Achievement Unlocked: International Arbiter

International Arbiter pin
Do I get one of these? Photo: pin_trader2 (ebay)

My International Arbiter (IA) title was officially approved at the 2023 1st FIDE Council meeting in Mexico City on April 4. With the typical waiting period, I guess my title should come into effect by mid-May.

A couple of years ago, I discussed how I achieved the lower FIDE Arbiter (FA) title. That one is actually much tougher to obtain, considering USA arbiters need to first become a Senior Tournament Director, then National Arbiter (NA), pass two exams and a seminar, and work three tournaments!

Food for Thought

The Senior TD hurdle eliminates a lot of prospective arbiters, because you can’t become SrTD unless you run many 4-round tournaments with 50 or more players!

Frankly, I’m not sure the Senior TD requirement is strictly necessary. After all, a TD who only runs big scholastics with near-beginners can easily clear the SrTD experience requirements. Perhaps Local TDs could be allowed to start on the FIDE path if they participate in a seminar of some sort and pass the NA exam.

Finishing the Job

Anyway, once an arbiter has become FA, IA is not so hard to get, assuming you have the opportunity to work tournaments that offer norms — a big IF, I know.

I made my first IA norm at the 52nd Continental Open in July 2022 (organized by the Continental Chess Association). This was key as the top section was a Swiss; remember that you usually need two types of tournaments in a valid IA title application.

That’s because I achieved my three other norms via Round Robins, in September 2022, November 2022, and January 2023 — these events were all organized by NYC Chess Norms.

Karl Heck assisted me in the November 2022 event, and I was happy to see he had his FA title approved in Mexico City as well! Congratulations, Karl!

In January 2024, the FIDE Arbiters’ Commission (ARB) is supposed to implement a seminar for prospective IA candidates holding the FA title.

Next Steps?

I will become an International Arbiter-Category D. The higher categories are, logically, C, B, and A. In practice this isn’t so important unless an arbiter wants to be appointed to top positions in World and Continental Championships. Still, I will try to go higher in the following years…

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!

My Arbiter Journey: End of the Beginning

Prospective arbiters — read this! For everyone else, it may not be that exciting…

Rekindled Ambition

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.

When I was approached about being Deputy Arbiter for a Grandmaster Norm round robin tournament to be held in August 2019 at the Chess Max Academy in Manhattan (i.e., close to home) my interest in becoming an arbiter returned.


A Small Part of History

IA Grant Oen, responsible for FIDE Events in the USA at the time, informed me that I had to become a National Arbiter before I could officially work FIDE events. For this I needed to take and pass a National Arbiter exam with an 80% score. This exam is written and graded by the USCF, and only Senior TDs or above can take it (Associate National TD and National TD are the two higher ranks).

After working on the exam for about eight hours, I sent it back to Grant and I passed with a 93% score (112/120). Now I had to 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. Since the early 2000s, player norms (e.g. for IM or GM) never expire, and players sometimes achieve norms decades apart.

Abhimanyu Mishra and his dad Hemant with Max Dlugy. I encouraged them to pose for this photo, and I believe I took it with Hemant’s phone!

After a positive experience and earning a norm in the first GM norm event, I assisted in another in November 2019 where I got my second norm. I worked under IAs Eduard Duchovny (USA) and Diana Tsypina (Canada), respectively.

At the end of the second event, I got to meet FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich! 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, and in July 2021 he became 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.


Other Technicalities

We’ve seen that a successful FIDE Arbiter application needs a seminar and passing an exam (with at least 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.

In addition, participants from at least two FIDE federations need to participate, unless the event is a National (adult!) Championship (open or women, individual or team). And I didn’t expect an invitation to assist in the U.S. Championship or U.S. Women’s Championship anytime soon!

Well, those are round-robins anyway. 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.

But first … pandemic!

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 in advance if enough players will enter such that the requirements listed in the previous section are met…

Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown, the event site. Photo:

When the school year ended in mid-June I contacted IA David Hater, who hires TDs 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 at 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.

At the end, it was appropriate that my final FA norm certificate was issued by one of my long-time mentors, IA Steve Immitt, who was the Chief Arbiter of the event.

The current 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!

74th Internet-based FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar

From May 3-7 I took part in an online FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar organized by the European Chess Union, via Zoom. This was the 74th online FA seminar; I actually took part in the very first one in July 2010. That ground-breaking event was organized by the late Sevan Muradian, whose impact on FIDE chess in the United States cannot be overstated.

