The 2023 New York Winter Invitationals were held from January 12-16, 2023. Returning to the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown Park Avenue hotel, it was organized by IOKeith Espinosa and IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy.
National Arbiter Sunny Yangoffered me valuable assistance during the event; the newly-turned 18-year-old is the biggest rising star among TDs on the East Coast, and maybe beyond. I was happy to award him a FIDE Arbiter (FA) norm for his performance.
Sunny also recently became an ANTD, and I expect him to achieve NTD at some point in 2023, which would make him one of the youngest ever.
On a Personal Note
The 2023 New York Winter Invitationals made 7/7 times I served as Chief Arbiter of the NYC Invitationals series…but I’m not sure when I will do so again.
I’ve relinquished CA duties for awhile as I have a large number of classes and private lessons I’m not willing to give up during the school year. FIDE Arbiter Greg Keenerwill ably lead the next four events, at least.
In addition to the five IM norms and Sunny’s FA norm, one more norm was achieved — my final International Arbiter (IA) norm. I’m not sure for which FIDE Council meeting my application will be reviewed, but I should receive my IA title sometime later this year.
The 2022 New York Fall Invitationals were held at the Aloft Long Island City — Manhattan View hotel from November 9-13, organized by IOKeith Espinosa and IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy.
There were five sections in this edition: GM A, GM B, IM C, IM D and NM E. GM and IM norms were available in the A and B sections, while only IM norms were on offer in C and D. The E group was a six-player round robin for experts and masters.
Overall, the five sections had players from no less than 20 different nations competing!
National Arbiter Karl Heck came up all the way from Virginia to offer invaluable assistance to me in this event, and he earned a well-deserved 2nd FIDE Arbiter norm. I soon expect him to complete a similar journey to my own.
Top-seed GM Robby Kevlishvili (NED) finished in a first-place tie with IM Kassa Korley (DEN) and GM Titas Stremavicius (LTU) on 5½ points out of 9. Players needed 6½ points to score a GM norm.
The only non-GM/IM in the section, FM Nico Chasin(USA), earned his 4th IM norm with 5 points out of 9. As he has already cleared the FIDE 2400 barrier (indeed, his live rating is 2441) he should officially become an International Master soon.
IM Kyron Griffith (USA) emerged victorious in this group, tallying 7 points out of 9. IM Mykola Bortnyk (UKR) finished in 2nd place with 6½ points.
The IM norm was 7 points, and none of the seekers got within shouting distance. I will note that Zachary Tanenbaum had his second consecutive strong showing at our tournament, scoring 5 points while being one of the lowest-rated players.
GM A players could earn a grandmaster norm by scoring 7 points out of 9 or an international master norm by tallying 5½ points out of 9.
The IM B section required 7 points out of 9 for an IM norm.
I served as Chief Arbiter. The event was organized by IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy and America’s newest International Organizer, IOKeith Espinosa. Congratulations, Keith!
Hungarian GM Gergely Kantor(Hungary) finished in clear 1st Place with 7 points. GM Mark Paragua (Philippines) followed with 6 points, while GM Djurabek Khamrakulov(Uzbekistan) and FM Sandeep Sethuraman (USA) tied for 3rd-4th place with 5½ points.
Sethuraman earned his 2nd IM norm in the process, as well as 35 FIDE rating points, taking his live rating to 2371. If he plays in our November event, perhaps he can earn his final norm and cross the 2400 barrier required for the IM title? Anyway, congratulations Sandeep!
FM Gus Huston (USA) won this section with 6½ points out of 9, just missing out on his 2nd IM norm. The 30 Elo points he gained, however, will take his FIDE rating back over 2300.
GM Michael Rohde (USA) and Zachary Tanenbaum (USA)tied for 2nd-3rd place with 5 points. The latter had an impressive debut at the NYC Invitationals, and will hopefully return.
You can find more information on the event website. Results, standings, and all 90 games from the event can be found on Chess Results.
Coming Up Next
From November 9-13, the New York Fall Invitationals will take place in Long Island City, NY. There will be five sections this time: GM A, GM B, IM C, IM D, and NM E. The NM section will be a six-player round robin over three days with no norms on offer.
Sometime in June, I received a surprising text from IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy, co-organizer of the New York Invitationals norm series I direct. He wanted to put me in contact with IM Josiah Stearman who was looking for an arbiter to run a norm tournament in early August…in Los Angeles.
Wait, what? Why would they be interested in an arbiter from NYC!?
But I agreed of course; Josiah and I exchanged some emails. The new organizers running the event were 1000GM.org.
It turns out that this tournament was scheduled at the same time as the U.S. Open, and it seems many prospective arbiters had already committed to that event (which is announced years in advance). This is an example of a larger issue in American chess — there aren’t many arbiters available to run norm events.
