All the Facts You Need About the Keepers of the Laws of Chess
Maybe Chess Arbiter is a term and a role you have heard of. Or maybe it is not, but if you are at all interested in the world of competitive chess, there is a no more important person than a Chess Arbiter. But who are they? What do they do? And why are they so important? Here we will answer these and other questions to tell you everything you need to know about chess arbiters.
What is a chess Arbiter?
The official title of a person who is a chess arbiter is an International Arbiter. A FIDE or international Arbiter is a title awarded by the World Chess Federation (FIDE) to people who demonstrate knowledge of the rules of chess and can act as impartial stewards during important chess tournaments and matches. In other words, the simplest way to explain what an International Arbiter is and does is that they are the highest level of chess referees.
What is their role in the game?
Like a referee in basketball or an umpire in baseball, an Arbiter’s role is to preside over a match and make sure both players follow all the rules of the game. If they don’t, it is the arbiter’s job to correct the player and even penalize if the situation calls for it. Arbiters need to be experts in the laws of chess. The official FIDE Arbiters Manual tells Arbiters that, while they must be experts on the laws of chess, there are so many situations that could come up during a match that they have to be may not be specifically covered in the written rules and Arbiters have to be ready to make a ruling on them all. These chess experts have to know and judge every aspect of the game including, the board, the pieces, the chess clock, the speed and pace of play, the validity of moves that a player makes, scoring and the overall conduct of the players.
Is it a full-time job?
The job of International Arbiter is generally not a full-time job. While there are some people who can afford to have it be their main job due to outside circumstances, people do not make a living from being a chess Arbiter. The people who become Arbiters have to be incredibly serious chess players who have a true passion for the game and so they usually become Arbiters as an extension of that, not to pursue as a career.
Can anyone be a chess Arbiter?
The simple answer is yes, with enough education and experience in the world of chess, anyone can be a chess Arbiter. That is not to say though that anyone can be a chess Arbiter TODAY. It takes a lot of learning, training, and experience to become an Arbiter. People put in lots of time and effort to become and FIDE or International Arbiter.
Do you need to be a chess player (or knowing chess at all) to be an arbiter?
Technically there is no requirement that you have to be a chess player to become an Arbiter but there is a requirement that an Arbiter has a “thorough knowledge of the Laws of Chess, the FIDE Regulations for chess competitions and the Swiss Pairing Systems”. Basically, they need to know all the laws and rules of chess incredibly well and that would be very hard to learn and understand if you were not a chess player on some level. That said, you do not need to be a great chess player to become an Arbiter. If you have a love for the game, a strong grasp on the rules and the ability to stay impartial and make rulings during matches you can be a chess Arbiter.
Why they are so important in a chess tournament?
The Arbiters are the people who run chess tournaments and make sure they go on with all the rules being followed. They are responsible for making sure the board and pieces are to regulation specs and are set up properly. That all the timing equipment is in working order. That the tournament flow and style are properly followed and that all the rules are enforced. They also enforce any penalties that come up and hear appeals if payers do not think the penalties are warranted.
Where do you learn how to be a chess Arbiter?
You can learn to be a chess Arbiter anywhere chess is played and most Arbiters have to travel at least a little to attend matches and tournaments in different places. To be certified as a FIDE or International Arbiter you have to work with the World Chess Federation, officially known as, Fédération Internationale des Échecs or FIDE. They are the governing body of the sport and issue the licenses for official arbiters. You do not necessarily have to visit FIDE, which is headquartered in Athens, Greece, but you do have to work with them to officially become an arbiter.
There are many requirements a person has to fulfill to become an arbiter many of which include experience being an arbiter at lower level situations. In the handbook for Arbiters, it states that they must possess the following experience to qualify to be a FIDE Arbiter and the requirements are even more for an International Arbiter. The main requirements are, from the handbook itself:
• Thorough knowledge of the Laws of Chess, the FIDE Regulations for chess competitions and the Swiss Pairing Systems.
• Absolute objectivity demonstrated at all times during his activity as an arbiter.
• Sufficient knowledge of at least one official FIDE language.
• Skills to operate electronic clocks of different types and for different systems.
• Experience as Arbiter in at least three (3) FIDE rated.
• Attendance of one (1) FIDE Arbiters Seminar and successful passing (at least 80%) an examination test set by the Arbiters Commission.
• Applicants from federations which are unable to organize any tournaments valid for titles or rating may be awarded the title on passing an examination set by the Arbiters’ Commission.
As you can see Arbiters are some of the most important people in the world of chess. Without them, it would be difficult to have tournaments and serious matches because the players would have to govern themselves. They know the laws of the game and enforce them.