Monday, 2 February 2009

If you pay peanuts ....

Every tournament needs an arbiter, although the reason why isn't always appreciated by the players. To most chess players an arbiter is responsible for doing the pairings, handling results and dealing with disputes. To most arbiters (at least in Australia), this is only a part of their job, and sometimes only a small part.
In my experience, most of the work I do as a tournament arbiter goes into running the event. This involves tasks such as room layout, making sure the equipment is set up and ready for use, getting the rounds started on time, calculating prizes etc etc. I do this on behalf of tournament organisers (unless I'm organising the event myself), but in almost all instances, they leave it up to me to run things my way.
I guess this is mainly because arbiters usually have experience in running a number of events, while most event organisers only organise 1 or 2 tournaments a year. And this is why arbiters are usually the only people on the organising team that get paid, while everyone else volunteers their time for the love of the game.
A number of years a go I heard about an article titled "The arbiter always finishes third". I didn't get to read the article but it was based on the observation that an arbiters remuneration is equivalent to third prize in an event. In some events I direct this is true, while in others, not so. In fact my usual payment for an event (and I can't speak for anyone else) is $100 per day. To me this seems to be the right balance between what tournament budgets usually stretch to, and what arbiting/organising skills are usually worth (ie it would be nice to be paid more but events usually run close to the bone). However I know some arbiters feel that this rate is too low, and this is a contributing factor to whether they direct tournaments or not.
Now I could run on for another 20 paragraphs on issues such as formal arbiter qualifications (none required in Australia) or a list of official National arbiters (none exists in Australia) but that is for another time. Instead I'll just wonder about the answer to the following question. "If you pay arbiters more, will you get better arbiters or just more arbiters?"


Anonymous said...

Dear Shaun,

This is about the first time I ever make a comment on any blog/site. But this is a good one.

I always believe that when one pays peanuts, more often, we get monkeys.

For the start, I think paying arbiters more, we will get more arbiters; definitely not better ones.

But as a result, the pool of arbiters get bigger and in the process, the better ones will stand out.

Ignatius Leong

Anonymous said...

Mr Leong's belief about monkeys and peanuts should have been shaken by the financial meltdown, caused by monkeys being paid anything but peanuts.
The City of Sydney Championship once paid the arbiter more than first prize in all divisions put together. The arbiting was also inept.
Arbiting is often done by volunteers who may only find out the recompense, if any, later. In my opinion paying more or less would have little impact, at least at first.