I believe I was the only attendee from the USA. This seminar was given in English, but others are given in different languages, e.g. Arabic, French, German, Russian, or Spanish.


FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar?

Most fans are familiar with playing titles, e.g. International Master (IM) and Grandmaster (GM), but there is also FIDE Arbiter (FA) and the higher International Arbiter (IA).

Arbiters supervise FIDE-rated events. The USCF requires Tournament Directors to be a Senior TD or higher and pass a National Arbiter exam. I became a Senior TD way back in 2005, but only took and passed the National Arbiter exam in 2019!

After gaining the NA rank, becoming a FIDE Arbiter requires a seminar, passing another exam, and earning three “norms” for assisting in qualified tournaments. I have two norms from round robins in 2019 (here and here). My final norm must be from a Swiss or Team tournament. Contact me, Organizers…

A passing seminar result is only good for four years; my 2010 effort is old news. This time I will complete my FA title.

A FIDE Arbiter can be Chief of most international tournaments excluding World and Continental Championships. After gaining the FA title, four additional norms and you can promote to IA. No seminar is currently required for IA, but the lecturers hinted this might soon change.


Seminar Details

Sessions ran 8 am to 12 noon, Eastern Time, Sunday through Thursday. The final two hours on Thursday were dedicated to the exam; I know from my prior experience this is barely enough time!

Did I have an advantage from taking a seminar before? Not really. It helped that I knew what I was up against, but so much has changed in ten years.

IA Tomasz Delega (Poland), Chairman of the ECU Arbiters Council, led much of the first day dedicated to ECU tournaments. Sadly, I can’t work ECU events since I don’t belong to an ECU federation, but the discussions were interesting. The ECU process is impressive — especially how it recruits, appoints, and evaluates arbiters.

The Lecturer of the 74th Internet-based FIDE Arbiters' Seminar, IA Jiřina Prokopová (CZE)
IA Jiřina Prokopová (CZE)

The FA seminar began Monday, May 4. IA Jiřina Prokopová (Czechia) was the main Lecturer, with highly-experienced IAs Geert Bailleul (Belgium) and Marco Biagioli (Italy) leading sessions as well.

Jiřina, Geert, and Marco exemplified the demeanor of a top Arbiter! They treated us as colleagues and embodied the team spirit Arbiters need while supervising competitions. All were patient in answering questions, engaged in the Zoom chat, and offered helpful feedback on homework. I hope to work with them in future events!


Tournament Directors (USCF) vs. Arbiters (FIDE)

At the beginning, Jiřina focused our attention on the Roles of Arbiters and Preface to the Laws of Chess. I found this extremely important, because it framed everything afterwards.

Arbiters in FIDE events are empowered to “act in the best interest of the competition.” This is intended to give arbiters considerable latitude to use sound judgment in taking decisions. As the link between organizer and player, we have definite responsibility for how an event is run.

USCF tournaments, by design, are much more hands-off than FIDE competitions. Here directors make pairings and serve as witnesses in case there are disputes.

The simplest example of this philosophical difference? Arbiters must call a flag fall (a player has run out of time), while this is never done in USCF events!


Topics Covered in a FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar

The main topics we covered over four days were:

  • The FIDE Laws of Chess
  • Anti-Cheating Regulations
  • General Regulations for Competitions
  • Standards of Chess Equipment
  • System of Games
  • Tiebreaks
  • The Swiss system and pairing rules
  • Electronic clocks
  • Regulations for ratings and titles (for players)
  • Regulations for Arbiter titles
  • Final Exam

Everything is different! The Laws of Chess have been refined, pairing and tiebreak methods have changed, and we hardly discussed cheating in 2010!



36 attendees took the exam and 9 passed with the required 80% score. The max score was 100 points across 34 questions requiring short-answer responses, in a little over two hours.

FIDE Arbiter seminar certificate
I completed the FA seminar successfully!

The exam is open-book, but having access to everything is not helpful in only two hours without being well-versed in the subject matter! For good reason we were sent a link to the 2020 FIDE Arbiter’s Manual before the course and recommended to study it! I read the entire thing during the course and I’m happy I did.

I passed the exam with a score of 92.5, apparently second-highest (Jiřina informed us that two participants scored over 90 and one participant scored 95.5).

Taking a FIDE Arbiters’ Seminar is worthwhile and you will learn a lot, but it is intense. I’m glad mine is over!