Lela Javakhishvili at the 2021 FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss in Riga. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In March 2022, FIDE postponed their decision to a meeting in Chennai, in the summer, alongside the Olympiad. While the decision about Paehtz’ title was postponed once again in Chennai, stricter regulations regarding norm certificates were introduced. For instance, from now on, a certificate will stand as valid if it hasn’t been contested for a period of three years.

“A sportsman shouldn’t be punished for a mistake made by an official,” said Paehtz, and FIDE ended up agreeing with her. At the November 25 FIDE Council meeting in Jerusalem, it was decided that she deserved the GM title after all.

“It is not unfair,” said Paehtz, “considering the reasoning behind the Olympiad exception. There are only 40 female grandmasters in the world, so for a player it is actually quite hard to meet three of them in a women’s tournament, no matter how high her score is.”

The overwhelming emotion for Paehtz right now is relief. “I’m mostly glad that it’s over,” she said. “Part of the German community called me a liar and a hypocrite, and some German journalists seemed to relish the saga, happy that it was dragging on. I had a very bad year.”

Paehtz is known in Germany as outspoken and opinionated. In 2019, she left the German national team, demanding equal conditions for the male and female teams regarding training opportunities and budget. A year later she returned after the German Chess Federation had indeed created equal conditions for the teams.

It is one of the episodes she writes about in her recently published book in German: Wer den vorletzten Fehler macht, gewinnt (“The winner is the one who makes the next-to-last mistake,” a quote by GM Savielly Tartakower.)

“What happened to me regarding my GM title is a good example that showed we need to avoid making certain mistakes in the future,” she said. “I am mostly happy that now, there is no discussion anymore.”

Below is the list of all 40 female grandmasters who are all still living:

# Fed Name Award year Age Peak rating
1 Nona Gaprindashvili 1978 81 2495
2 Maia Chiburdanidze 1984 61 2560
3 Susan Polgar 1991 53 2577
4 Judit Polgar 1992 46 2735
5 Pia Cramling 1992 59 2550
6 Xie Jun 1994 52 2574
7 Zhu Chen 2001 46 2548
8 Koneru Humpy 2002 35 2623
9 Antoaneta Stefanova 2002 43 2560
10 Alexandra Kosteniuk 2004 38 2561
11 Peng Zhaoqin 2004 54 2472
12 Xu Yuhua 2007 46 2517
13 Hoang Thanh Trang 2007 42 2511
14 Kateryna Lagno 2007 32 2563
15 Zhao Xue 2008 37 2579
16 Marie Sebag 2008 36 2537
17 Monika Soćko 2008 44 2505
18 Hou Yifan 2008 28 2686
19 Nana Dzagnidze 2008 35 2573
20 Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant 2009 54 2506
21 Tatiana Kosintseva 2009 36 2581
22 Natalia Zhukova 2010 43 2499
23 Viktorija Cmilyte 2010 39 2542
24 Elina Danielian 2010 44 2521
25 Nadezhda Kosintseva 2011 37 2576
26 Harika Dronavalli 2011 31 2543
27 Anna Muzychuk 2012 32 2606
28 Anna Ushenina 2012 37 2502
29 Valentina Gunina 2013 33 2548
30 Bela Khotenashvili 2013 34 2531
31 Irina Krush 2013 38 2502
32 Ju Wenjun 2014 31 2604
33 Mariya Muzychuk 2015 30 2563
34 Lei Tingjie 2017 25 2545
35 Tan Zhongyi 2017 31 2530
36 Nino Batsiashvili 2018 35 2528
37 Aleksandra Goryachkina 2018 24 2611
38 Olga Girya 2021 31 2505
39 Zhansaya Abdumalik 2021 22 2507
40 Elisabeth Paehtz 2022 37 2513


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