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