Social chess club or competitive chess club

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Alan Walton
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Alan Walton » Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:46 am

Francis Fields wrote:I think juniors are a separate matter as they should gain their competitive experience against other children until they are strong enough for adult clubs. 6 year olds showing up with a grade of 100 should stick to school!
If the junior is strong enough he should play, we at 3Cs place juniors into their relevant sections on ability (beginner, intermediate approx U100, advanced over 120) with all the intermediate children all given experience in the adult leagues as soon as possible

One problem with most adult clubs is the environment they meet in, most parents don't want their children to meet in pubs.

Another issue is being isolated on his own within a group of adult players, juniors learn better being around and learning with other juniors

Jonathan Bryant
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Tue Mar 03, 2015 12:53 pm

Alan Walton wrote:One problem with most adult clubs is the environment ...

Another issue is being isolated on his own within a group of adult players, juniors learn better being around and learning with other juniors

Indeed on both counts. We could add that the standards of behaviour required in an adult league chess environment are simply not appropriate for most children. Not to mention the safety issues to address when children are brought into a predominantly adult environment.

TBH the idea that chess clubs can - or even should - be all things to all chessers is pretty farcical. It’s something only put forward by those who don’t really understand the issues involved.

Here’s one reason why:-

my chess club’s home venue is a tennis club. Annual membership for the chess club is about £30. Annual membership of the tennis club is 8-9 times that amount.

If we want chess clubs to be social clubs and have junior sections and senior sections and beginners lessons and programmes for adult beginners and improvers and training days and all of that then the membership fees need to be an awful lot higher than they are. And after 30 years in chess clubs I’ve yet to see any enthusiasm for anything other than doing chess as cheaply as possible.

Simple solution: treat chess clubs as what they are. i.e. a highly niche market. Introduce other kinds of chess clubs/events to meet the needs of other markets. There’s no reason at all to think that club chessers as a whole will want to be part of that.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:37 am

I like to think club nights at my club would be fantastic if we still had the use of two rooms like we did about six or seven years ago (which we never really took advantage of at the time). As it is we're stuck with one room and club nights tend to consist of certain players playing club championship or local league games and shhing any prolonged conversation; personally I find this more distracting than a small amount of background noise.

By contrast two teams in the league, including mine, use a local pub as our home venue (a few club regulars go for a pint there after club nights anyway) - we have the use of a private room and players can go down to the bar to analyse if need be. By contrast to the occasionally tense atmosphere in our club rooms the atmosphere on such nights is frequently terrific. However I'm acutely aware that the pub can't be relied upon (we currently have a good rapport with the landlord who allows us to use the room free of charge and if he was ever replaced his successor might not want to know) and that while I enjoy a pub atmosphere other people may not.

With juniors (and I receive more enquiries from primary school age players than anybody else) I think it's a case of setting clear guidelines. Make it clear to parents that its an adult chess club but at the same time ensure that there are members who can supervise any juniors and manage their behaviour while challenging unreasonable demands from adults.
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Jonathan Bryant
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:49 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:... if we still had the use of two rooms ....
Yes, that’s the key. If you have two very different things going on you need two different places. Or the same place at two different times.

There are clubs near me who seem quite happy to have league chess going on a few feet (inches, on one occasion) away from loud casual blitz chess or in the same room as people taking calls on mobile phones/carrying on conversations/singing. Fine if you want that sort of thing, but personally I don’t so I don’t play at those venues anymore.

Francis Fields
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Francis Fields » Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:41 am

I think the greater variety of chess clubs the better. Not everyone wants 'chess as cheaply as possible'.
"These four walls are closing in. Look at the mess you put me in." Lyric from a Rainbow song taken from an 18th century poem.

Niall Doran
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Niall Doran » Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:49 pm

Yes, I’d have to agree with the above sentiment that it’s important to have separate areas for the different types of play.
My club used to be based in an old stone building, provided for free by the town council, with younger players getting classes in a room at one end of the corridor, far away from the other room where the older players were. No problems with noise from one group disturbing the others.

A few years ago, the town council decided to move us out and into a very small building with three small rooms with paper-thin walls (they probably are paper!) separating them. We only open on Friday nights, and on these nights, there are classes for younger children (7 to 12/13) and older children (13-18). There are no classes for adults.

Since the move, the club has been slowly haemorrhaging adult players, and we now find ourselves with the following age profile:

Age Number of members
5-10 1
10-15 7
15-20 4
20-25 2
25-30 0
30-35 0
35-40 0

40-45 2
45-50 1
50-55 2
55-60 1
60-65 4
65-70 2
70-75 1
75-80 0
80+ 1

Total 28

Personally I’ve started to hate going to the club on Friday nights, and generally go only because I feel I have to. Other than the trainers, I’m the only person over 25 and under 55 there on club nights, the others having slowly left because of, I’m assuming, the noise and proximity to kids. I feel it’s killing the club, but it’s a free building so we don’t have a say in the matter, as our budget wouldn’t allow for renting anything else.

We’ve had a couple of potentially interested players come in, one in his mid-20s and the other around 40, and I’ve done my best to make them welcome, sat down and played with them, gave them tips about their play, explained how the different team competitions work and told them there’s a place for them when they want. But in both cases, after maybe a month or so, we didn’t see them again. I’d guess it’s partly because of too many kids, and partly because I think the club has lost the critical mass of adult players to make it attractive to potential recruits. No point going to a club to see the same three faces every time.

Sorry if this comes across as a bit of a moan, but you definitely need separate areas in a club.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:19 pm

The only suggestion I can think of to try and find a decent pub and invite people to meet there.