Anyway, both Josiah and I agreed that he would try to find someone closer. Honestly, I didn’t really want to fly across the country to run an exhausting norm tournament! But I sorta agreed that I would if absolutely necessary.
Hollywood Norm Classic #3
As a matter of course, I regularly stalk the USA FIDE tournaments page to see which events are coming up, which have been rated, and so on.
In late June I saw an entry for “Hollywood Norm Classic #3” and, most importantly, another arbiter listed as the Chief. I was relieved!
During the New York Summer Invitationals in early July, however, I received an email from Josiah saying they would probably need me after all! I don’t know if the other arbiter had to back out or if he was just listed as a placeholder.
I was gently trying to beg out of it, pleading with Josiah “there must be someone else!”
But maybe there really wasn’t. And I sorta agreed to do it already. Yes, there was no contract signed at the time, but my conscience wouldn’t allow me to leave all of these players hanging a few weeks before the event.
Andre was going to Hollywood.
This 9-round, Swiss-system tournament was held at the Hilton LAXfrom August 3-7. Two rounds per day were played on the first four days of the event, and the final (ninth) round was contested on the final day.
42 players participated. This is number is important, because FIDE recently introduced a new regulation (B.1.5.6) requiring title seekers (GM, IM, WGM, WIM) to earn at least one norm in a Swiss tournament with at least 40 players who play all rounds (excepting pairing-allocated byes). 42 was desirable to have an even number, and a cushion in case one or two players withdrew during the event. In the end, no one did.
We fell a bit short of a “Super Swiss” (at least 20 players not from the host federation, at least 10 of which hold GM/IM/WGM/WIM titles). This would allow players to earn norms regardless of their opponents’ federations, as normally a USA player playing in a USA tournament needs to play 4 foreign opponents in 9 rounds, and a non-USA player competing in a USA tournament needs to meet 3 non-USA players in 9 rounds.
In the end we had 18 foreign players from 10 federations other than USA, with 10 having the required GM/IM/WGM/WIM titles.
IM Bryce Tiglon (USA) and GM Vladimir Belous (Russia) tied for first place with 6½ points out of 9, splitting the $1,000 first prize equally ($500 each).
Joseph Levine (USA) earned his 1st IM norm with “only” 5 points out 0f 9 — but he faced six GMs, scoring +3=2-1 against them!
Tugstumur Yesuntumur (Mongolia) earned his 3rd IM norm with 6 points out of 9, defeating all three GMs he faced!
Technically, Robert Shlyakhtenko (USA) also earned an IM norm (at least his 5th), but he was having his IM title approved at the Chennai Olympiad while the tournament was in progress. Indeed, he is now officially an IM. Congratulations, Robert!
Last, but certainly not least, I was proud to submit an International Organizer norm for event organizer Srikanth Bangalore. Kudos to him and the team (Josiah, Rushaan Mahajan, and co.) for a successful norm tournament!
Thanks also to Juan Cendejas and Deep Joshi for their expertise in managing the DGT broadcasts, preparing the venue for play each round, and their friendly, welcoming nature!
The event featured four sections: GM A, GM B, IM C, and IM D. GM and IM norms were available in the A and B sections, while only IM norms were on offer in C and D.
Overall, two IM norms were achieved.
Let’s see the results, shall we?
GM A: Grandmaster Class
Polish GM Kamil Dragun finished in clear 1st Place in this section with 6.5 points. GM Djurabek Khamrakulov(Uzbekistan) followed with 6 points, and GM Ante Saric(Croatia) tallied 5½. This trio dominated the event.
No norms were earned this time; 5 points would have scored an IM norm for FMs Liran Zhou and Maximilian Lu, though the latter will presumably have his IM title approved at the next FIDE Congress in August.
A GM norm required 6½ points, but no one ever looked very likely to earn one during the course of the event.
GM B: Don’t Lose
Joseph Zeltsan (USA) won this section with 5½ points out of 9, winning two games and drawing the rest. In addition, he earned his second IM norm. Congratulations!
IM Bryce Tiglon (USA), GM Leonid Yudasin (Israel), and FM Aaron Jacobson (USA) tied for 2nd place with 5 points. Jacobson could have earned his final IM norm with a win over tail-ender Qibiao Wang (China) in the final round, but only managed to draw.
The GM norm in this section was a full 7 points out of 9. Maybe next time?
IM C: Just Win
FM Tanitoluwa Adewumi (USA) scored 7 points out of 9, winning the section and scoring his second IM norm. He’s now 2-for-2 in the New York Invitational series. Congratulations!
