Interview with Chairman of Arbiters Commission on his 60th birthday Print
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 15:44


Congratulations to the Chairman of the FIDE Arbiters' Commission IA Takis Nikolopoulos on his 60th birthday!

Mr. Nikolopoulos is widely known all around the chess community as the Chief Arbiter of many chess tournaments, including FIDE World Championship Matches, FIDE Women's World Chess Championship Matches, FIDE World Chess Olympiad, World Youth Championships etc. His great knowledge, hard work and dedication are vital to the success of many chess events.

FIDE wishes him the best of health, happiness and prosperity!

Interview with the Chairman of the FIDE Arbiters' Commission IA Takis Nikolopoulos

Takis Nikolopoulos was born on 1 November 1957 in Athens, Greece.
He graduated in March 1975 from the University of Thessaloniki with a major incivil engineering. He has been a member and player for the Korydallos Chess Club since 1983.
Takis has also been a member of the Greek Chess Federation Board since 1992 and was their Tournament Director from 1996 to 2004 and General Secretary from 2004 to 2012.
He became National Arbiter in 1989 and International Arbiter in 1993.
In 1998, he was appointed as Chairman of the FIDE Arbiters’ Commission and has been a FIDE Lecturer since 2010 and a FIDE Instructor since 2015. When not being a chess arbiter, he works as a civil engineer in the Constructions’ Department of the Greek Ministry of Defense, in the Greek Air Force.

Takis, on 1st of November you have your 60 years anniversary. My congratulations and best wishes!! Many people know you as an International Chess Arbiter, as the Chairman of the FIDE Arbiters Commission, but only a few know that you are working as an engineer at the Greek Ministry of Defense. How did you manage to combine both professions during all these years?

Thank you for your wishes!

I started working in the Ministry of Defense and in the Greek Air Force in October 1985 and my first tournament abroad was the 33rd World Chess Olympiad of Elista in1998, as a Senior Arbiter. The kind of my work in the Air Force allows me to get normally 25 days of a regular leave with additional days which I take off without remuneration. Recently, the Greek Ministry of Sports established the opportunity for the chess players and arbiters to get additional days off from their employers, in case they are appointed to participate in the World Chess Olympiad and to World and Continental Championships. This is of course a great help in my case and gives me more chances to be a Chief Arbiter in selected top tournaments during the year. As I always take care not to leave any pending work assignment before I leave for a tournament, I am able to combine my job with being an Arbiter in tournaments without any problem.

You have been a Chief arbiter during many national and international chess events. What are the most memorable tournaments for you?

I have had the honor to be Deputy Chief Arbiter in the World Championship Tournaments in 1999, in Las Vegas USA, in 2000 in New Delhi, India, in 2001 in Moscow, Russia, and in the World Championship Match of 2006, in Elista, Russia, Chief Arbiter in the World Championship Tournament of 2004 in Tripoli, Libya, in the World Championship Matches of 2008, in Bonn, Germany, in 2010, in Sofia, Bulgaria and in 2016, in New York, USA, as well as in Olympiad 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey and 2014 in Tromso, Norway and Tournament Director in Olympiad 2016 in Baku, Azerbaijan. I was also Chief Arbiter in many World and European Team, Youth, Juniors and School Championships, as well as in Top Level tournaments such as Tal Memorial, Moscow Open, Qatar Open etc. I would like to use this opportunity and thank FIDE for my appointments and organisers for the trust put in me.
One of my most memorable tournaments is the World Championship of 1999 that was held in Las Vegas, USA, where I was Deputy Chief Arbiter, with IA Geurt Gijssen as the Chief Arbiter. The amazing playing venue (it was the Caesar’s Palace Hotel) and the fascinating city of Las Vegas impressed me very much. Also the World Championship Match of 2008 in Bonn, Germany, between Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik was one of my favourite events because of its excellent organization. Of course the World Championship Match of 2016 between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin in Manhattan, New York was also one of the most memorable tournaments for me, I have enjoyed its excellent organisation and the fight between the players.

Do you remember any funny or interesting episodes which happened during chess tournaments?

I remember one funny episode that happened in one of the World Championships.
During a tie break game one of the top players made a blunder and immediately resigned. The winner signed the match protocol and left from the playing hall. The loser was desperate and was sitting in the chair, holding his head by his hands. I was staying close to the board, waiting for him to sign the match protocol. Suddenly he stood up, grabbed his chair, threw it in the air and immediately ran out of the playing hall. The chair fell on the floor, just a few centimeters from me. I was shocked, but because of the very thick carpet of the playing hall no noise was caused and none of the players even realized what exactly happened! Later in his apology the player said that he was sorry for what happened but it was not a big deal, since nobody was hurt and the chair was not destroyed!

What is the role of the arbiter? How the role of the chess arbiter was changing over the years?

The Arbiters are the connecting link between the organiser and the players of a tournament.

They have not only to control the games, but also to ensure the best conditions for the players, so that they are not disturbed during the games and will be able to play their games without any problem.

Also, they have to take care of the playing area, the equipment, the surroundings and the whole playing venue. Finally they have to avoid any cheating by the players.

