THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

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Roger de Coverly
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Jun 04, 2012 8:55 am

Andrew Farthing wrote: it seems crazy to me to believe that playing regularly in congresses is going to be a money-making enterprise, taking into account expenses.
The same could have been written in 1971 or 1972. Something propelled the English international team and by implication British chess to be second only to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. At a pinch it was Congresses with prizes worth winning and the sheer numbers they attracted.

Richard Bates
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Richard Bates » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:02 am

Andrew Farthing wrote:
For others, money undoubtedly matters. For example, I was phoned yesterday by a player who was thinking of entering the Worcestershire congress in July, which I help to run. He argued that the prize money was such (top prize £200 in the Open, £100 in the other three sections) that even winning top prize in his section wouldn't cover his entry fee, travel and accommodation costs. (He also offered the more general observation that northern congresses seemed to offer much higher prize money than southern ones. Whether this is true in genral, I have no idea.) It didn't seem to cut any ice when I pointed out that the prize fund is geared to the underlying purpose of the congress, which is to raise money for a nominated charity (we raised £650 last year), or that we achieved 110 or so entries last year with the same prize fund.

With a few notable exceptions (take a bow, Mr Arkell!), it seems crazy to me to believe that playing regularly in congresses is going to be a money-making enterprise, taking into account expenses. Playing chess is a hobby, like going to watch football. There's a cost involved, which needs to be weighed against the enjoyment obtained.
Playing chess is a hobby... except for those who are professionals.

I have no idea whether your player was a professional, or what strength he was. I would only observe that part of the decision (for a 'hobbyist') of entering a tournament will be based on the expectation of what sort of opposition will be faced. This is obviously not an issue in grading limited sections, but is in Opens. If you are looking for an expectation of strong opposition (at my level anyway) it is not just the relevance of the prize money to me which might put me off, but the perceived effect that the level of prize money will have on other potential strong entrants. But a nice venue is good too. Unfortunately my ideal for a weekender also involves "not FIDE rated"... :cry:

BTW to balance my comment on prize money in lower sections - from the "strength of opponents" perspective it should of course be pointed out that one of the functions of grading limited sections is to increase the average strength of the higher sections. So the high prize money available in them is more consequentially justified in practice than in theory.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:22 am

Richard Bates wrote: BTW to balance my comment on prize money in lower sections - from the "strength of opponents" perspective it should of course be pointed out that one of the functions of grading limited sections is to increase the average strength of the higher sections. So the high prize money available in them is more consequentially justified in practice than in theory.
I think a way to attempt to square the circle is not to allow the lower sections to be particularly large. In other words to run more small sections. That caps the prize money at the lower end. You allow the top section to become large in order to have the entry fee income to finance a decent prize fund. Of course it can all fall flat on its face, as if the Open goes down to 140 or 150, you may get players who have no experience of facing the Hebdens and Arkells, declining to enter. For that matter, if you enter the tournament in the expectation of playing 190+ opposition, chewing through 150s for a couple of rounds wasn't why you entered.

The American approach has been to finance prizes of ,000s dollars by asking entry fees the other side of 200 dollars.

Richard Bates
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Richard Bates » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:24 am

Of course the issue for professional players is not just about prize money, but is also about entry fees (and other costs). This is where modern organisers are perhaps often lacking in imagination. It is interesting that a part of the e2e4 package is to offer free entry to IMs/GMs. (actually i think there are some conditions as well but this is another matter, albeit part of the same philosophy). The unimaginative congress organiser might say this is bonkers - and just represents lost income. But what income is lost to offering free/reduced entries to a player who probably wouldn't have played anyway? Are the "hobbyists" going to be up in arms that they are 'subsidising' the stronger players, or that their chances of winning prize money are reduced substantially? I think the strong (ie Open standard) hobbyists are the least likely to take that approach. And actually many would be more likely to enter such a tournament.

Andrew says that he can't understand how anyone can play in weekend congresses if they are looking to make money (or at least have a chance of breakeven!). By implication he is expressing surprise that there are any chess professionals in this country. But there are. Many. What there are not is many purely professional players. Most do coaching, writing etc. But many of these would still regard playing as part of their profession. And because of this they will rarely venture onto the weekend congress circuit these days, unless congress organisers value them and take special measures to attract them.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:32 am

Richard Bates wrote: It is interesting that a part of the e2e4 package is to offer free entry to IMs/GMs. (actually i think there are some conditions as well but this is another matter, albeit part of the same philosophy).
I think the business model for this, is that if you act as an agent in selling a decent number of rooms for a hotel, you can get a commission, not just in the form of a free or reduced cost room for your event, but also as a handful of complimentary rooms. The same may apply in the 4NCL with their rooms being used for arbiters.

