For two weekends in July, 17 participants from across North America came together virtually, to take part in the first ever Internet-based Arbiter Seminar
! The seminar is a recent addition to the requirement for those seeking recognition by FIDE for the title of FIDE Arbiter, but it also opens a new way in the training of the Arbiters globally.
Traditionally, this seminar has been held in a physical location with lecturer and participants traveling to some destination, established by the seminar organizer. Unfortunately the traditional format of the seminar requires considerable financial expenditure by the organizer and participants. As such, some national federations have not had the opportunity to organize this required seminar.
The idea for the Internet-based Arbiters' Seminar began in March 2010 during the first arbiter seminar held in the United States which I organized. I discussed this concept with David Sedgwick from England, who was acting in the capacity of Chief Lecturer. David in turn referred me to the Chairman of the FIDE Arbiters' Commission, Mr. Takis Nikolopoulos to discuss the matter further.
Takis explained to me that the idea of organizing a FIDE Arbiters' Seminars on the Internet had been already discussed in the FIDE Arbiters' Commission's meetings in the Halkidiki 2009 FIDE Congress and the Commission was trying to find a way to organize the first on line Seminar. So we discussed the details and found it to be a worthy experiment to undertake and as such the Internet-seminar (hereafter referred to as webinar) was born, with Takis serving as the Chief Lecturer, and myself as the Assistant Lecturer, webinar moderator, and technical support. It was decided that as it would be the first time that such a Seminar was organized, the participants would not be charged a fee and the Lecturers would receive no stipend.
The technology chosen for the webinar was a combination of Dim Dim and Skype. While Dim Dim is capable of handling voice conferences, it only provides a localized US phone number at no cost. Toll-free calling is available for an additional fee however we did not wish to experiment with this added cost at this time.
Through the combination of Dim Dim and Skype, we were able to display the slide show presentation that Takis had prepared, while speaking at the same time. We maintained all participants on 'mute' to reduce background noise, and if there were any questions, they could utilize the public chat feature in Dim Dim where either Takis or I would respond.
The Seminar was held over two weekends (10, 11, 17 and 18-July), in three sessions of five hours each, while the last session was for the Examination test, that was sent to the participants and returned by them by a specific time, via e-mail. The participants who will achieve at least 80% in the test (which included 36 questions with 100 points maximum), will be awarded a norm for the title of FIDE Arbiter, according to the Regulations for the title of Arbiters.
During the sessions all the Arbiters' issues, according to the Regulations of the training of the Arbiters (Laws of Chess, Tournament Rules, Titles and Ratings Regulations, Systems of games, Swiss pairings Rules e.t.c.), were discussed and analyzed, while the differences in the regulations between USCF and FIDE were mentioned. The participants had the possibility to ask questions and receive answers through the chat window.
In conclusion, both Takis and I found the experiment a success, with minor technical and logistical issues, which will be worked out during a second experiment, after we deliver our report to the FIDE Arbiters' Commission in September at the FIDE Congress.
Below are some feedback received from the webinar participants:
- "I thought that the on-line seminar is a great idea. There were a few technical issues that seemed to work themselves out. The exam questions were good, and covered a wide range of topics, and challenged our knowledge. More time for the test would be recommended especially for those that are typing challenged. All in all it was a good experience. I do like, very much, how you kept on top of the technical issues, and your hosting. Takis is a very good presenter."
David Kuhns, Minnesota USA - US Chess Federation National Tournament Director and Chair of USCF Rules Committee
- "Overall, the seminar seemed to be quite successful to me. I was pleasantly surprised how well Skype and Dim Dim worked for the presentation. How cool was that -- Takis at home in Athens, Greece, presenting to attendees scattered across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico! I was really glad that between the two weekends, I spent a good bit of time getting familiar with the FIDE web site and the handbook."
Ken Ballou, Massachussetts, USA - US Chess Federation National Tournament Director
- "It's amazing to me that I was taught by a guy in Greece in a seminar organized by a guy in Chicago with fellow students from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. As a whole, I think the seminar was excellent and went really well. I appreciate the opportunity to attend this seminar because I probably wouldn't have done it any other way. Previously, I've read up on the differences between FIDE and USCF and structured the U.S. Masters Championship so that norms could be achieved. Nevertheless, it was good to step through all the rules again. I think future seminars would be very worthwhile and if we could get more FIDE arbiters in the U.S., there would be more FIDE tournaments in the U.S. which would be a good thing."
Kevin Hyde, North Carolina, USA - US Chess Federation National Tournament Director
- "First I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for giving me the chance to take this seminar on line, I want to assure you that your efforts are appreciated and that you have my gratitude. I was thinking what I improve on this seminar, and I could not think about one thing that I would change. With this seminar on line, you are opening new ways for the FIDE family to grow and to improve the quality of the tournaments around the globe. When actions as this seminar, I hope then one day chess will be recognize as a sport everywhere and some day will be part of the Olympics. The seminar by itself was very well structured and presented, and the participants added to the learning experience. Their questions and their experience and of course on top of all this Takis' high level of professionalism and knowledge."
Andrei Botez, Canada - Canadian Chess Federation Tournament Director
The Internet Arbiter Seminar was a great experience. I would like to say thank you to Mr. Muradian and Mr. Nikolopoulos for coming up with this wonderful idea.
A major advantage of having such seminar is that it reduces arbiter's costs to travel to a place that have such seminar. As a University student, I could not afford to travel outside my province to take the FA seminar even though it is my dream to someday obtain the FA title. So, when I saw this idea on the website, I was so excited and quickly send an email to Mr. Muradian and Mr. Nikolopoulos. Thanks to them for giving me this great opportunity to attend this seminar.
Secondly, the power point slides presented in this seminar was nicely organized and easy to understand. The slides can be helpful tool when studying for the examination. Thirdly, it was a great honor to be taught by one of the top arbiter in the world, Mr. Nikolopoulos. Mr. Nikolopoulos gave many examples and it was interesting to hear how things are different in European tournaments. Mr. Nikolopoulos was also very good in answer any questions that were brought up. He also used the online whiteboard to explain some of the concepts (i.e. calculating norms, ratings, etc).
Even though sometime there were problems regarding the audio (either very noisy with background noise or no sound at all). Mr. Muradian was there to fix the problem and the seminar was back in session with minimal delay. Mr. Muradian took his time to notify everybody the start of meeting.
Initially, I had family vacation on the same two weekends but decided to skip them to join this Internet Arbiter Seminar. But, I have no regrets because I learned many new things that I have never learned before in my life. So, thanks again Mr. Muradian and Mr. Nikolopoulos.
Simon Ong, Canada - Canadian Chess Federation Tournament DirectorMr. Takis Nikolopoulos
Chairman, FIDE Arbiters CommissionMr. Sevan A. MuradianNorth American Chess Association
International Arbiter and International Organizer