The general duties of the Arbiters in a competition are described in the FIDE Laws of Chess (art. 12) and are:
a. They shall see that the Laws of Chess are observed.
b. They shall ensure fair play.
c. They shall act in the best interest of the competition.
d. They should ensure that a good playing environment is maintained and that the players are not disturbed.
e. They shall supervise the progress of the competition
f. They shall take special measures in the interest of disabled players and those who need medical attention.
g. They shall follow the Anti-cheating Rules or Guidelines.
h. They shall observe the games, especially when the players are short of time, enforce decisions they have made and impose penalties on players where appropriate.

So the role of the Arbiter is not just to walk in the playing hall and collect the score sheets after the end of the games. Many people believe that the Arbiter has an easy job, but obviously it is not like this.

Of course the Arbiter cannot affect the result of a game very much, as the referee can do in football or basketball and in other sports, but as everybody can understand, his role is also important and must not be underestimated.

The successful arbitration during the games plays a very significant role in the success of the event.

This role is changing over the years, by adding more duties and responsibilities to the Arbiters.
The application of the Anti-cheating rules and guidelines has been added in the last years and has become one of the most important duties of the Arbiter. Among other duties, he has to learn to use metal detectors and other anti-cheating devices, in order to secure that the game is played under absolutely fair conditions.
Recently the checking of the dress-code of the players has been added to the duties of the Arbiters.
Of course the Arbiter has to follow a dress-code for his own appearance in the tournaments, but now he becomes responsible for the checking of the players’ dress code in the tournament, according to the relevant regulations, so that the image of chess is maintained in a high level.
In general I would like to say that the Arbiters can undertake any responsibility, but of course we need to have a good cooperation with the players and they need to help us as well.
We have to understand that players and arbiters are not on different sides of a chessboard. We are on the same side, because all of us we work for chess.
The players are the stars of the game, they play their moves and create masterpieces on the chess boards.
We, the Arbiters, are here to provide them with the best conditions and help them to play their best games.
We need to respect each other and to cooperate in the best way, for the benefit of chess.

The meeting of the Arbiters Commission took place during 88th FIDE Congress in Antalya. What were the most important decisions and amendments to the regulations?

At the 88th FIDE Congress in Antalya and during the Arbiters’ Commission meeting we discussed several small amendments of the regulations that were approved by the Executive Board.
In the Regulations for the titles of Arbiters (FIDE Handbook, B.06) we clarified the term “International tournaments” of the article 2.1.3. (which allows only Swiss system tournaments to be accepted as norms for the FA and IA title applications), defining that for a FA title, International tournament is the tournament which has players from at least two (2) Federations and for an IA title, International tournament is the tournament which has players from at least three (3) Federations.
In the regulations for the classification of the Arbiters (FIDE Handbook, B.06, art. 8, Annex 1a) it was clarified that Chess Festivals that include multiple concurrent events shall count as norms for classification in C’ Category.

Can you please also tell about the Arbiters` Manual.

At the 88th FIDE Congress we presented the 2017 Arbiters’ Manual.
It includes all the changes in the Laws of Chess, in the Swiss Rules and in the titles and ratings regulations that were approved at the Baku FIDE General Assembly and have been in effect since 1 July 2017. The Manual has also been published on the FIDE Arbiters’ Commission website and can be downloaded for free by anyone.
The Arbiters’ Manual is a team work with the participation of some of the most experienced top Arbiters, under the coordination of the FIDE Arbiters’ Commission.
It is accepted by Arbiters and Federations with a great enthusiasm.
About 2.500 books of the previous edition of the 2014 Arbiters’ Manual have been distributed to Arbiters and Federations all over the world.
The Federations can order printed copies of the 2017 Arbiters’ Manual through the FIDE Secretariat.
400 hundred books have already been distributed to the members of the Executive Board at the Antalya FIDE Congress and to the Arbiters who participated in the Arbiters’ Commission Meeting there and sent to the USA Chess Federation and Austrian Chess Federation.

The Arbiter’s Commission has produced five Arbiters` Magazines. What is the feedback from the arbiters?

The 5th issue of the Arbiters’ Magazine was presented and distributed at the 2017 Antalya FIDE Congress.
It has also been published on the FIDE Arbiters’ Commission website and can be downloaded for free by anybody.
It includes tables with the changes of relevant articles of the laws of Chess, the Swiss Rules and the titles and ratings regulations as well as incidents that happened in tournaments and the respective decisions of the Arbiters.
The Arbiters’ Magazine is an effort of the FIDE Arbiters’ Commission to provide all the Arbiters with the necessary information and knowledge coming from real cases that happened during the tournaments to enable them to perform their duties in the best way.
All Arbiters are kindly invited to help our effort and send cases worth publishing, from tournaments they have worked as Arbiters to our Commission.

Do you have a recipe or advice for those who would like to be good and professional arbiters? How is it important for the arbiter to play chess on a decent level?

In my opinion, in order to be a good arbiter, a person must love being an arbiter very much. Many people consider the work of the arbiter very dull. A lot of my friends are asking me how it is possible to spend five, six or sometimes seven or more hours, walking in a playing hall and looking at the games.
If you love being an arbiter, then you like to be in a playing hall for so many hours, doing all the work you have to do.
The recipe is simple. Love of chess, good knowledge and a sense of responsibility.

I believe that it is not so important for the arbiter to be a very good player.
Of course he must have a decent level in chess, in order to be able to realize which critical moments in a game are.
The most important for an arbiter is the necessary competence, the sound judgment, the absolute objectivity and the common logic.  

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