Your Chess Temperament

Winning With Chess Psychology
An old but interesting book by GM Pal Benko (1928-2019).

I’m by no means an expert in psychology, but my experience as a chess player and coach has given me a lot of insight into the temperament of others  through their chess.

Let’s discuss Passive vs. Assertive vs. Aggressive in chess. There is a place for all three, depending on the situation, though passive play is usually a good idea only in certain fortress positions.

In my view, this continuum mainly applies to: 1) opening choices; 2) middlegame style; and 3) degree of risk-taking in equal-ish positions. Tournament situation can cause a player to operate differently than they normally would, but we’ll put that aside in this post.


Opening Choices

At first, this seems to be the easiest way to quickly “read” a player, but the openings a player (regularly) employs can be misleading!

Many players trot out openings that don’t fit their style — or what should be their style, based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Mismatched opening repertoires pop up even more frequently in scholastic chess, due to coaches teaching their charges setups that don’t fit them. Maybe the instructor wants their student to play their opening, or an opening that worked for another student.

Aggressive openings tend to require more knowledge to play well, aside from an attacking mindset. The Sicilian Dragon is but one example.

Passive openings can resemble the “rope-a-dope” in boxing: hope the opponent overplays their position (punches themselves out), giving you a chance to score the point via counterattack. Setups like the Fort Knox come to mind.

Assertive openings are firmly in the middle: solid, and neither overly wild nor defensive. The Nimzo-Indian (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4) is a great example.

[Note that in the above examples I’m leaving aside gambits.]

My post on defending the Italian Game is an example of the decision-making that goes into choosing an opening line.


Middlegame Play

What you do here usually stems from your opening choice, but there are often choices to be made that can hint at a player’s overall temperament.

If you observe a young or new player who somehow always manages to bring a swarm of pieces near the enemy monarch — you have an aggressive player!

Say a player employs the Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined as White. A typical position is one such as the following:

An aggressive player would, without fail, go straight for the plan with f2-f3, Ra1-e1, push in the center and go for a big attack on the black king.

The more assertive player would quickly play Ra1-b1, b2-b4, and go for a minority attack on the queenside. A positionally dangerous plan for Black, but not a game-ending one. Even if White gets a big advantage, winning might take awhile.


Risk Management

GM Nikolai Krogius (1930-2022) was trained as a sports psychologist. His book is also interesting.

It’s the age-old question: in a set of two games, would you prefer one win and one loss, or two draws? Is it more important to achieve victory, or avoid defeat?

It’s a very personal feeling! And for any coaches reading this, I advise you not to interfere with nature. Remember that you are coaching for your students’ benefit; your compensation is the payment you receive for your services.

The aggressive player will score many points by pushing hard to win every game, but will suffer some “accidents” in doing so.

Perhaps surprisingly, I would place Magnus Carlsen in this category. He doesn’t usually launch all-out attacks, but he is a very aggressive grinder in that he takes risks to win many positions where others would “keep the draw in hand.” He occasionally loses because of this, but scores several wins to compensate for each setback.


What do you think? I welcome feedback in the comments!

FIDE-Rated Event Reporting, Part 3

US Chess Federation logoIn Part 1 and Part 2 we discussed how to prepare a FIDE event, and how to run it.

Let’s wrap up our series on reporting requirements for FIDE-rated events. Now we discuss what to do after your event has ended.

TLDR: all “paperwork” goes through US Chess!


Norm check

In a round robin norm event, you’ll immediately know if any players have secured a title norm, since they either reached the required score (based on their opponent’s ratings) or did not.

In a Swiss tournament, calculate player performance ratings to check if they earned a norm or not. GM: 2600; IM: 2450; WGM: 2400; WIM: 2250.

[Think “5-4-3” for a 9 round tournament; the norm-seeker faced at least: 5 titled players (GM/WGM, IM/WIM, FM/WFM); 4 non-USA players if from USA (otherwise 3 non-USA players); and 3 opponents with the title they are seeking, or a higher one — GM > IM > WGM > WIM.]

