FIDE approves hybrid competitions for rating

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A landmark announcement today with FIDE declaring that Hybrid Chess Tournaments (played online) will now be eligible for FIDE Ratings. With virtually no rated tournaments taking place in 2020, and Covid regulations in most of the world still making OTB events difficult or impossible, this decision will literally be ‘a game changer’!

Thinking forward to a post-Covid world, I am certain that Hybrid Events will become more and more popular. I’d actually go so far as to suggest that the majority of events in the future will have some Hybrid component, if not fully Hybrid. I can imagine welcoming many more GMs and international players to Australian events now that 24 hrs of travel is not required!

It will take a little time for organisers to get their heads around the new Online Chess Regulations, here are some of the key things you need to know;

FIDE has described 3 different types of Online Chess Competitions

  1. Online Competitions – these are ‘hands-off’ tournaments which can be played on mega-platforms. FIDE has no input into the rules or regulations, but simply acknowledges they exist. In the short term players will continue to pay an entry fee to participate in these events, as they are direct replacements for OTB events. In the long term, the experience is the same as any player can get, on the same platforms, for free! I see little value for players and expect numbers of players willing to pay a fee for this to dwindle. I also don’t expect online event organisers to continue building the Platform’s Community, when they could be building their own Community instead.
  2. Supervised Competitions – these are online events with supervision of players via video conference. Tornelo is really the only practical option for organisers to manage these events with a reasonable arbtier to player ratio. I will talk more about these events another time.
  3. Hybrid Chess Competitions – this is an event where all players are physically supervised by an arbiter, while they play online.

Regulations for Hybrid Chess Competitions

The noteworthy regulations are:

  • Each playing venue must have a Local Organiser (who can double as an Arbiter and even a player)
  • At least two arbiters will be appointed for each playing venue: a Local Chief Arbiter (LCA) and a Local Technical Arbiter (LTA), they should be licenced FIDE Arbiters if you want the event to be FIDE Rated
  • Each playing venue must be monitored by cameras (with the Local Arbiter to monitor these cameras, which doesn’t really make sense. The local arbiter is physically present, why not just monitor players live? More logically, the Chief Arbiter should be able to oversee all venues, through Zoom or similar multi-camera view)
  • Normal OTB fair-play rules apply at each Playing Venue (no electronic devices, player conduct etc)
  • Local Organisers are usually responsible for the Internet Connection and may prefer to provide the playing devices, although permitting players to BYOD (bring your own device) is not against the rules
  • If the player’s connection drops out, the game should be paused and resume when the connection is re-established (the Chief Arbiter has the power to make any decision in the best interest of the event, but the implication seems to be that every effort should be made to ensure games can be played out wherever possible, similar to a faulty clock in an OTB game)
  • The playing zone must record the offer of a draw next to the player’s move when the draw is offered (Tornelo is the only platform compliant with this regulation at the time of writing)
  • The Chief Arbiter must supervise the progress of the competition, ensure fair play, ensure a good playing environment, observe games which are short on time and generally act in the best interest of the event (this overview of the event is easiest on Tornelo)
  • Each LCA is responsible for fair play checks of the players in their venue and for monitoring the camera recording of the venue
  • Each LTA must be able to communicate with the Chief Arbiter about disconnections to allow the CA to take action and pause games
  • Each player is entitled to ask for an arbiter’s assistance (the Call Arbiter button in Tornelo is handy here!)
  • If the game needs to be interrupted for any reason, the arbiter shall pause the chessclock if possible (easy to do on Tornelo)
  • Traditional Chess Sets may only be used if the time-control has an increment of at least 30 seconds per move starting from move 1
  • If a Chess Set is used at the start of the game it must be used for the entire game (not actually stated, but implied in rules)
  • Some players may choose to use Chess Sets and some not, that’s OK
  • If both players are in the same venue they should still play on the Platform (Tornelo can act as a digital scoresheet, as we did in one rated event in 2012 and players could effectively play the OTB game as normal). A PGN file of all games in the event is required for FIDE ratings anyway, may as well capture the moves as they are made.
  • The player may move first on either the traditional board or the virtual board, but the only allowed difference is the last move’s delay (I would recommend telling players to tread the Traditional board like a scoresheet – it must stay up-to-date at all times!)

Also be aware of the general Online Chess Rules which say:

  • The list of moves shall be visible on the screen to the arbiter and both players throughout the game
  • Smart move, pre-move and auto-queen are all legal options (but not in ECU events)
  • If a player disconnects during the game, then the clock shall continue running (some on-demand platforms default disconnected players)
  • The game is automatically drawn after 3x repetition or 50 moves without pawn move or capture (Tornelo will update our default settings)

If any organisers would like to talk more about Hybrid events, we’d be more than happy to assist you in organising and running your event!

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