As was mentioned in an earlier post, Alan Atkinson has been appointed Manager of Arbiters by the ECF. We were able to meet the new boss who, contrary to what The Who might have said, is not the same as the old boss, to learn a bit more about his new role and what it is like being an arbiter at some high-profile events.


Congratulations on your appointment, Alan. First question and an obvious one, what does the role of Manager of Arbiters entail and is it a new appointment? No, it’s not a new post; I took over from Tom Thorpe just before Christmas. The Manager of Arbiters’ main task is to arrange courses for, and keep records of, the progress of Arbiters as they move through the various grades up to International Arbiter level.


When did you first become an arbiter and what attracted you to the job? I had helped at events decades ago, and when, more recently, I was told that all leagues would need an arbiter if the games were to get graded (it will happen soon), and we were also having problems finding arbiters for the Thanet Congress, I resolved to get my paperwork in order to become a qualified arbiter. Strangely, since, I’ve done almost no arbiting within Kent, and certainly none in Thanet since then! It is just about making things happen; if I did not offer to help, some events would probably not happen. And then with the grander events, there is the fact that I now get to be there with some great players. Say like a World Cup football referee, or an F1 pit steward, etc.


Which is the most high-profile tournament in which you have been involved? This last year or so I was an anti-cheating referee at the Georgia Olympiad in Batumi so probably that or the FIDE Grand Swiss on the Isle of Man. I was also at the British Championships in Torquay, and Hull the previous year, and I played in the Mick Croft Cup. (Ha ha! Arbiters clearly do not lack a sense of humour – the Mick Croft Cup is a minor Thanet League competition as far removed from the Olympiad as you can imagine. – Ed)


An arbiter can sometimes have to deal with controversial situations. Are there any that you can talk about without naming names?! The best events are when nothing unusual happens! But I was one of the two arbiters at the British Championships when a player left the hall in possession of his phone; sadly, his game was still in progress, so we had to default him. That made the newspapers which was a pity, I thought. Some players were moved at the Isle of Man 2019 which raised a few questions. But usually, “things” do not happen: most players are fairly sensible, and the British arbiters are fairly good and reasonable, and the players understand that. So when an arbiter decides something, it is accepted with good grace.



What is the most amusing or unusual incident you can recall? At the British Championships in Torquay, after the end of the day, when all the work was done, and the next day’s pairings had been published, the arbiters went for their dinner. We then had a phone call about a senior member of the English chess establishment’s game from earlier that day. I had recorded the game result incorrectly, I was told. I had put down a win for Player A, when it had been a loss for him. We had already done the draw for the next day, so I was utterly embarrassed, in front of the whole arbiter team.

Player B was contacted; yes, he had won, the result I had put into the system was certainly incorrect. But he conceded that he might have written down the result the wrong way around on his own score-sheet.  Well, from Player A’s point of view, that was still not good enough, I should have checked both score sheets against each other of course. And Player A knew that, for he is an International Arbiter too! So I had my dinner spoiled, in my embarrassment. And breakfast the next morning too.

Later that next day, when we could get to check the previous day’s actual score sheets, it transpired that both players had recorded the result of their game incorrectly. Both players had shown a win for Player A when Player B had in fact won. I did swear. But just in the Arbiter Office; no apology from the players though. So after that, I could start the next round of the Masters by asking that the players hand in the same result to the arbiters, and, ideally, hand in the correct same result.


Do you still play much chess or have you had to cut back in recent years? I hardly play at all now. And when I do, I am out of the habit, and yet still have to play in grade order, so it seems that my grade is falling out of the sky.


Which of your own games has given you the most satisfaction? Well, since becoming an arbiter… see above! Hardly any games to choose from, and they are error strewn. But at the IoM the organiser arranged for Hou Yifan to play local players and the arbiters in a simul: I am happy that I managed a draw against her; it’s probably good for the players to know that the arbiters can play a bit sometimes!


White:   Hou Yifan     Black:  Alan Atkinson

Isle of Man 2017 simul

Is there any game that you witnessed as an arbiter that stands out? There are a few: the first time I realised that I was officiating with “the big names” was the game Shirov-Nakamura IoM 2017.I saw much of their game when I was in the playing area, and then I was sent for the early dinner. (We have to be there until ten or eleven at night, so we have split dinner shifts at the IoM). Shirov came in, having drawn, and sat with we two Arbiters, (place was empty otherwise, and he knew the arbiter I was with). “Hello, I’m Alexei”, so I discussed his game with him, and afterwards, when I was returning to the hall, I thought “Wow, I’ve just sat chatting to Shirov about his game; (and he’s not called me an idiot)”. People younger than me might not know of Shirov, but he was a super player. This year at the IoM he was one of the four players involved, when two games, played on adjacent boards, were identical for an unusually large number of moves. (See earlier comment about players being moved IoM 2019 -Ed)


White:   Alexei Shirov     Black:  Hikaru Nakamura

Isle of Man 2017 



If you could do one thing to improve chess in this country, what would it be? Ah, an easy question at last! Compulsory hour a week of chess in all schools for all pupils.


Finally, what advice would you offer to anyone with aspirations to be an arbiter?
Don’t expect to be treated well.
No-one tells you how to do anything.
Most people will assume that you are getting paid a fortune, which you won’t be.
You won’t get any of the glamorous events to do.
The players will always manage to do the wrong thing.
And it will be your fault.
But it might be a good laugh anyway!
Start by helping out at a few events, then do the ECF Arbiter exam, then do some more events.
And remember that the players have paid good money to get there and play and so they don’t want some power-crazed arbiter spoiling their weekend!