FM Akira Nakada (USA) once again came just a half-point short, finishing 2nd with 6½. Rating favorite IM Mykola Bortnyk (Ukraine) came in 3rd place with 6 points.
IM D: Fight Club
GM Michael Rohde (USA) emerged victorious, tallying 7 points out of 9. The veteran GM showed great form throughout, and was motivated to post the highest score among the four groups, which he did (along with Tani)!
IM Arjun Vishnuvardhan (India) followed Rohde with 6½ points, and IM Nikolai Andrianov (Russia) scored 6. Because the IM norm was 7 points, the norm seekers went after the top three, but their attempts backfired.
While no norms were earned, this section was a bloodbath; it was common for Group D to go well after the other sections were done or nearly so! Only 17 of 45 games ended in draws.
After three successful norm events in November 2021, January 2022, and April 2022, organizers Keith Espinosa and Alex Ostrovskiy have scheduled another group of norm tournaments in midtown Manhattan from July 7-11.
This event will feature four sections: GM A, GM B, IM C, and IM D.
In a May 2020 post, I briefly talked about USCF tournament direction: how to become a TD, what a neophyte could expect in their first events, and the different levels of TD.
To review, the levels are, in ascending order:
Club Tournament Director
Local Tournament Director
Senior Tournament Director (SrTD)
Associate National Tournament Director (ANTD)
National Tournament Director (NTD)
The tiers are appropriately named, in my view: “Club” and “National” describe exactly the level of events these TDs are qualified to lead!
Club TD does not require an exam; to promote to the higher levels, you need tournament “experience credits” that qualify you to take an exam, each requiring a passing score of at least 80%.
In February 2002, as an 18-year-old, I began my directing career as an assistant at The Right Move scholastic tournaments in New York City. I wasn’t officially a TD at the time, and my biggest responsibilities were moving the tables before and after the event, setting up and packing sets, crowd control, and going out to get the staff lunch. A well-earned $50.
That summer I became a Club TD; in June 2003 I became Assistant Manager at the Marshall Chess Club and began directing constantly. Sometime later that year I took and passed the test for Local TD.
By 2005 I had enough experience credits to test for Senior TD, and passed my exam to earn that rank in April 2005.
One (or Two) Tournaments Short
I continued directing scholastic and adult tournaments heavily through mid-2010 before taking a salaried job that allowed me to cut back.
By 2009 I had fulfilled all the requirements to test for ANTD except for a a Category R tournament – a round robin event with 6 players with an average rating of 1400 (this was lowered at some point from 8 players with an average rating of 1800).
Not only that, I fulfilled all the requirements for NTD as well, except for the Category R tournament and a Category N tournament – an event that awards a National title (with some further stipulations).
I could have organized a round robin…or been more proactive about getting on the staff of National events. I guess I have a habit of leaving unfinished business…
So I remained a Senior TD. One told by several NTDs that he had the chops to be an NTD himself.
FIDE to the rescue
I hoped that by becoming a FIDE Arbiter I would have opportunities to run my own round robins and clear the Category R requirement for ANTD.
It happened even before my title became official in September 2021!
Alex Ostrovskiy contacted me in August about running a norm event around Veterans Day — this became the recently concluded New York Invitational.
Almost immediately after all the tournament paperwork was submitted, I requested the ANTD exam from the TD certification group (there’s a quite detailed form where you list your experience credits). Chris Bird sent me a form of the test (is there anything he doesn’t do at USCF!?).
It was a doozy.
I read through the test and let it marinate in my brain for about a week before tackling it. Besides, I wanted to mentally prepare for my upcoming stint at the National Chess Congress following Thanksgiving.
I was on staff with NTDs David Hater (Chief), Bob Messenger, Boyd Reed, and Harold Stenzel but I didn’t tell any of them what I had just undertaken or ask them any questions. Additionally, I teach for NTD Sophia Rohde, but didn’t tell her I was doing the test until I already sent it in!
It was my mission, and my mission alone.
When I got home from Philadelphia, I started. How do you eat an elephant?
Obviously, I won’t discuss test questions here. But I will say that it’s a mix of the practical and the technical, and the bulk of the test relates to how you would resolve realistic disputes that could arise during an event.
I spent many, many hours on the test over the course of a week; when I finished writing my answers the length was more than nine pages!
Challenging as it was, I found the exam itself to be well-written.
However, I find USCF rules to be much more ambiguous than the FIDE Laws of Chess which left me quite unsure of some of my answers. You have two months to submit the test, but at some point I decided there wasn’t too much more I could do, and I sent it in December 6.
Chris confirmed receipt of my exam and informed me that he had sent it to a grader. Gulp!
