The Death of League Chess?

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Neill Cooper
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Neill Cooper » Sun Apr 26, 2015 11:01 pm

Mike Truran wrote:Let me make it easy for you:

1. Junior players are rarely to be found playing in local league chess.

2. Junior players are often to be found playing in weekend congresses, the 4NCL, the LCC etc.

3. Why is that?

4. Can anything be done about it?
A few thoughts:
1. I think the proportion of juniors in the local league is higher in Surrey, but mainly in the top division. That is, in Surrey it is mainly strong juniors who play in local league chess. (Most of them also play secondary school chess.)
2. There are also lots of Juniors (around 50, aged 6 to 18) of all abilities at CCF Coulsdon on Monday evening. So juniors will play chess on a midweek evening, despite any homework or exam concerns.
3. Perhaps juniors don't play local league chess because they don't enjoy it. Less able juniors may prefer 2 rapidplay games to one long play game. Also in some cases the surroundings and company are not enjoyable.
4. Make it more enjoyable! Many clubs are less 'chess clubs, where players meet every week, than match playing organisations where players only turn up when they are playing in an inter- club match. BY its very nature you talk less with fellow club members when playing against another club. Actually, I think making chess clubs more enjoyable for juniors (and new adult members) has been discussed here before.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:27 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote: Perhaps we should canvass young players in the 4NCL as to how they came to take up the game and whether they would play local league chess if they had the opportunity.
You don't need to canvass them, just look them up in the now restored ECF grading database and that will establish when and where they play outside the 4NCL.

School age players can have homework commitments with next day delivery. In my youth in the 1960s inter school matches were always on a Friday evening for this very reason.

Alan Kennedy
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Alan Kennedy » Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:34 am

Mike - looking at the figures for graded league games they appear to be holding their own over the last four years http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/grad.htm gives a useful analysis although it does not split out juniors. It suggests league chess is not declining. As regards juniors playing league chess and what can be done about it - the management of a chess club can make a significant difference by being junior friendly. It is a while since I have been to Witney but when I was last there we (a) used to play through games with juniors, (b) have specific teaching for juniors (c) have loads of fun events eg Peter Wells simultaneous tournaments where Juniors were encouraged and (d) included parents in the loop often encouraging them to join teams as well. It is not rocket science - just requires a bit of application. In consequence the number of juniors playing league chess increased.

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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:51 am

Alan Kennedy wrote:Mike - looking at the figures for graded league games they appear to be holding their own over the last four years http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/grad.htm gives a useful analysis although it does not split out juniors. It suggests league chess is not declining.
If 4NCL is classified as a league and it has expanded, that is at the expense of other leagues if the overall total of league games played is more or less constant.

The balance between weekday play and weekend play is always liable to fluctuate.

Jonathan Bryant
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Mon Apr 27, 2015 9:18 am

Neill Cooper wrote: A few thoughts:
1. I think the proportion of juniors in the local league is higher in Surrey, but mainly in the top division. That is, in Surrey it is mainly strong juniors who play in local league chess. (Most of them also play secondary school chess.)
2. There are also lots of Juniors (around 50, aged 6 to 18) of all abilities at CCF Coulsdon on Monday evening. So juniors will play chess on a midweek evening, despite any homework or exam concerns
...
Is that true about Surrey? Surprises me tbh. Although I don’t play anywhere near as much Surrey League chess as I used to so perhaps I wouldn’t know.

If you take out all the CCF juniors how many are there left? CCF, needless to say, runs on a model that can’t be replicated by most chess clubs.

Mind you, CCF does prove that the juniors are out there if we can reach them.


I agree with your general points about chess clubs not being appealing to juniors. But as you say, most clubs don’t have the space/time/organisation to appeal to casual chess (junior or otherwise) AND league chess. The needs are different.

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JustinHorton
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by JustinHorton » Mon Apr 27, 2015 9:20 am

It would be interesting to know if this pattern was replicated (or not) in other countries with different ways of organising club and junior chess.

(I've not been playing club chess in Spain for a few years now, but when I did, it really did seem to involve a lot of juniors.)
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Ian Kingston » Mon Apr 27, 2015 9:28 am

One area that could be improved is the quality of venues. It is very difficult to convince parents that a dingy room in a pub or working men's club is a suitable place to leave their children for three hours, especially when the club has no child protection policy and no member who has passed a DBS check. It becomes even less appealing when parents have to drive to away matches and sit around waiting for the game to finish.

Most chess-playing children do other things (music is a common one), and parents will soon steer them towards the activity that they deem most congenial. Chess is always the one most likely to lose out, especially when exams loom, time becomes precious and something has to be dropped.

At the risk of drifting away from the topic of junior chess, I also think that improved venues would make league chess more attractive to less committed players (who could, after all, be enjoying a few games of online blitz in the comfort of their own home). The memory of one pub venue - freezing cold (the home team wore hats and gloves), with two naked light bulbs, a single electric fan heater, and tiny, low, backache-inducing tables - will remain with me forever. Had that club not moved, I'd have refused to play there again.

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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by MartinCarpenter » Mon Apr 27, 2015 9:50 am

Money :( You can get chess players to spend on a weekend for the 4NCL to get good venues etc, but asking a local league collective to fund a halfway decent venue? No chance.

Obviously relevant I'd have thought as it would considerably increase the attraction of a club when not playing matches. At least we've got the smoking ban nowadays!

The thing from Alan about having a group of juniors come through together and keeping them together is very true. Basically what happened in York ~10-15 years ago and they've formed the core of York's (quite effective!) B team for a long time now. Very good for team spirit for a long time forward if you can do it.