It would seem churlish not to congratulate Magnus Carlsen for his victory in the World Blitz Championship that has just finished in Moscow but rather like Tiger Woods in his prime or Liverpool currently, one wonders who can ever beat him in the big tournaments? Sure, he’s lost a few but how many has he won and how many more will he win? On the way to his latest triumph, however, he did have a stroke of fortune in his game with the latest chess wunderkind, Alireza Firouzja (pictured). Firouzja was a grandmaster at 14 and earlier this year became the second youngest player (after our good friend, Wei Yi) to achieve a rating above 2700. He won the Iran Chess Championship aged twelve but in a dramatic twist last week, he announced he would no longer play under the Iranian flag as Iran issued a ban on its players competing against Israelis in competitions. (In light of recent events, is it possible that the USA might be added to the list?). Consequently, Firouzja now plays as a FIDE licensed competitor.   Anyway, in his game with Carlsen, the following position was reached with Firouzja (White) to play.

Ha! Piece of cake, you’re thinking. Even my cat could beat Magnus in this position. The problem was that while Carlsen had 19 seconds left on his clock – an age in blitz terms – Firouzja had only three. How did the arbiter get involved? Well, in his haste to move his king to g4, Firouzja knocked it over and in the time it took for him to stand it up, his flag fell. So, you want to be an arbiter, sort this out. Does Black win because White’s flag fell or is it a draw as Black does not have mating material? If you think Black wins, sign up for the next arbiter’s training course now because as you probably know, FIDE rule 6.9 states that “…the game is drawn, if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.”  The point here is that the player whose time has run out always loses unless his opponent has no possibility of giving mate, however remote that may be. The regulations make no mention anywhere of “having enough material to give mate” and as Chess 24 reports in its detailed account of this subject, “the false rumour of being able to draw based on the remaining material alone is widespread, and partly fuelled by the different conventions of internet chess.” And for those of you disbelievers who can’t envisage a position where Black could win in this particular game with just a bishop against a bishop and three pawns, click here to see the whole article.

Congratulations to Alan Atkinson (centre left) of Bridge Chess Club and former Chairman of the Thanet and East Kent Chess League on his appointment as the new ECF Manager of Arbiters. We all know what arbiters do and how indebted we are to them for their assistance but your correspondent is unsure whether this is a newly created position or, indeed, what the job entails. At a guess, it suggests that he will be the organiser of arbiter meetings, training and conferences. There is nothing on the ECF site about his role other than the announcement although there is an ECF Arbiters Course advertised which may or may not be within Alan’s sphere as manager. There is also an item headed ‘Opportunities for Arbiters’ which can be found here  which does carry his name. This is, however, aimed at existing arbiters. What if you fancy having a go at being an arbiter yourself? I think we need to contact Alan and find out. Watch this space.


Ian, Reg, John and Andy

And so 2019 draws to an end with the traditional club Christmas Dinner. No-one seems to be certain when it was first decided to hold a dinner but it is generally thought to be around 1994. It can’t be any earlier because John Couzens and Paul Carfrae are the only ones to have attended every dinner – a feat in itself – and Paul joined the club in 1994.

Tradition features regularly when it comes to the dinner. It is almost always held at the Tartar Frigate although there were two occasions when we ventured elsewhere which was a question in yet another tradition, the Christmas quiz. The routine is also a time-honoured tradition: we meet in the Charles Dickens from 7.00 then wander down to the Frigate at about 7.45 to sit down at 8.00. Michael Jenkinson normally produces a fiendishly difficult quiz – this year was no exception – and he usually produces a bottle of wine for the winner which is very generous of him. Your correspondent supplied a chess-themed quiz based on Broadstairs Chess Club, its members and achievements in 2019. Unsurprisingly, some of the answers to the questions were players at the dinner, many failing to recognise their own achievements. Not content with two quizzes, Manoj Natarajan thought up further chess quiz during the dinner and produced another bottle of wine for the winner so many thanks to both him and Michael.

Arnaud, Michael J and Bob C

The dinner is also a time to reflect on the successes of the past year of which there have been many and a chance to remember friends no longer with us whose contributions and good company we don’t forget. Shany Rezvany was celebrating with us last year and he made his mark in his short time at the club which we hope to acknowledge formally with a new trophy in 2020. There was an opportunity during the evening to remember all absent friends in addition to Shany, some fairly recently departed (Peter Timlett and John Cutting) and also others from further back such as Alek Zielinski and George Stiggers.

The club’s success in recent years has meant that it has been able to subsidise the dinner which is a way of giving something back to those who have themselves contributed to the club’s fortunes. 2019 has been another good year for Broadstairs Chess Club and here’s to 2020. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!


Broadstairs have won the 2019/20 Thanet & East Kent League team rapidplay tournament held at Margate on Tuesday December 10th. We won all of our four matches, beating Bridge by scores of 3½ – ½ and 3½ – ½ and beating Margate by scores of 3½ – ½ and 4 – 0. Trefor Owens on top board beat Peter McGill (Margate) twice and fought two interesting draws with Alan Atkinson (Bridge). David Faldon (board 2), Manoj Natarajan (board 3) and Paul Carfrae (board 4) scored eleven wins and one draw between them. The only blot on the landscape came when Colin Gregory of Margate gave me a real pasting in one of their games, finishing the game with king, queen and five pawns against bare king. Unfortunately Colin’s 15 minutes ran out at that point, which meant the game was a draw. Bridge beat Margate twice in the other matches, so they finished second. Many thanks to Margate for providing the venue, and for all the tea and biscuits.

David Faldon

(Full details can be found on the LMS under ‘Latest Results’. Click here. – Ed)