David Williams wrote:
I doubt if there are many leagues that do not have two teams from the same club in the same division. I doubt if there is a chess league anywhere that does not permit a club to enter more than one team, we accept it as normal, but is it right? I'm sure Manchester United could enter a highly competitive team in the Championship, and I'm sure they'd love to do so, but they aren't allowed to.
When I first played league chess there were many one-team clubs - office/works teams, social clubs and the like. They usually had one or two keen players who persuaded enough of their mates to join them (people who would never in a million years join a chess club). But if another keen player came along he could play for one of the larger clubs in our division, and also for other teams in that club. We were forbidden to play for anyone else. If it came to a crucial promotion or relegation clash, you could guarantee that the opposition would turn up with a high-graded player or two who didn't play much these days, so were eligible to turn out for any team at the club if needed. And so we gradually declined. When we ceased to be viable three of us joined other clubs, and the rest were lost to chess. There are now two such clubs surviving in our league.
I think you're correct to ask the question 'is it right?'
Large clubs will obviously enter more teams, and inevitably at some point some will be promoted. In moderation this is a good thing but pushed to extremes I think it is undesirable, for the reasons you mentioned.
I started playing London League 1st Division chess in 1978, and I don't remember playing against a second team for many years (but maybe I've forgotten). This season the 1st Division has three clubs that have two teams, and next year will have a club with three teams. I think this discourages diversity, and makes for a less interesting league.
There used to be some kind of self-correcting mechanism in that some strong players would want to play on a high board. They would, therefore, join a weaker team, which would tend to some extent balance out team playing strength differences in a new equilibrium.
Now this mechanism has been lost. A stronger player can join a large club and play on a high board for the second (or third) team against strong opposition (and also play more games in a season by playing for more than in team). This seems a rational decision, but one which if left unchecked will probably lead to fewer clubs having the players to play in the top division, and in turn lead to a downward spiral in smaller clubs.
So I think this is a problem, and I wonder whether others agree with me (because I'm thinking of a solution).
Sorry this is a London-centric post!