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ECF Arbiter Exam Syllabus as of January 2017

Knowledge and Understanding of, and ability to apply

1. Current FIDE Laws of Chess

2. CAA/FIDE Pairings
3. Arbiting Duties
4. Types of Tournament
a. Swiss
b. Knockout
c. All-play-all
d. Jamboree
5. Setting of Digital Clock
6. Grading / Rating
7. Knowledge of Tie-breaks
a. Sum of Progressive Scores
b. Sum of Opponent’s Scores
c. Sonneborn-Berger
d. Board count/elimination
8. Recording the moves
9. Recording position (Forsyth Notation)
10. Basic Computer Literacy
11. The Arbiter Pathway

Current FIDE Laws of Chess

A detailed knowledge of the Laws of Chess is needed. The candidate is not expected to be able to
quote the law verbatim or reference the article numbers but rather to be able to apply the laws to
any given situation. The candidate should be suitably familiar with the laws that they would know
where to look up a specific point in the document if asked by a player.

Candidates must have a good knowledge of Anti-Cheating guidelines.

Before the exam it would be advisable to read through the laws several times, read and participate
in discussions of the laws with other arbiters and in online forums and participate in as many events
with qualified arbiters as possible. The CAA website also has guidance on the laws and has practice
questions to try.

CAA/FIDE Pairings

The candidate should be able to pair a tournament using a given pairing system, either CAA or FIDE,
recognised by the ECF. Knowledge is needed of the basics of Swiss pairing rules – points, colours,
grades/ratings, floats and byes. It is advisable to practice pairing with experienced arbiters and try
out the examples on the CAA website.
The candidate should be able to spot any mistakes in a given set of pairings and answer a query from
a player about their colour or float.

Arbiting Duties

The candidate should have knowledge of the main duties of an arbiter. This includes making the
best of the environmental conditions that the organiser has provided (space, lighting, sound,
furniture and equipment standards, disabled access and supporting a disabled player).

Other duties include preparation for the beginning of an event, duties during the event and duties
after the event. There are guidelines on the CAA website for all of these duties.

Types of Tournament

The candidate should have basic knowledge of the main types of tournament and their differences.

 Swiss – players take part in all rounds and are paired on score first.
 Knockout – 50% of the players are eliminated each round
 ‘Round Robin’ or ‘All-play-all’ or ‘American’ – players play everyone else in the event
 Jamboree – team event, also can be a ‘triangular’ where players may play two or more
different teams in the same match.
 Other Team Event Formats - whether to score on Matchpoints/Gamepoints, using a
Swiss/Round Robin, Knockout, the 4NCL pool format etc.

Setting of Digital Clocks

Candidates should be able to set, pause and alter digital clocks of two or more types. It is advisable
to study the manuals of different clocks and their settings, most of which are available as a
download from the manufacturers – main types are DGT (2010, XL, 3000)

Candidates should be able to set a time control with and without increments and know how to
adjust the clocks in the case of a penalty etc. The guidance for this is that it should be done in less
than a minute.

Grading / Rating

The candidate should have basic knowledge of the ECF grading system and the FIDE rating system
and how to convert between them. They must know which tournaments can and cannot be graded
and the details needed for a player to get a grade or a rating.

Knowledge of Tie-breaks

Candidates are required to know the basic rules of tiebreaks and the suitability of each depending on
the event – the main tiebreak systems are:

 Sum of Progressive Scores

 Sum of Opponent’s Scores
 Sonneborn-Berger
 Board count
 Board elimination

All these systems are outlined in the course materials on the CAA website and in the FIDE Handbook.

Scoring a game

Candidates must know how to correctly score a game in algebraic notation. They should be able to
write down what a player would write given a move, or series of moves in a game. They should also
know the laws on when players must score and when they may not score.

Recording position (Forsyth Notation)

An arbiter must be able to write down a position quickly and without a diagram. The method used is
called Forsyth notation.

Look at this position:

In Forsyth notation this position would be recorded as:


The pieces are represented by their letter symbols (For example, Q = Queen, R = Rook etc.). The
letter symbols for Black are written in lower case and for White they are written in upper case.
Empty squares are represented by a number. For example, 1 means there is one empty square, 2
means there are two empty squares and so on.

The position is recorded rank by rank starting with the eight rank (a8) and the ranks are separated by
a "/".
Basic Computer Literacy (not covered in the exam)

It is essential that arbiters have basic computer literacy. They should be able to use email, internet
search, spreadsheets and word-processing and have some basic knowledge of one of the most used
pairing and chess admin programmes (Swiss Manager, Vega, Swiss Master, and Tournament

ECF Arbiter training course timings

Preparation 3 hrs – in advance of the course
Laws (inc Cheating) 4hrs
Pairing 2hrs
Duties of arbiter 1hr
Tournaments 1hr
Clocks 30min
Grading/Rating 30 min
Tie Breaks 30 min
Exam Preparation 30 min
Exam 3 hrs
Total 16 hours