The Death of League Chess?

Discuss anything you like about chess related matters in this forum.
Post Reply
Mike Truran
Posts: 2391
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 3:44 pm
Contact:

The Death of League Chess?

Post by Mike Truran » Sat Apr 25, 2015 5:52 pm

In the Oxfordshire Chess League only four clubs have a thriving junior player community or actively encourage junior chess. Some clubs have no juniors at all. Are we typical or untypical of the average league chess profile?

I would have thought that if older players drop off the perch with no steady stream of juniors to replace them then it's not exactly happy days as regards the longer term outlook for local leagues. Or should we leave it to the schools to nurture junior talent in the hope that they (or the few of them who survive the war of attrition in the transition from primary to secondary education) will migrate to playing in local leagues in due course?

There is a lot of junior chess activity in Oxfordshire, but there seems to be a disconnect somehow between junior chess and local leagues. One of the disconnects may be that evening league chess tends to be too late for primary level juniors, so they never get into the habit of playing in local league chess in the first place (and by secondary level it may be too late to acquire that habit, even if they carry on playing chess). Again, are we typical or untypical in that regard?

What is indisputable is that in Oxfordshire league chess (a) the age demographic is steadily getting older (b) a number of clubs are junior-free zones.

Not sure what the answer is really. Or even if there is one.

David Robertson
Posts: 2155
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2007 6:24 pm
Contact:

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Robertson » Sat Apr 25, 2015 6:46 pm

The state of the game is extremely serious. Evening league chess, and the clubs supporting it, will wither and die out completely over the next decade or so in certain parts of the country. I predict the NE will be the first to collapse, closely followed by Merseyside, Cheshire & North Wales, and Lancashire. Manchester will struggle on; Leeds and parts of Yorkshire too; but with diminished capacity. Leagues in London and the SE will continue to survive, perhaps reduced. Leagues around Birmingham will contract or merge.

Why the gloom? Very simple. I've said it many times: chess will survive where secondary schools play it. Chess in primary schools is utterly irrelevant. Utterly! And the secondary schools that play chess are, for the most part, in the private/independent sector or in the residual grammar schools. These are clustered overwhelmingly in London & the SE. To which must be added the impact of inward migration.

It's grim up North in terms of long-term prospects for the game, irrespective of the efforts of local organisers. If the thread develops sensibly (one can hope!), I'll give some examples from local leagues.

User avatar
Carl Hibbard
Posts: 5728
Joined: Fri Dec 08, 2006 8:05 pm
Location: Evesham

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Carl Hibbard » Sat Apr 25, 2015 7:23 pm

I would personally prefer money spent on both junior and school chess than wasted on the Olympiad team and appearance fees which do little in the long term.
Cheers
Carl Hibbard

David Pardoe
Posts: 1221
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:29 pm
Location: NORTH WEST

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Pardoe » Sat Apr 25, 2015 9:07 pm

You gloomy souls....but recent history is not great in some respects...

Incidentally, I think we`re not talking so much about league chess as about club chess...
I`ve said it before....publicity, publicity, publicity... including local Press. followed by volunteers, volunteers, and more volunteers..to help run our various chess bodies....and keep the wheels turning
Its coming up to the AGM season...ie, that time where clubs, leagues, county bodies, and other national bodies are all clambering for good sound level headed individuals) of all age groups and skills, to step forward and volunteer to fill the many posts that keep the wheels of British chess turning.. In many cases, just a pair of willing hands is all that is required...support is often close at hand, should help be required.
This point is particularly clearly made recently by two well known members of our chess community, who will be stepping down after giving British chess many years of generous service...namely Roger Edwards (great work, including his Senior Arbiter service and other service in high Office at the ECF). And of course, David Anderton, to name just two MCCU chess ambassadors.. There are many others... who will step up and fill these shoes..?
But, above all...we must promote chess as a game for the common man..
At grass roots level, clubs need to offer something to there membership.. ie, particularly those members in the 0 - U120 grading category... and we have the opportunity to appeal to players of all age groups... Its not just about league chess, Clubs need to offer internal club events and social events to generate interest, and provide a social aspect..
Many players can be found languishing on the web playing all sorts of chess, from 5 minute lunch time blitz, to more serious online tournaments, that can run for months, where several rounds take place, over various grading bands, until they reach the Finals groupings, where perhaps 4 remaining players will battle it out for the top honours...no money changing hands, purely an amateur pursuit in many instances..