Like you say, you really need two rooms. It's got to the point at my club where The Empress is almost a second club room.
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Jonathan Bryant
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Thu Mar 05, 2015 9:41 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:The only suggestion I can think of to try and find a decent pub and invite people to meet there.

This is what happens in Streatham. Actually it is not the chess club that began this 'community chess' meeting. It was begun by a group of non-graded game players who used to meet in the local library. When that got redecorated they lost their space so they moved to the nearby pub.


Niall Doran wrote:There are no classes for adults.
One of the things that’s a bit odd about club chess is that there’s no culture of adults seeking professional help to improve. Unlike golf or tennis, say. (I often pass the time waiting for matches to begin at my local club by watching the tennis pros give lessons on the courts outside the club room which we hire). We buy books instead. Or DVDs now, I suppose.

It’s not obvious to me why this would be. Given the well-know the dominance of white middle-class males in club chess the reason is not lack of disposable income. Clearly we *could* be choosing to pay £100 per year for a club membership and using the funds to pay for a resident club professional to give classes and lessons and simuls or whatever. We just choose not to.

I think Hammersmith have regular events with Tom Rendle, but this doesn’t appear to be a week-in week-out thing.

MSoszynski
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by MSoszynski » Thu Mar 05, 2015 7:43 pm

Jonathan Bryant wrote:One of the things that’s a bit odd about club chess is that there’s no culture of adults seeking professional help to improve. Unlike golf or tennis, say.

[...]

It’s not obvious to me why this would be.
Because it's one thing to be told that you're weak in your hands, but another thing to be told that you're weak in the head.

Brian Towers
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Brian Towers » Thu Mar 05, 2015 7:52 pm

Jonathan Bryant wrote:One of the things that’s a bit odd about club chess is that there’s no culture of adults seeking professional help to improve. Unlike golf or tennis, say. (I often pass the time waiting for matches to begin at my local club by watching the tennis pros give lessons on the courts outside the club room which we hire). We buy books instead. Or DVDs now, I suppose.

It’s not obvious to me why this would be. Given the well-know the dominance of white middle-class males in club chess the reason is not lack of disposable income.
Anybody who has reached a high level in a physical sport (I was 11th, 10th and 6th in the triple jump in the ESAA championships as a kiddie, got a basketball blue [almost as rare as hens' teeth for Brits] and trained as a ski instructor) can tell you straight away that very few people have enough kinaesthetic awareness to make up for the fact that you can't see your body when you perform. This is crucial to being able to see / know what you are doing wrong and self correct. Nowadays you can get somebody to video you but even then it makes a big difference if the person holding the camera knows what they are doing. If you have such a person then you probably already have a coach.

In chess it's quite different. Our games are in full view, the chess engines will tell us where we went wrong, and books will tell us what to study. Our mates are quite often prepared to tell us where we went wrong whether we want them to or not ;-). The only thing these tools can't do is to cajole, scold, encourage, flatter, etc. us to get us to improve. Those of us who are married perhaps think we have enough of that in other areas of our life and don't want that stress in our chess lives as well ;-)
Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Thu Mar 05, 2015 8:17 pm

I don't think adults need formal classes as such although if juniors work to a curriculum then complete adult beginners could be given a copy of that. However clubs should provide opportunities for informal training. A few years ago, after watching a particularly hapless performance from the C Team, the club's top player let it be known that if any C Team player lost a game and wanted to know what they did wrong then he would be happy to look at the game with them. He also does occasional presentations at the club.

There's also an element of allowing the club to `breathe` so to speak. If we still had the luxury of a second room we could have one room for matches and another more social room. A key benefit would that if (for example) two A Team players were playing a match and afterwards went to the social room to analyse that is where weaker players can get drawn in (`sorry, can I just ask why you didn't just take the rook` `ah because if he does that I have this nice trick (demonstrates)` - for me that's how people often learn. But a club where the slightest conversation is frowned upon is not conducive for that kind of thing.
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Michael Farthing
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Re: Social chess club or competitive chess club

Post by Michael Farthing » Fri Mar 06, 2015 9:28 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:I don't think adults need formal classes as such although if juniors work to a curriculum then complete adult beginners could be given a copy of that. However clubs should provide opportunities for informal training. A few years ago, after watching a particularly hapless performance from the C Team, the club's top player let it be known that if any C Team player lost a game and wanted to know what they did wrong then he would be happy to look at the game with them. He also does occasional presentations at the club.

There's also an element of allowing the club to `breathe` so to speak. If we still had the luxury of a second room we could have one room for matches and another more social room. A key benefit would that if (for example) two A Team players were playing a match and afterwards went to the social room to analyse that is where weaker players can get drawn in (`sorry, can I just ask why you didn't just take the rook` `ah because if he does that I have this nice trick (demonstrates)` - for me that's how people often learn. But a club where the slightest conversation is frowned upon is not conducive for that kind of thing.
I think this is exactly right. Our honorary 'pro' will spend up to a couple of hours at the end of club nights looking at games with all comers and it is accepted that these are open sessions for anyone to join in. He includes his own games too (last night he spent quite a time looking at the game he had just won and explaining why he should have lost it!) He is a severe critic and when the phrase, "I don't mean to be harsh, Michael, but.." comes out you do have to nerve yourself for what is to follow. On the other hand, it makes the rare compliments sweeter - a couple of weeks ago he told me I'd played a good game (with very few bad mistakes) and shook my hand. T'wife's comment about me to my son was "he was like a 60s teenage girl that had just got an autograph from the Beatles"
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