Congress Tarts

Congress Tarts

As part of the site's interest in chess, one of the team is an arbiter at some UK events.
They support a very hard working team of people who voluntarily give up their time, not to play but simply run and co-ordinate the many events that take place across the UK.

Many of the players who attend these events are courteous, polite and understanding of the limitations and challenges of running such events. Others are not! It's a shame certain players act like divas when things are not going their way!

A bit of a tart

What is a chess congress?

A chess congress is a competition held at a large venue, usually with various playing sections to cater for the varying ability of the players. Usually these venues are large hotels or university buildings which are dominated by chess players for the weekend.

Swiss systems of things are often good

The competitions are often run using a swiss system, which is a nice way of making sure players are allocated a player based on their performance in the tournament, usually making the final standings a more even playing field and giving everyone a chance to come out of the competition with some pride intact.
A player with 3/3 is likely to play another on 3/3 or 2.5/3 whereas a player with 0/3 will face another who is on a similar score.

Organisers and Arbiters - what they do

The work that goes into organising such events is not trivial:

  • Sending out information to inform players a congress is taking place
  • Collect all the entries (online and postal) and ensure all players are set up for the event
  • Deal with any "queries" players may have (from "where are the bathrooms" to "this player was 134 last year and is 133 now!") - yes, seriously!
  • Run all the pairings (matches) for each round, including where players don't show up/take a "bye" - usually 0.5 points for the round, told in advance, 1 per tourney
  • Set up all the clocks, pieces, tables, chairs
  • Resolve any disputes that may arise during a game
  • Record moves when players are close to the time control
  • Collect and update scores
  • Tidying the venue at the end and collecting all the equipment ready for the next event

The reality of being a chess arbiter

In general, being an arbiter is rewarding, knowing that you are ensuring hundreds of people have a memorable weekend.

Many players go out of their way and thank the arbiter team for their support during the congress.
As mentioned, there is a lot of work which goes into organising such an event and the general experience I have had from my time arbiting is the team work hard to ensure there is a fair competition and people enjoy themselves as much as possible at these events.

There is sometimes a bizarre misconception that the pairings are done to influence certain players' interests which is certainly not true. The draw is an algorithm set out in the rules which must be followed and is often computer-generated. This is often raised when a player gets 3 blacks in a row, which is an unfortunate but very logical conclusion of applying the algorithm.

One happens more than the other with some players!

Much of the time is spent resolving questions from the players and I have listed some classics below, which I've enjoyed over my time (posted without comment):

  • "I made a move as my opponent was getting up to go to the toilet - isn't that cheating, if he still goes?!"
  • "I was re-paired but still want a full point bye, even though I lost"
  • "Can you text me my opponent for tomorrow?"
  • "I've been out drinking last night and don't fancy it this morning! Can I get a half - point bye?"
These are just some of the countless questions I have been asked.

Final thoughts

Helping ensure people have a good time at chess congresses is hugely rewarding, as I have also experienced as a player.
The drama and tension at these events is immense and richly enjoyable for spectators and players alike.

We all hope for a continually thriving British Chess Scene in future years and it's great to see increasing numbers at events.
Hopefully some of the younger talents coming through, the likes of McPhillips, Horton(s), Abbas and Jayawarna are certainly names in the North-West we may be hearing a lot more from in the future.

Like at a football match, it's not just up to the security team to make a venue safe and the game enjoyable because it's also up to the fans or in this case the spectators and the players.

Feedback is a gift and very welcome. Players should speak quietly and privately to an event organiser or the team to ensure we can improve anything for future years. General rumour is not good for the game. Remember, while you may not be in the open, you're an ambassador for the game!