There is a huge pool of untapped talent out there, playing huge numbers of games over the global web...
And Fritz and other chess super programmes have a lot to answer for.... We no longer appreciate the really great talent in chess. Instead, we feed the games into these mincers, that come up with refutations and `flaws` in our top GM games, so folk can right these off as `not quite master class`, so our `legends of yesteryear` are picked over, analysed, and some brilliant displays can become under valued.
All our top sports need there heroes...and should not be picked apart by chess engines. Its a bit like trying to compare an athlete with an electric hare. We know that our athletes have little chance of competing with the proverbial `electronic device` on speed, ie , the hare, nor likewise is it sensible to pit man against machine in chess...

Chess offers people of all age groups the chance of endless hours of challenging pursuit, in reasonable venues (yes, we do need to offer good playing conditions). And this leisure activity can be enjoyed at very low cost, so is accessible to a huge range of people. And a chance to escape the madhouse of modern life for one or two evenings a week...such bliss. Away from media bombardment, and chance to pit the wits against fellow players, and exchange views and comments on all manner of subjects, including chess, over a pint (in many cases).
As for the juniors, I feel that specialist junior clubs are the way forward in most cases. They can provide the coaching and encouragement, and can most easily meet our current legal `Child Protection` requirements. But clubs could offer much to our talented youth, and should be able to attract teenage players of Secondary/Grammar school, College, and University students. Good publicity and promotion is important. Such organisations have an important community role to play...its not just about finding the next generation of super stars.
BRING BACK THE BCF

David Robertson
Posts: 2155
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2007 6:24 pm
Contact:

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Robertson » Sat Apr 25, 2015 9:38 pm

Oh well... :roll:

User avatar
IM Jack Rudd
Posts: 3930
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 1:13 am
Location: Bideford

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by IM Jack Rudd » Sat Apr 25, 2015 10:02 pm

My club has fifteen active players, one of whom is a junior and another of whom is about 20. There are then a couple of huge age-jumps, such that I am the only other member of the club under 50.

Alan Walton
Posts: 1247
Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:33 pm
Location: Oldham

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Alan Walton » Sat Apr 25, 2015 10:06 pm

For the majority of the matches I have played in the Manchester League this year, no players have been age over 40 in our team, even in the 4NCL this season all our players have been under 40

Martin Crichton
Posts: 259
Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 3:25 pm

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Martin Crichton » Sun Apr 26, 2015 8:17 am

Hi Alan

So what does that tell us? that the life expectancy is considerably lower in Manchester than the more affluent parts of the country such as southern England? I think the national statistics office would support that. ;)

In our TFL team and the leagues we play in ... Central London league and Commercial London chess league I think you will find the average age is about 55-60. We have 23 members in TFL and only 6 are younger than me and I'll be 50 this year!

Regards

Martin
Member of "the strongest amateur chess club in London" (Cavendish)

my views are not representative of any clubs or organisations.

