As recently as two years ago, I did not think I would pursue becoming a FIDE Arbiter or International Arbiter.
I did pass a FIDE Arbiter seminar in 2010, and worked a few tournaments as a Deputy Arbiter in 2009-10. I somehow didn’t get the FA title, however and over the years didn’t decide to pursue becoming an arbiter.
A Small Part of History
I learned that I had to take and pass a National Arbiter exam with an 80% score, then do another FIDE Arbiter seminar and get three tournament norms since my efforts from 2009-10 were long expired. FA seminar norms are good for four years, and FA tournament norms expire in six years.
After a positive experience in the first GM norm event, I assisted in a second GM norm event in November 2019. Near the end of the event, I got to meet FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. Not only that, Brandon Jacobson earned a GM norm, and Abhimanyu Mishra became the youngest International Master in history by achieving his final IM norm with an ultra-solid nine draws in nine games! Mishra actually earned his first IM norm in the August event. He has since become the youngest GM ever.
These events would actually qualify for International Arbiter (IA) norms, but one must have the FA title before earning IA norms, and you can’t reuse FA norms in an application for IA! C’est la vie.
A successful FIDE Arbiter application needs a seminar and passing exam (at 80%), and three tournament norms. But the three norms must include two different types of tournaments (the most common event types are Swiss-system, round robin, or team). A candidate can use only Swiss tournaments if one is a Swiss event with 100+ players, at least 30% of them FIDE rated, and at least seven rounds.
I had two round robin norms, so I needed to find a Swiss to assist in — the requirements for team events are even more strict, and very hard to achieve for US-based arbiters because we are probably the only major country that does not have a National Team Championship.
The world shut down, including over-the-board chess tournaments. In May 2020 I participated in an online FIDE Arbiter seminar and passed the course successfully.
I now needed the Swiss, and I was pretty determined to get it done as soon as things began to reopen. I did not want to let it linger.
Not the World Open
A five-round Swiss would have been good enough to complete my FIDE Arbiter title, but with such events it can be unclear if enough players will enter such that the requirements in the previous section are met.
When the school year ended in mid-June I contacted IA David Hater, who arranges staffing for Continental Chess Association tournaments, and got on the staff of the 2021 Philadelphia International. It would be my first CCA event since 2010!
Held directly before the World Open in the same location, this event draws dozens of titled players — FMs and IMs pursuing norms, and GMs playing for prize money and guaranteed cash for participating (as they afford opportunities for others to earn norms by playing them).
I arrived in Philadelphia on Friday night, June 25. The tournament ran from Saturday, June 26 through Wednesday, June 30. Two rounds per day Saturday through Tuesday, and the final (9th) round on Wedesday.
Overall, I had a great experience!
There were no disputes throughout the entire nine rounds. The atmosphere was serious but cordial, and the toughest part of my job was setting clocks and making sure players didn’t leave without submitting their scoresheets (FIDE requires this)! The players were outstanding, too, when it came to respecting the mask-wearing requirement of the event.
FM Vincent Tsay earned his second IM norm, and in fact clinched it without even needing to score in the final round! He ended up drawing tournament winner GM Vladimir Belous anyway. Belous scored 7 points out of 9, along with GM Hans Niemann and IM Andrew Hong, but received a small bonus for having the best mathematical tiebreaks.
US Chess FIDE Events Manager IA Chris Bird helped ensure all my documents were in order, arranged for me to pay the 50 euro fee to USCF, and sent off my FIDE Arbiter application to Baira Marilova at the FIDE Elista office.
The application now appears on the FIDE titles page, to be hopefully approved at the next FIDE Council meeting, which I believe meets in early August.
After that: my pursuit of the International Arbiter title! Stay tuned!