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So You Want to Organize Chess Tournaments?
Organizers have three hats: club manager, event organizer, tournament director.

Let's say you started playing chess later in life, realize that you are never going to be World Champion, but still want to make a contribution. Or maybe you know little about the game, have a budding prodigy in the family, and want to do more than chat with the other players' parents when you take the young star to a tournament.

You are an ideal candidate to get involved in chess organizing. If you already have an established chess club in your area, the easiest way to get started is to approach the club manager and offer your help. If there is no existing club, you are going to have to learn the ropes on your own. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of material on the Web to help you.

Chess organizers have three different hats -- club manager, tournament organizer, tournament director -- many organizers wear all three.

  • Managing a club : Some of the duties of the club manager : establish meeting place and time, consider equipment, manage dues and budget, generate publicity for the club. Scholastic clubs require an additional consideration in coordinating the demands of school, club, and home.

  • Organizing a Tournament : Some of the duties of the tournament organizer : obtain a playing area, generate publicity for the tournament, establish and guarantee the prize fund, manage entries and entry fees, consider equipment, hire a tournament director.

  • Directing a Tournament : Some of the duties of the tournament director : make pairings, start and finish each round, supervise adjournments, maintain wall chart, settle disputes, calculate tiebreak and prizes.

Much of the work of the tournament director (TD) has been codified by the governing bodies of organized chess. The duties of the tournament organizer have also been established for the most prestigious events.

Most of the world follows the FIDE rules, which are documented in the FIDE Handbook especially the section 'C. General Rules and Recommendations for Tournaments'. The TD function is known by FIDE as the arbiter. The USCF is an important exception and has established its own interpretation of the chess rules. The USCF rules are not available online, but are published in the USCF's 'Official Rules of Chess' : Find on Amazon.com.

Both the USCF and FIDE also manage online discussion groups. The forums are open access for browse, but you need to be a member to post.

FIDE has established titles for its arbiters -- International Arbiter (IA) and FIDE Arbiter (FA) -- which follow the same principle used for players of recognizing norms for performance in specific events. The regulations for norms are detailed in the FIDE Handbook. If you are interested in better understanding the duties of an arbiter, see

  • 'The Chess Organiser's Handbook' by Stewart Reuben : Find on Amazon.com. • 'Stewart Reuben is internationally recognised as one of the world's foremost chess organisers and arbiters. He is currently Chairman of the FIDE Organizers Committee; Secretary of the Rules and Tournament Regulations Committee, member of the Title and Ratings Committee and of the Qualification Commission.'

  • An Arbiter's Notebook by Geurt Gijssen [ChessCafe.com, archives back to 1998] • Gijssen was the Chief Arbiter for the World Championship matches Kasparov - Karpov, 1987 and 1990, and Karpov - Kamsky 1996.

Finally, while it goes beyond our objective in this introductory article, there is a good choice of software for assisting the chess club manager and the tournament director.