Paul Habershon
Posts: 138
Joined: Sat Aug 07, 2010 5:51 pm

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Paul Habershon » Sun Apr 26, 2015 10:37 am

David Robertson wrote:
Why the gloom? Very simple. I've said it many times: chess will survive where secondary schools play it. Chess in primary schools is utterly irrelevant. Utterly! And the secondary schools that play chess are, for the most part, in the private/independent sector or in the residual grammar schools. These are clustered overwhelmingly in London & the SE. To which must be added the impact of inward migration.
Agreed about secondary schools. I retired from Bedford Modern in 2006 and, quite by chance, the school had at least one club player on the staff since 1945. The staff/pupil team played in the local league. The chess club therefore thrived. Apart from specific chess teaching posts being advertised by such schools as Millfield and Oakham, I don't think I ever saw a job advertised in the Times Ed. Supp. with words such as 'an interest in chess would be an advantage'. Yet parents like it, children like it, Heads like it for their extra-curricular stats - and it's cheap. With a club player on the staff there is no need for 'funding'. I always said I could run the chess club for a century on a year's rowing budget (new boat included). Admittedly Bedford Modern went independent from Direct Grant in the 1970s and the chess benefited from its Junior School on the same campus, so some children were there from 7 to 18. This daily contact with chess is hard to match by a school which has to import a chess coach for a session or two a week.

That said, even if a school has lots of players, there may still be little transfer to adult clubs. In Bedford this tended to diminish over the years with the advent of coursework and. perhaps, more academic pressure from league tables. The internet and home entertainment are a big factors too. But at least hundreds of children know what chess is about, and may return to it later in life.

MartinCarpenter
Posts: 2439
Joined: Tue May 24, 2011 10:58 am

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by MartinCarpenter » Sun Apr 26, 2015 10:45 am

Alan Walton wrote:For the majority of the matches I have played in the Manchester League this year, no players have been age over 40 in our team, even in the 4NCL this season all our players have been under 40
I don't think anyone would be worrying if you were a remotely typical club :)

NE league chess (Durham/Cleveland anyway) struck me as already being nigh on life support when I was there :( The Manchester league I wouldn't worry about at all - 3C's are prolific enough, and their players seem to 'stick' very in terms of geography too. So there'll be a good league for a long time to come, even if it ends up mostly full of various splinter groups!

The other thing is that Manchester is big/rich enough to get a steady enough trickle of people moving there. A club like Chorlton basically entirely relies on this and has plenty of teams. Risk if the organisers go of course.

We've actually had a non trivial recent uptick in Yorkshire, but that was a one off thing to do with people from the Fisher boom getting near/actually retiring and coming back to chess!

Alan Walton
Posts: 1247
Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:33 pm
Location: Oldham

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Alan Walton » Sun Apr 26, 2015 10:59 am

3Cs are prolific, but not because the older players "stick" around, it is because we focus on junior coaching (hence why players will travel the whole of Manchester to play for us), one thing you have to remember of the past 30 or so years I have been at the club we have seen nearly 100 players (including British champions) disappear mainly due to moving away or family commitments.

The main point is that the majority of clubs in the country say they are losing players, but it is obvious this is the case because certain players are against junior in there club and also the environment the club is normally set (a pub), hence not getting the necessary influx of new player

MartinCarpenter
Posts: 2439
Joined: Tue May 24, 2011 10:58 am

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by MartinCarpenter » Sun Apr 26, 2015 12:41 pm

More often I imagine a lack of active organisation, but same sort of effect.

Location is a worry for some of the leagues. Even if there was somehow a club that was as brilliantly organised as 3C's in/around Cleveland somewhere you have to imagine that they'd lose nearly everybody at/post university age :(

If anyone wants to feel slightly positive about Northern chess, I believe that just over half of the players in York - Bradford this year (200(+) combined average ECF over 8 boards) were under 40. A considerable majority under 60. Sheffield doing OK too - better overall I'd think - but their (ex)juniors tend to play for a distinct team in the Yorkshire league.

David Pardoe
Posts: 1221
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:29 pm
Location: NORTH WEST

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Pardoe » Sun Apr 26, 2015 4:52 pm

Alan makes a positive point that, by getting stuck in and running a club, putting on good support, etc.. it should be possible to achieve fair degrees of success..
3Cs have done great things with the junior chess scene, and many players have been drawn in from other quarters, because 3Cs were seen as the only show in town..
The latter is not strictly true, but 3Cs certainly have a strong presence..
Sadly, clubs can so easily fail and disappear, (having enjoyed a period of solid achievement with great chess support), when a few key leaders exit for any reason. So clubs need to look at good succession policies, and particularly about ensuring they have a good supply of active volunteers to keep the wheels turning.