Then our junior system broke down for whatever reason :(

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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Ian Kingston » Mon Apr 27, 2015 10:26 am

MartinCarpenter wrote:Money :( You can get chess players to spend on a weekend for the 4NCL to get good venues etc, but asking a local league collective to fund a halfway decent venue? No chance.
I once attended a meeting at which a proposed £1 increase in club membership was hotly debated for half an hour and rejected. Immediately afterwards, the people who were unwilling to pay an extra £1 for their season's chess disappeared to the bar and handed over 5–10 times that amount each for a few drinks. I do wonder whether chess or beer is the real attraction for some players.

When a club does decide to spend money, the transformation can be dramatic. In the late 1990s, Stapleford (now West Nottingham) had fallen to a membership of six players, fielding a single team in the Notts League. They took the decision to move to a new venue (Bramcote Memorial Hall, where they still play), increase the membership fee and encourage juniors (the club had - and still has - good connections with schools). The effect was more or less instant, with membership increasing and extra teams added, culminating in winning the ECF Small Club of the Year award, followed a few years later by the ECF Club of the Year award.

A typical club night sees 20-30 juniors playing for an hour or so before the match session starts. When the juniors are ready, they're given a chance in the club's league teams. Just before I moved away, the club was able to field eight teams on a single night on one occasion. The biggest constraint on the number of league teams the club could field was usually the availability of team captains - parents would sometimes share the load.

Parents are always welcome. Some sit and chat quietly; some catch up on work; and some pop up the road for a drink. Some - and I know this is hard to believe - even start playing chess seriously.

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JustinHorton
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by JustinHorton » Mon Apr 27, 2015 10:53 am

Taking all that on board, when I was a junior and junior chess was booming, we played in lousy venues that were thick with cigarette smoke. Of course standards were different then. But it may be that the venue is not the most important thing.
Last edited by JustinHorton on Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Ian Kingston » Mon Apr 27, 2015 11:27 am

JustinHorton wrote:Taking all that on board, when I was a junior and junior chess was booming, we played in lousy venues what were thick with cigarette smoke. Of course standards were different then. But it may be that the venue is not the most important thing.
Agreed - just one of several factors.

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Jon Mahony
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Jon Mahony » Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:34 pm

The Leeds and Bradford league seems largely unaffected so far by any decline of players, though come to think of it, I did notice this year that there were more board defaults in matches than usual and usually because of age related things like being in hospital.

I think it is a very valid point that not enough young blood is coming into / sticking to the game. Leeds Chess Club has around 14 active members, and the vast majority of those are the wrong side of 60. I am the youngest at 30, but when I (touch wood) reach that age, in the current state of affairs, I may find myself sitting alone on a Wednesday night, playing with pawns.

I think a problem with taking Juniors on is venue - the vast majority of teams up north play from pubs. A lot of the time the bar staff won’t allow them in the place / it isn’t really appropriate for them to be there because of some of the clientele.

At the moment I (as club secretary) wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting any juniors into Leeds Chess Club because of where we play - consequently I have to “refer” any such queries along to someone who I know who deals with junior chess in Leeds. If we had some money I would move us into something like a community centre, where the situation would be very different.
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Pardoe » Mon Apr 27, 2015 2:04 pm

Jon,
Your club situation is very typical..
We do need to get out the `Welcome.. Open for business notices`, not just for juniors, but also for the many other age groups out there.
Its not good enough just to post these on our club and league websites (hoping that joe blogs will chance to spot these), although that does help... These need to appear in local libraries, info centres, Post Offices, shop windows, local Secondary schools and colleges, and the local Press, if you can find a friendly contact.
So, our University Students, college students, 25 - 50 year olds, etc.. who may have played a bit at school... all worth checking out, including notes to past members, to see if there situation has changed.
There may even be room to Jazz up the local league offering, to ensure it offers good chess playing options to all sections. Some leagues could consider restructuring, from a few divisions, perhaps into a `combined Swiss style` 8 - 10 round` event, with progressive pairings that ensure the lower order teams get filtered to play each other in the middle/later stages. With prizes given for various `average team` grades, as well as the Champions.. and runners up.
But our clubs need to have something to offer apart from the regular league stuff.. Running internal club events can be a great help, and help encourage members to show up at club nights. There`s nothing worse than having a potential new member turn up and have no-one to play.
If clubs have a separate area for social and chat, that can also help to break the ice and offer new members the encouragement they need.

Yes, charging fair membership, so that club funds are available, is vital. Too many clubs budget on the tightest of numbers, looking at the short sighted aim of simply breaking even... And finding suitable venues is indeed well worth the effort from an active club committee...
I guess Leeds City centre poses other problems, with the population living `out of town` in the suberbs...
Good luck..
BRING BACK THE BCF

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Chris Goodall
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Chris Goodall » Mon Apr 27, 2015 2:08 pm

David Robertson wrote:I predict the NE will be the first to collapse.
I don't know who you are, but shut your face! The Northumbria League is in excellent health, and we think we've hit upon best practice by effectively channeling our youth program through a single club (Forest Hall) rather than spreading it all over the county. Chess in secondary schools is irrelevant. The excellent juniors that come through RGS Newcastle don't become adult players, they generally go off to uni and never return, and league chess survives.
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by MartinCarpenter » Mon Apr 27, 2015 2:46 pm

Yes, I did think Newcastle (and above) was doing all right :) The Durham/Cleveland leagues are in considerably more worrying health but it really has been an all round horrible few decades for 'Boro/some of the ex mining places in Durham :(

Leeds chess is actually a bit of a special case. The original 'Leeds' club (which John is a member of) has a really impressive history - 1840's, masses of Yorkshire league wins etc - but basically imploded in really rather unhappy circumstances ~30(?) years ago :( Sadly very hard for a club to recover from that sort of shock.

The young Leeds city center chess club is happily doing quite well.

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