Mike Truran
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Mike Truran » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:45 am

Correct. The main elements are free venue, complimentary rooms and commission income on bedroom bookings, which can be used to increase prize money, reduce entry fees, provide IM/GM conditions - whatever best suits the business model of the particular organiser.

Of course the model doesn't work for single-day or smaller weekend events. Hotels and conference centres, not being charities, need significant bedroom take-up and associated food and beverage takings (preferably bought on site :D ) to justify providing the benefits in the first paragraph. Having more than one hotel/conference chain in play also tends to introduce some healthy competitive tension into the process.

Sean Hewitt
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Sean Hewitt » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:49 am

e2e4 do get the odd free room where we have a large number of guests staying at the hotel. However, we invite (and pay for) GMs and games inputters to all events irrespective because we believe that these are things that players want and add value to the event. We simply budget for the cost in terms of the number of players we need to break even.

I'll certainly be settling a large room bill at Gatwick for example!

Richard Bates
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Richard Bates » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:51 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Richard Bates wrote: It is interesting that a part of the e2e4 package is to offer free entry to IMs/GMs. (actually i think there are some conditions as well but this is another matter, albeit part of the same philosophy).
I think the business model for this, is that if you act as an agent in selling a decent number of rooms for a hotel, you can get a commission, not just in the form of a free or reduced cost room for your event, but also as a handful of complimentary rooms. The same may apply in the 4NCL with their rooms being used for arbiters.
Well yes - free entry to the tournament is offered partly on the basis that it is no loss of income if the player wouldn't otherwise play, and the hotel offers free rooms on the basis that it is no loss of income if the rooms wouldn't otherwise have been filled!

Another basic thing Sean does right of course is get the strong players signed up early and publish entry lists on his website! (oh and make sure he puts out a few regular notices about "places filling up fast etc" to encourage the proles :D ) I don't understand why so many tournaments still don't do this (publish entry lists). One doesn't need to get into the business of speculating what sort of player might or might not enter (and then deciding not to enter yourself) if the players entered are actually known. Of course it would require the setting up of a website outlet... :roll:
Last edited by Richard Bates on Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

Richard Bates
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Richard Bates » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:56 am

Sean Hewitt wrote:e2e4 do get the odd free room where we have a large number of guests staying at the hotel. However, we invite (and pay for) GMs and games inputters to all events irrespective because we believe that these are things that players want and add value to the event. We simply budget for the cost in terms of the number of players we need to break even.

I'll certainly be settling a large room bill at Gatwick for example!
Although it is the same model as your other tournaments, there are of course other factors in play at Gatwick (most obviously it is presumably a norm potential tournament) which don't make it the best comparison for other tournaments on the weekend circuit. Blanket free entry for IM/GMs (with some conditions dependent on sponsorship, in kind donations etc) in norm Swisses is pretty much universal, whereas in weekenders it is almost unheard of.

Stewart Reuben
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Stewart Reuben » Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:35 am

Roger >The same could have been written in 1971 or 1972. Something propelled the English international team and by implication British chess to be second only to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. At a pinch it was Congresses with prizes worth winning and the sheer numbers they attracted.<

In about 1980 the first prize for the Evening Standard National Bank of Dubai Open and Aaronson Open were each £1200. In today's terms about £5000 for a weekend congress. Just compare with today and you can understand why it is less attractive to the professional player today. We no longer attract businss sponsors to the same extent. By the way, note it was England that came second, not Britain.

In 1972 a £100 first prize wasn't too bad for a weekend grading restricted event. Today the sums are hardly any bigger. Indeed £100 for a rapidplay is quite high. There is a substantial argument that we would get greater numbers of entries by charging higher entry fees and having higher prizes.
There is an alternative argument that having lower entry fees and no prize money would attract more players. Why bother with a £100 first prize? The argument is, I think, that it lends social cachet. 'I played in a chess tournament this weeknd and won.' 'Oh yes, I saw a film this weekend.' 'I won £100.' 'Oh, that's impressive.' I won a trophy doesn't have the same ring.

Currently I am in NY discussing US and chess in the rest of the world. One attendee is Bill Goichberg who has been an event organiser longer probably than anybody. Sean, do you want to put you and he in contact?

