How a team of chess arbiters operates at a big tournament

Ever wondered how a team of chess arbiters operates at a tournament? Each has a separate responsibility. Who does what? Read this article to find out ...

How a team of chess arbiters operates at a big tournament
Written by
Ranveer Mohite
Published on
Jan 24, 2023
Read time
4 min
Arbiters Tournaments

Arbiters play one of the most important roles in organizing any chess tournament.

Have you ever wondered how the arbiters manage a tournament where there are a lot of players, say over 300?

What's their organizational structure?
How do they divide the responsibilities?

By the time you finish reading this article, you'll find it out.

Let's begin from the senior-most position.

1. The Chief Arbiter

A chief arbiter is the senior-most official in charge of enforcing the rules and regulations of a chess tournament.

There's an important rule for appointing them: At global events, the host federation organizing a tournament must select a chief arbiter from another federation to prevent biased decision-making.

So, for example - If the Polish Federation is hosting a World Chess Event, the chief arbiter has to be from another country.

Overall, their responsibilities include:

  1. Overseeing the tournament: They manages and coordinates the tournament, ensuring it runs smoothly and efficiently.
  2. Managing disputes: Whenever a dispute occurs, the sector arbiter looks into it. If they can't resolve it, they could call the chief or the deputy chief to give their verdict.
  3. Final decision: In case of a dispute, players must abide by whatever decision the chief arbiter shall give.
  4. Maintaining records: A chief arbiter is responsible for maintaining all the records of the tournament, including the results of each round, the players' ratings, and any other relevant information. After the tournament finish, a chief has to forward these records to FIDE.
  5. Communicating with players: They may also be required to communicate with players, organizers, and other officials during the tournament.

Doing all this on their own could be challenging. So to assist them in this duty, they have ...

2. The Deputy Chief Arbiter

The deputy chief is usually responsible for executing the tasks set by the chief. For this, they may work closely with other arbiters at the event ...

3. A Pairing Officer

As the name suggests, a pairing officer takes care of matching the players for each round. They also have to ensure that the pairings are fair and follow the standards set by FIDE.

Some of their duties include:

  1. Generating pairings: Most tournaments use a chess pairing software like ChessManager. So they should have the technical know-how to work with such software.
  2. Checking the right results go into the pairing software: A pairing officer must ensure that the results entered into the software are correct because a wrong result could mean that the entire pairing has to be changed.
  3. Put out the pairings for the players to see: They could do this via either of the following means:
    - Uploading the pairing online.
    - Sending an SMS to all the participants.
    - Printing paper copies of the pairings and putting them on a display bulletin.

4. A Sectoral Arbiter

A sectoral arbiter is responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations of a chess tournament within a specific section of the tournament.

Think of it like this - they're the chief arbiter of their sector.

So let's say there's a 300-player tournament. So in total, there are 150 boards.

These will be divided into 3 sectors of 50 each, like:

Sector 1 (1-50 boards)
Sector 2 (50-100 boards)
Sector Zone 3 (100-150 boards)

Each of these is managed by a sectoral arbiter.

Their responsibilities are similar to that of a chief but limited to only their section of the tournament.

5. Assistant Arbiters

A sectoral arbiter might need a helping hand to manage their sector. Who could help?

It's the assistant arbiter.

At the European Rapid and Blitz Championship 2022, there were roughly 2 arbiters (1 sectoral + 1 assistant) for every 30 tables.

Their responsibilities include:

  1. Resolving disputes: Whenever a dispute occurs between the players, they're the first to hear the matter.
    Both players present their version of the story, and they have to make a call based on that.
  2. Noting down the correct results: After finishing the game, the players submit their results to the respective sectoral arbiter or their assistant.
  3. Sending the results to the pairing officer: After collecting the results of their sector, they should forward the same to the pairing officer.

6. Anti-cheating Arbiter

Big tournaments come with big prize funds. Someone could use unfair means to win a prize. How do you prevent it?

This is where anti-cheating arbiters come in.

They ensure that all players compete fairly and in the spirit of the game. Some of their responsibilities include:

  1. Monitoring players: They may observe specific players during their games and look for any suspicious behavior that could indicate cheating.
  2. Fair-play measures: For this, they may need to enforce rules that are designed to prevent cheating, such as preventing the use of electronic devices or communication of information between players during rounds.
  3. Investigating cheating allegations: If there are allegations of cheating during a tournament, the anti-cheating arbiter will be called upon to investigate and take action.

Cheaters often use an engine to play the best moves. So having a good knowledge of the game and working with chess engines can be an essential skill for an anti-cheating arbiter!


No tournament can run smoothly without a team of arbiters. This team makes it all happen, from creating pairings to managing disputes to sending the final reports to FIDE.

And we hope after reading this article, you see how the arbiters operate in a chess tournament with many players.

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