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Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 12:11 am
by Andrew Zigmond
I've exchanged some emails this week with a county colleague about the Yorkshire League. One thing that came up was the congested calendar locally and that his particular club suffers because of clashes with university chess. Obviously this doesn't affect every club.

I believe university chess has had something of a renaissance in recent years; nowhere near the level of the seventies boom but much better than it was. It would take too long to quote every specific example but a few years ago I had an email out of the blue from a university student saying they wished to organise a local rapidplay and that they'd discovered an event of the same name was already running (I replied to the effect that it had been running since 2000 and any clash wasn't a matter for me as league controller).

The point - although there are university teams and players in leagues university chess does seem to exist in its own bubble. Which is understandable as it's a very different age demographic and culture. But what happens when students leave university and look up their local chess club, perhaps expecting something similar to their university club? I appreciate this is a generalisation but do they find a stale, unwelcoming environment? I think we know the frequent answer - you would certainly expect more twenty something players in leagues than there currently are.

And there also seems to be a small but growing cluster of events organised by university age players which provide an alternative to heritage events governed by restrictive rules and forty year old grudges.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 12:30 am
by Roger de Coverly
Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 12:11 am

I believe university chess has had something of a renaissance in recent years; nowhere near the level of the seventies boom but much better than it was.

Over the last twenty years or more, junior chess has increasingly meant infant or primary rather than secondary school chess. This does little or nothing to generate a critical mass of players at the age of eighteen. If you use the BUCA championship and the Oxford v Cambridge matches as benchmarks, it becomes clear that university chess is driven by the popularity of chess outside the UK, given the non-UK backgrounds of many of the participants.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 9:12 am
by David Sedgwick
Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 12:11 am
But what happens when students leave university and look up their local chess club, perhaps expecting something similar to their university club? I appreciate this is a generalisation but do they find a stale, unwelcoming environment? I think we know the frequent answer - you would certainly expect more twenty something players in leagues than there currently are.
Surely most of them will have been in a different location before university, and will be in a different location after university, to their university town?

Most of them will have joined an adult club before they go to university, so they know what to expect.

I would have thought the main reason why there are not more twenty something players in leagues is that they simply don't have the time. The pressures on university students nowadays are certainly greater than they were in my day (45 years ago), but still nothing like most experience in their first graduate job.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:16 am
by Angus French
I don't think there's really a problem with players just out of university giving up playing chess.

Here are counts of 'net joiners' by age from recent grading lists (the versions provided to results officers which include DOBs):

NetJoiners.png
NetJoiners.png (31.77 KiB) Viewed 1035 times

Net joiners are defined as the number of joiners (players with a grade for a year but not a grade the previous year) less the number of leavers (players without a grade for a year but with a grade the previous year). Edit: Players with F-category grades are excluded from all calculations.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:23 am
by Roger de Coverly
Angus French wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:16 am
Net joiners are defined as the number of joiners (players with a grade for a year but not a grade the previous year) less the number of leavers (players without a grade for a year but with a grade the previous year).
It's a shame we don't have similar statistics going back decades or from other countries. It's showing a demographic of recruiting primary school children and downhill from there. In mitigation perhaps the data is skewed when the date of birth for adults is not collected.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:31 am
by NickFaulks
Angus French wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:16 am
Here are counts of 'net joiners' by age from recent grading lists (the versions provided to results officers which include DOBs):
This looks like a very valuable piece of work, but are there extraneous factors? Did something seismic happen in 2013 ( or 2014 )?

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:46 am
by J T Melsom
I suspect there is an issue with where the players end up playing, but that is rather more down to socio-economic factors than quality of clubs. Clubs in rural areas or small towns may have retained players through their school years, but hold few prospects of those players returning other than when sorting next career steps, and unless in an area attractive for employment and/or affordable property for commuters won't necessarily attract graduates. My own club in High Wycombe has a regular turnover of players, most continue to play through their university days, but only isolated examples play for us afterwards. I can only think of two or three who gave up chess on completion of A levels.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 11:05 am
by J T Melsom
And I recognise this is a digression, but it is sometimes difficult to find a chess club that is open. Anybody not just graduates moving to an area in the spring may well find chess stopping for the summer. I seem to get more inquiries about chess in the spring when the ravages of winter have passed than in the autumn which is when we are best able to accommodate people. The internet is available 365 days a year.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 11:08 am
by Angus French
Roger de Coverly wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:23 am
It's a shame we don't have similar statistics going back decades or from other countries. It's showing a demographic of recruiting primary school children and downhill from there. In mitigation perhaps the data is skewed when the date of birth for adults is not collected.
Yes, good point on missing ages. For the July 2018 grading list 2,371 (17.6%) of 13,485 graded players had no defined age. The % has reduced in recent years (for the July 2010 list it was 23.4%).

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 11:10 am
by Angus French
NickFaulks wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:31 am
Angus French wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:16 am
Here are counts of 'net joiners' by age from recent grading lists (the versions provided to results officers which include DOBs):
This looks like a very valuable piece of work, but are there extraneous factors? Did something seismic happen in 2013 ( or 2014 )?
The July 2012 grading list covered 13 months of results (since the end of the grading year was moved back a month). Perhaps that had a knock-on effect?

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 11:35 am
by John McKenna
This old rumpus might be relevant -

Re: Why are junior organisers against ECF membership?

Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:18 am

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=5426&start=45

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 1:23 pm
by Brian Valentine
I haven't done an age analysis like Angus', but I would add a word of warning.

When looking at grades from longer periods there are a surprising number of "rentries". These players leave the list in one period only to reenter after a period. Over the period 2009-19 (using only July lists) over 3500 gaps were identified from a total number of over 25,000 graded at one time in that period. Clearly some recent leavers will have not rejoined yet.

It may not change the points of view, but the data is on shifting sands.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 2:11 pm
by Angus French
Brian Valentine wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 1:23 pm
I haven't done an age analysis like Angus', but I would add a word of warning.

When looking at grades from longer periods there are a surprising number of "rentries". These players leave the list in one period only to reenter after a period. Over the period 2009-19 (using only July lists) over 3500 gaps were identified from a total number of over 25,000 graded at one time in that period. Clearly some recent leavers will have not rejoined yet.

It may not change the points of view, but the data is on shifting sands.
Over the eight years July 2011 to July 2018 I make it that the number of joiners is, on average, 21.0% of the total population of graded players, with returners (determined by Grade Ref value, using the fact that Grade Refs are allocated sequentially) at 5.1% (i.e. just under a quarter of the joiners are returners). The number of leavers averages 19.0%... The method of determining returners isn't perfect as sometimes, rather than reuse their old Grade Reference, a player is allocated a new Grade Reference.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 4:03 pm
by Brian Valentine
You need to be careful with the treatment of F-grades. Your percentages give the perception of solid growth whereas most of the average (21-19=) 2%pa growth is explained by giving F category players a grade in 2015. Category F is also the source of many leavers.

I doubt if any of this alters your analysis; I only brought it up in case it is used for something important.

Re: Does university chess exist in a different (and better) world?

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2019 5:33 pm
by Angus French
Brian Valentine wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 4:03 pm
You need to be careful with the treatment of F-grades. Your percentages give the perception of solid growth whereas most of the average (21-19=) 2%pa growth is explained by giving F category players a grade in 2015. Category F is also the source of many leavers.

I doubt if any of this alters your analysis; I only brought it up in case it is used for something important.
Ah, I should have said: all the counts and averages I've quoted exclude players with F-category grades.