Justus Williams clinches IM title!

IM-Elect Justus Williams
Photo by CCSCSL

At long last… another International Master in the ranks! Justus Williams has put together a string of strong results to eclipse the 2400 barrier, thus fulfilling the last requirement for the FIDE title of International Master. Over Labor Day weekend Justus scored 7/7 to win the Illinois Open State Championship ahead of three Grandmasters.

“Since the creation of Black Squares and working with the children within the community, they’ve inspired me to look at the game differently.”

Justus got his 3rd IM norm back in 2017 at the St. Louis Invitational and needed the rating requirement by FIDE, the world’s official body. After no tournaments in 2020, this year has started well for him. He played in the Chicago Open in May toppling rising star GM Awonder Liang, scoring 6/9 and earning 38 rating points. He scored 4/5 at the Atlantic Open gaining another 19 rating points. Here is an account of the two tournaments and the key games annotated by Justus.

Justus Williams result of 2021 Chicago Open

Justus Williams result of 2021 Atlantic Open

At the Illinois Open, there were three Grandmasters in the field: Nikola Mitkov, Vladimir Georgiev and Dmitry Gurevich. Typically, the top seeds are in running for the prizes, but all were upset taking losses and draws against players several hundred points lower.

Meanwhile, Williams entered the tournament at 2385 and proceeded to hunt down the rest of the field. He ended with a win over blitz phenom Gopal Menon and a perfect 7/7. Apart from his resounding tournament win, Williams apparently earned the 15 rating points to reach the minimum 2400 mark, the final requirement to secure the IM title. The title should be conferred at the next FIDE Congress in November.

2021 Illinois State Open
Northbrook, IL (USA)
# Title Player USCF FIDE Fed
1 Ryan Baretto 1963 1865 USA
2 William Brock 2049 1934 USA
3 NM Aakaash Meduri 2162 1939 USA
4 NM Nicholas Ladan 2226 2075 USA
5 FM Spencer Lehmann 2364 2245 USA
6 Rohit Guha 2104 2016 USA
7 LM Gopal Menon 2374 2242 USA
Score: 7/7 (Standings)

As great as this accomplishment is, Justus has been making a difference in society which may be his biggest contribution yet. Justus previously attended Webster and Lindenwood universities, started a grassroots chess initiative called “Black Squares,” and rededicated himself to the craft that has given him a large platform. Most recently, he shared his talents with inmates at St. Louis County Justice Center.

When asked if he had any words, he left these words…

Since the creation of Black Squares and working with the children within the community, they’ve inspired me to look at the game differently. This summer I had a goal of receiving my title and did so in 3 tournaments (Going 17/21 with no draws). I can only thank the love and support from everybody that inspired me to put in more work. I can’t wait to share the journey and games with you all.

Justus was immortalized in the movie, “Brooklyn Castle” and is looking to make an impact. It’s been a long journey for the young Bronx native, but his story is one for the ages. Now a young man of 23, he is charting a course as a community agent of change using chess as a vehicle. So many organizations have the same mantra, but no one has a story to tell quite like Justus Williams… IM Justus Williams.

Congratulations from The Chess Drum!!!


  1. Well done bro keep workin! Gopal dont do this bro. oh Maurice i came to the St.Louis Chess Club in 2019 rd 8 to let ur gms know who the ULTRAMODERNIST is in real life, and not only did i crush yall online on icc with na6-c7-e6 ill crush yall ova da bored. Whats up? Adia come getcha boy! Peace drummas!!! keep workin!!! BUBBAFISHA.

  2. Congratulations to this outstanding young man on this magnificent accomplishment. Very proud of him. Exciting games!

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