In a May 2020 post, I briefly talked about USCF tournament direction: how to become a tournament director, 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 up 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.