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.
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 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
- 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.
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!