Once you know if any players earned a title norm, print out IT1 forms. The same form is used for all player norm types, whether GM, IM, WGM, or WIM. Remember: the FM/WFM and CM/WCM titles don’t require norms.

Swiss-Manager creates a perfect IT1 form in Excel that you can just print without filling anything out. As far as I know, SwissSys does not do this, which means you need to enter all information manually — the event info, player’s info, and the names, federations, FIDE IDs, and ratings of all opponents.

Sign and date the completed certificates and scan them into your computer as PDFs. We’ll need them soon.

Gus Huston earns 1st IM norm
Andre (left) with FM Gus Huston (center) and Organizer Keith Espinosa (right) at the 2022 New York Winter Invitational; Gus earned his 1st IM norm. Source: NYCChessNorms

It’s also nice to take pictures with the Organizer and norm earners holding their certificates. Believe it or not, when I first became a FIDE Arbiter, I looked forward to this more than anything else!




Don’t forget about Arbiter norms (FA or IA) for any assistants you may have, and an International Organizer (IO) norm for the Chief Organizer if everything went well. FIDE Arbiter norms require an FA1 form, International Arbiter norms an IA1 form, and International Organizer norms the IO1 form.

Arbiters: If you’re interested in serving as a Deputy Arbiter to earn FA or IA norms at our events in New York, contact me or send an email to Note: NAs are unpaid, FAs may potentially be paid.


Rating the Tournament

For US Chess

If you entered all USCF and FIDE IDs into SwissSys before the event, you’re ready to rate the event for USCF.

There’s nothing different about this process than any other USCF event, except for telling SwissSys which sections are FIDE-rated.

Oh yeah…and listing the TDs appropriately.

First, only active IAs, FAs, and NAs are allowed to be listed as TDs for FIDE-rated events.

For FIDE events, you need one Chief Arbiter, can have up to two Deputy Chiefs, and can have other Sector Arbiters and Arbiters below them. You can also name pairing and anti-cheating arbiters, but this is normally only done for really big or prestigious tournaments.

The Chief Arbiter needs to be the same as the Chief TD in the USCF report.

The Deputy Chiefs correspond to the Chief Assistant and Section Chief in the USCF report.

Other Arbiters you can list as section assistants, etc. in the USCF report.


This part is easy. Just send the final SwissSys file to the US Chess FIDE Events Manager (see below). For a round robin this would be the .SRR file; for a Swiss it would be the .S9C file (for a nine-round tournament). He will create the FIDE rating report from that.


PGN files

Enter all the games you need to send (Round robin: all games; Swiss: games from any norm earners). We’ll need it soon.



I send one email per FIDE-rated section to the FIDE Events Manager (Brian Yang). For example:

Subject: ACME Invitational – GM A (Event Code: 987654)

In it, I include:

    • The final SwissSys file (.SRR or .S9C)
    • The PGN file with all games from that section
    • Whether any norms were earned — player, arbiter, organizer
    • A promise to send any norm certificates earned in separate emails

Then I send one email for each norm earned (if any), for example:

Subject: Jane Doe IT1: ACME Invitational – GM A

“Dear Brian,

Attached is the IT1 for Jane Doe (USA) who achieved an IM norm at the ACME Invitational – GM A (Event Code: 987654).
Best wishes,
Then I attach the norm with my signature that I scanned previously.


What happens next?

First, you’ll see that your tournament has been rated by USCF.

Later, you’ll get confirmation that the FIDE Events Manager has received your SwissSys files and all is well with those. He’ll notify you when your event has been posted to FIDE for rating, and also confirm receipt of any norm certificates you sent.

When he signs the norms and affixes the USCF seal, he’ll send them to Baira Marilova at the FIDE Elista Office, who will later confirm when she has posted the norms online.

And that’s it! You made it through your first FIDE-rated event as Chief Arbiter. It’s a lot of work, so price your services accordingly…

Thanks for staying with me through this series! Was there anything I missed? Let me know!