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!