The Local and Senior tests are multiple choice; ANTD or NTD promotion requires essay exams that are sent to an NTD grader – you aren’t told who, and I believe the grader doesn’t know the identity of the applicant.
If you score 80% you pass; if you score 70-79% you can request a re-grade by two other NTDs at which point I think you pass if two of the three graders gives you 80%.
I scored exactly 80% and passed. Even after receiving feedback about the answers I lost points on, I must admit I still have lots of questions. I wish I could talk to my grader to clear up my misunderstandings. Oh well …
Do a National Tournament and go for NTD. When? I don’t know. But it won’t take me 16 years, that’s for sure!
GM: 2500 rating and three norms with a 2600+ performance.
IM: 2400 rating and three norms with a 2450+ performance.
WGM: 2300 rating and three norms with a 2400+ performance.
WIM: 2200 rating and three Norms with a 2250+ performance.
Yes, the requirements for “W” titles are all 200 points lower than their “non-W” counterparts, but women can and do earn the “Open” GM and IM titles.
So a player can score, say, a 2600-level performance in any event and earn a GM norm? Not so fast.
Other Requirements for Norms
Number of games needed across events: At least 27.
Number of rounds per event: At least 9 (with few exceptions), but no more than 13 games will count (even if an event is longer than 13 rounds).
Titles of opponents: At least 1/3 must have the title you seek, or higher. In a 9 round event, a player seeking a GM norm must face at least 3 GMs. Also, at least 50% of opponents must hold (w)GM/(w)IM/(w)FM titles.
Minimum average rating of opponents: 2380 for GM, 2230 for IM, 2180 for WGM, 2030 for WIM. One player’s rating can be raised to 400 points below the required performance level. If an IM-norm seeker faces a 1900 player, they can consider it as if they played a 2050.
Federations of opponents: A maximum of 3/5 of the opponents may come from the applicant’s federation and a maximum of 2/3 of the opponents from one federation.
For a player from USA to earn a GM norm in a 9 round tournament held in the United States, they must face 5 or more titled players, including 3 GMs, and 4 of their 9 opponents must be from federations other than USA.
In a Swiss-System tournament, there’s no guarantee you will earn a norm even if you play well enough; your field may not meet all these conditions. In my years of directing, I’ve seen plenty of players miss out on norms simply because they faced three foreign players, instead of four.
Yeah. I hope you’re starting to see why norm events are often specially organized to ensure compliance with all these requirements!
Round Robin norm events
Round robins are the most reliable tournaments for title norms, because the tournament organizer can create a field that meets all FIDE requirements.
Such events normally have 10 players, meaning that each player plays one game against each of the other 9 players (9 rounds). For a GM norm event, at least three players will be GMs, given “conditions” (financial and/or other compensation) to participate. Four of the players need to play under a foreign federation.
The other players pay an entry fee to play and have a chance at a norm.
Round robins have an additional feature: since everyone knows in advance who they will play (and their rating), the Arbiter calculates how many points each norm-seeker requires to earn their norm. This is the amount of points that equate to a performance rating of, say, 2600 (for GM). There’s no guesswork during the event, or hoping for the necessary pairings.
If the average rating of a player’s opponents is 2600, they only need to score 4.5 points out of 9 for a 2600 performance (rare, but it can happen in super strong events like the Aeroflot Open).
If, at the other end, the average of a player’s opponents is the minimum 2380 … the GM-norm seeker needs to score 7 points out of 9, or “plus-five” (five more wins than losses)!
Back to the tournament!
We had three sections: GM A, GM B, and IM C.
GM A and GM B offered GM norms, as well as IM norms for players who did not already have the IM title. The IM C section offered IM norms only.
For all the details, see Chess Results. You can download all the games from the three tournaments, too!
The GM A section was very balanced, with just 129 rating points separating the top and bottom players, and this was reflected in the results. GM Titas Stremavicius (Lithuania) won the event with 6 points out of 9. To earn a GM norm, a seeker had to score 6.5 points.
The GM B section was quite different, headed by current U.S. Open Champion GM Aleksandr Lenderman (USA). He led the event from wire-to-wire and won with a dominant 7.5 points out of 9. Here, too, no norm-seeker achieved the required 6.5 points for a GM norm (or 4.5 points for an IM norm).
The IM C section was also won by the favorite, IM Zurab Javakhadze (Georgia), with a monstrous 8 points out of 9 (7 wins and 2 draws)! Zurab already has three GM norms, and just needs to cross 2500 FIDE to earn the GM title. After this event he’s 2484.
A norm was secured in this section, as FM Robert Shlyakhtenko (USA) earned his third and final IM norm. After this event, he’s very close to the needed 2400 FIDE rating as well.