Our local leagues have been fairly pro active in recent years, and the increased presence of new players across a number of clubs is good.
One problem was spotted several years ago, when Matthew Pollard was the MCF president. Namely that our leagues were gradually losing there base players/teams, due in part to rising standards of club teams. This was perceived as acting as a block to potential new teams joining, so a good decision was made to create some new `starter divisions`, consisting of 5-man teams, at the lower end, catering for players graded under circa ECF 120.. The MCF received feedback that these initiatives might gain support from several local clubs, so the committee, on a split vote, wisely decided to give it the green light.
These attracted a series of new teams from across our clubs, which have proved very popular, and helped encourage more players onto the chess ladder/scene in our various club teams. These matches/leagues can be either graded or ungraded, but they essentially offer the lower order batsmen a good platform to play there chess, against players of similar standing, and thus avoid the fate that can discourage many a new player/team .. ie, getting wiped out by much stronger opposition.
Leagues, clubs and officials need to be pro-active in promoting these chess initiatives...

And, we do need to promote our chess offerings.. local chess publicity in the Press could help generate new members/interest, ie for leagues to periodically publish league tables and some results, games, commentary, and background, plus welcome messages to potential new players..
Here`s one match that probably deserves mention in the local MEN, where `experience` triumphed over `youth` in a table topping clash..
http://manchesterchessfederation.co.uk/page11.html
ie, scroll down, click on `League tables` , Division `A`, and on the 3Cs 1 v Stockport 1 match result

As we head towards the seasons climax, these matches become key battles, and no quarter is given in the fight for top honours..
BRING BACK THE BCF

Alan Walton
Posts: 1247
Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:33 pm
Location: Oldham

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Alan Walton » Sun Apr 26, 2015 5:48 pm

I agree that the 5 board league was a good idea, but in practice it really hasn't worked out, to me it seems all it has done is to give teams the extra possibility to play more games, they still haven't addressed the dwindling membership

Regarding the match your posted, it was nothing to do with experience, Stockport played better on the night, once you get to the top level it is how you play, most of the 3Cs team have plenty of experience

Neill Cooper
Posts: 1239
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Croydon
Contact:

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Neill Cooper » Sun Apr 26, 2015 6:04 pm

David Robertson wrote:The state of the game is extremely serious. Evening league chess, and the clubs supporting it, will wither and die out completely over the next decade or so in certain parts of the country. I predict the NE will be the first to collapse, closely followed by Merseyside, Cheshire & North Wales, and Lancashire. Manchester will struggle on; Leeds and parts of Yorkshire too; but with diminished capacity. Leagues in London and the SE will continue to survive, perhaps reduced. Leagues around Birmingham will contract or merge.

Why the gloom? Very simple. I've said it many times: chess will survive where secondary schools play it. Chess in primary schools is utterly irrelevant. Utterly! And the secondary schools that play chess are, for the most part, in the private/independent sector or in the residual grammar schools. These are clustered overwhelmingly in London & the SE. To which must be added the impact of inward migration.

It's grim up North in terms of long-term prospects for the game, irrespective of the efforts of local organisers. If the thread develops sensibly (one can hope!), I'll give some examples from local leagues.
I wholeheartedly agree that it is essential to promote secondary school chess, which as the ECF manager of Secondary School chess I have been doing for the past couple of years.

It is actually in better health than you imply. Look to see how good the best schools are nowadays in the National School Chess Championships (the old Sunday Times event) at http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/schoolsres.htm. Indeed this tournament gets many more entries and of a higher quality that the National Club Championships

Post Reply