Roger de Coverly
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:15 am

Stewart Reuben wrote:
In about 1980 the first prize for the Evening Standard National Bank of Dubai Open and Aaronson Open were each £1200. In today's terms about £5000 for a weekend congress. Just compare with today and you can understand why it is less attractive to the professional player today. We no longer attract businss sponsors to the same extent.
Some snippets from 1980 (Source BCM)

The advert for the Evening Standard Congress, 25-27 July quotes a first prize of £ 1200, with Amateur (U 180), Major (U 145) and Novice (U 125) having prizes of £ 120. Entry fees were £ 12 for the Open and £ 9 for the others.

The numbers playing Congress chess were much greater than today. For example the following issue reported the following numbers :-

Charlton (11-13 July) 430
Cleveland (11-13 July) "nearly 200"
Greater Manchester (27-29 June) 547

A one day Congress in Dunstable on Oct 5th attracted 190.

Similar numbers in Scotland, the 1980 Glasgow Congress with 402 entrants.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Tue Jun 05, 2012 2:07 pm

Andrew Farthing wrote:I suspect that having prize money in each section of a congress is a Pandora's box which can't be closed once opened. It would take considerable courage (or a certain amount of financial security) on the part of an organiser to run an event on the no prize money / lower entry fees model, although I am tempted to try.

Many of the players I speak to at congresses seem oblivious to the prize money available. I would be hard-pressed to remember the prizes available even in the section of a congress in which I was playing at the time; it's simply not a factor in my decision whether to play in a particular event. That said, I do think that prize money can add to the enjoyment of a congress. I doubt, however, that the amount makes much of a difference for the majority of players. We minnows receive a minor buzz from winning an £8.50 part-share of a grading prize from time to time - it's the pleasure of knowing that you won something which matters most of the time.

For others, money undoubtedly matters. For example, I was phoned yesterday by a player who was thinking of entering the Worcestershire congress in July, which I help to run. He argued that the prize money was such (top prize £200 in the Open, £100 in the other three sections) that even winning top prize in his section wouldn't cover his entry fee, travel and accommodation costs. (He also offered the more general observation that northern congresses seemed to offer much higher prize money than southern ones. Whether this is true in genral, I have no idea.) It didn't seem to cut any ice when I pointed out that the prize fund is geared to the underlying purpose of the congress, which is to raise money for a nominated charity (we raised £650 last year), or that we achieved 110 or so entries last year with the same prize fund.

With a few notable exceptions (take a bow, Mr Arkell!), it seems crazy to me to believe that playing regularly in congresses is going to be a money-making enterprise, taking into account expenses. Playing chess is a hobby, like going to watch football. There's a cost involved, which needs to be weighed against the enjoyment obtained.
How many times in a congress do you see people who withdraw after the third round when their chances of winning money have gone? A lot of people can do it for the `love`, other people may have to weigh up other considerations. Obviously you can't expect to make a living or even a profit out of playing chess but when you do have your day it is nice to come away with a cheque, the bigger the better.

North vs South - perhaps the two largest congresses (Blackpool and Scarborough) are in the North as well as a concentration of the larger cities which is why entries and then prizes are bigger.

I may be wrong but I would have thought that most GMs/ IMs make their money from activities such as coaching, journalism and simultaneous displays rather than actually playing. That said most congress organisers could do a lot worse than waive entry fees for titled players, find local players who might be willing to offer bed and breakfast for the weekend and milk the attendant publicity and create a bit of theatre (ie demo boards).
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Alex Holowczak
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed Jun 06, 2012 8:09 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:How many times in a congress do you see people who withdraw after the third round when their chances of winning money have gone?
Very rarely. You might get a maximum of 2 per congress if you're lucky, out of an average entry of about 100.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Jun 06, 2012 8:40 am

Alex Holowczak wrote: Very rarely. You might get a maximum of 2 per congress if you're lucky, out of an average entry of about 100.
I would have said it's a little more frequent than that although weather and travel issues can come into it as well, particularly if playing involves an early start on the Sunday morning. If you reach 2/3 or 1.5/3, you may still be in line for a grading prize or better. A pairing against the top seed is unlikely in a non-residential event.

Sean Hewitt
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Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACKPOOL MINOR

Post by Sean Hewitt » Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:29 am

I think most (indeed, the vast majority) withdrawals have more to do with players feeling less than 100% than with them no longer having a chance of winning a prize. I really don't think prizes have any material effect on 99% of players decision to enter or withdraw from an event.

I am about to do a survey of e2e4 players and I plan to include something on the entry fee v prize fund issue.

Of course, it's tricky for us because in the open, GMs are not going to play without some form of remuneration - either conditions or a chance to win prize money.

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