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…

I Got a TD Promotion…


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%.

Early Career

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.

The Test

USCF 7th edition rulebook
You’ll need this for your next TD exam!

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 …

Next Step

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!