The rules of chess are straightforward so I must ask what does the chief arbiter do? what is the difference between him and a regular arbiter?

For example Anand and Carlsen had to meet him behind closed doors before the world championship started.


2 Answers 2


The chief arbiter is in practice no different from a standard arbiter - it is more a convenience in tournament organization.

In many tournament there are so many players that it is necessary to have several arbiters, and of those usually the one with the highest title (often IA for professional or large tournaments) is considered the 'chief' arbiter who is responsible as arbiter for all purposes that concern FIDE, etc. and to whom all other arbiters report. This also allows for less experienced arbiters to be used where necessary, as disputes with a less experienced arbiter (unlikely, but possible) can then be taken to the chief arbiter.


What does the chief arbiter do?

Here is what the FIDE Competition Rules say about the role of the Chief Arbiter:

3 The Chief Arbiter (CA)

3.1 The duties of the CA are as specified in particular by the Laws of Chess, General Regulations for Competitions, Anti-cheating Guidelines and so on. During the event he also:
(1) has to keep the record of each round
(2) to oversee the proper course of the competition
(3) to ensure order in the playing venue
(4) to ensure players’ comfort during play

3.2 Prior to the start of the competition:

(1) he may draw up additional rules in consultation with the CO [Chief Organizer];
(2) he shall check all the conditions for play, including the playing venue, playing area, lighting, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, noise, security and so on.;
(3) he must acquire through the CO all the necessary equipment, ensure a sufficient number of arbiters, auxiliary technical staff and assistants are engaged and ensure that conditions for the arbiters are satisfactory.

Whether the playing conditions meet the requirements of these FIDE Rules is his final decision.

3.3 In case of different opinion between CA and CO regarding interpretation of the Laws of Chess, it is assumed that opinion of CA takes priority.

3.4 At the conclusion of the event the CA shall report as appropriate.

what is the difference between him and a regular arbiter?

As somebody who has been both the chief arbiter in a norm event (an event where players can gain IM and GM norms if they play well enough) and been a low level arbiter in a local club event I can tell you that there is an enormous difference.

The chief arbiter has a managerial role because he or she is responsible for the smooth running of the tournament. The low level arbiter is just responsible for doing what the chief arbiter told/asked him to do.

To be sure, the chief arbiter can delegate some of the tasks to subordinate arbiters and in a large tournament will do so, but the responsibility if something goes wrong is with the chief arbiter.

For example Anand and Carlsen had to meet him behind closed doors before the world championship started.

With only two players in the competition it makes complete sense for the two players to have a private meeting with the chief arbiter beforehand to make sure that the chief arbiter fulfils his obligations regarding 3.1 and 3.2 above and that there is clarity between the three main protagonists.

  • If the arbiter is responsible for the smooth running then what does the tournament director do? When I was a TD I was responsible for the running of the event.
    – yobamamama
    Jan 1, 2020 at 16:22
  • 1
    @yobamamama - FIDE uses the term "Arbiter" rather than "TD" or "Tournament Director" (which is the terminology USCF uses). Aside from that, an Arbiter in a FIDE event, and a TD in a USCF event, perform similar functions.
    – patbarron
    Jan 1, 2020 at 20:33
  • Thanks! I am in US and never had a chance to play with FIDE events which were all outside US when I was still competing..
    – yobamamama
    Jan 1, 2020 at 20:39

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