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Another Arbiter course in Dublin

The ICU is to organise a training course for chess organisers seeking to qualify as National Arbiters. This will be held in Dublin on the weekend of 31 March to 2 April at Colaiste Eanna, Rathfarnham, alongside the Irish Junior Championships. The lecturer will be IA Gerry Graham who ran Ireland's first course of this kind a few years ago.

Doing this course, and passing the exam at the end, is the essential first step towards qualifying for an NA licence, the lowest of the three grades of arbiter recognised by FIDE, which qualifies holders to run FIDE-rated tournaments.

To complete the qualification you will also need to run two tournaments under the supervision of an already qualified arbiter, but if you have already done this that might be accepted as a norm already achieved. For more details see the ICU website or contact either Gerry or Ivan Baburin.

Earlier this year, the ICU ran their second FIDE Arbiter training course, at Colaiste Eanna, Rathfarnham, on 10 and 11 December. This was conducted by International Arbiter Alex McFarlane (Scotland) who ran our first one in 2020. FIDE Arbiter is the middle grade and IA is the highest.

Probably because of the very bad weather and high fee to participate, there were only 14 students this time, from five federations. There is a brief report on the FIDE website. In these seminars, valuable training sessions are followed at the end by an examination for which the course prepares you; an 80 per cent mark is required to pass.

This counts as one norm towards the FIDE Arbiter title; the other norms have to be earned by officiating at tournaments under the supervision of an International Arbiter or FIDE Arbiter. FIDE Arbiters are qualified to run all non-title FIDE-rated competitions and most title tournaments below the elite level.

Ireland needs more FIDE Arbiters so it is good to report that of the seven who passed the exam, six were Irish-registered (one actually a Ukrainian) and the other was Scottish. One of those who passed, John Loughran, was deputy chief arbiter at the 2023 Irish Senior Championships last weekend. He has now completed his qualification for the FIDE Arbiter title and can now apply for it to be awarded.

FIDE Arbiter Colm O Muireagain who was one of the team of match arbiters for the Chess Olympiad at Chennai. Colm was the tournament director at the Sligo congress earlier this summer. This was an excellent opportunity for him to work with a team of very experienced officials and earn a norm towards the International Arbiter title.

Ireland has only two active International Arbiters. The title of FIDE Arbiter, introduced a few years ago, is the level of many active Irish arbiters including ICU tournament director Ivan Baburin who runs most of our principal events including the national championships next month. FA Tim Harding was chief arbiter for the 2022 Irish Women's Championship, however.

At present Ireland has very few active and resident arbiters (the chess equivalent of referees) with the FA and IA titles. We do have a few inactive IAs who earned the title before the FA was introduced, but they would have difficulty resuming activity because of the many rule changes and new expectations of arbiters that FIDE has introduced in recent years.

We need more qualified active arbiters to run tournaments and the return of OTB tournaments to (we hope) something approaching the 2019 level provides opportunities to gain experience and earn arbiter titles.

The ICU began working towards correcting our arbiter shortage shortly before the Covid pandemic hit the country.

Early in 2020, Gonzaga College in Dublin hosted (early in 2020) its first training seminar for chess arbiters. This was attended by 16 people from six federations and run by Alex McFarlane of Scotland, who is a member of the FIDE's Arbiters Commission. At the end of this intensive event, nine participants passed the exam, earning one of the norms required to become a licensed FIDE Arbiter.

Subsequently the FIDE Council meeting in June approved the award to Tim Harding of the title FIDE Arbiter. Since then, I.C.U. Treasurer John McMorrow has also become a FIDE Arbiter, having attended an online seminar during the Covid lockdown.

ICU chairman Desmond Beatty announced at the Irish championships earlier this month that another arbiter seminar is planned.

Andrew O'Brien is the latest Irish official to obtain a FIDE National Arbiter license. He is now on his way to earning the FA qualification. James Forde is another recently qualified National Arbiter who has already earned at least one tournament norm towards the FA title as well as passing the arbiter exam.

The other Irish-based arbiters who passed the seminar exam in Dublin in February 2020 were (in the order listed by FIDE): Simon Lawrence, Mark R. Watkins, Gerard MacElligott, and Vjekoslav Novak (a Croatian resident here).

The others on this list require tournament norms to become licensed NAs but the Covid-19 pandemic means they have not had much chance to earn them. Hopefully it will be possible for at least some of these arbiters to earn NA and FA norms at tournaments in the next 12 months.

The current (11 July 2022) list of active licensed arbiters for Ireland is as follows, ordered first by title and then alphabetically. (Arbiters described by FIDE as inactive are not included.)

International Arbiters: Gerry Graham, Ted Jennings.

FIDE Arbiters: Ivan Baburin, Tim D. Harding, Rory Delaney, John McMorrow, Pete Morriss, Colm O Muireagain, Ruth Redmond, Brian Scully.

National Arbiters: Vincent Bissett, Adrian Dornford-Smith, Pat Fitzsimons, James Forde, Richard Gould, Ross Harris, Brendan Jamison, Andrew Kildea, Neal Kirby, Paul McKeown, Gabriel Mirza, Mark Newman, Andrew O'Brien, Kevin O'Flaherty, Pat Scanlan, Herbert Scarry, Peter Scott, Stephen Short, and Pat Twomey.

There is more information for arbiters on Tim's personal arbiter page.

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For further information on Irish chess, including ratings, how to join, a tournament calendar and a list of officials, please see the Irish Chess Union website.