The Death of League Chess?

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Brian Towers
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Brian Towers » Mon Apr 27, 2015 3:02 pm

Chris Wardle wrote:
David Robertson wrote:I predict the NE will be the first to collapse.
I don't know who you are, but shut your face!
Well, that's told you, Dave!

Mind you, I have to agree with you that NE chess is in a parlous state. I was back in Sunderland for 3 weeks over Easter to visit my Dad (less than 5 years to go for his telegram) and the shocking news is that there are no chess clubs in Sunderland, a city of a quarter of a million! Shocking!

When I was at school there were two big clubs, Sunderland NALGO (National Association of Local Government Officers) and Sunderland YMCA. Which one you played for depended on what union connections you had. Since my Dad was in the more proletarian NUPE (National Union of Public Employees) I played for the YMCA, starting off in the third team when I was 15. My younger brother followed me when he was about 12 and started off in the 5th team. So that tells you something about the depth of chess in Sunderland 40 years ago. There were also several other lesser clubs in Sunderland which didn't have the same selection of stronger players (180 - 200 BCF) that NALGO and YMCA could boast.

In the end I had a choice of South Shields (half hour bus ride), Durham City (about an hour on the bus) or Hetton (probably also about an hour). I must say the South Shields crowd were very friendly and from the social point of view it is nice to play in a pub. I meant to visit the other clubs but in the end I was too lazy / too busy visiting various branches of the family.
Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

David Pardoe
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Pardoe » Mon Apr 27, 2015 3:16 pm

Yes, Sunderland with no chess club.....and little from Durham University, which 40+ years ago sported about 4 teams in local NE leagues..
A friendly letter should be posted...or two..
Meanwhile I bring good news...the Secretary of South Shields chess club tells me that they are alive and kicking... and very keen to welcome new faces. Get along to the Ship Inn near Cleadon Village or visit there web site. They serve good beer and food too, I believe.
My very best wishes go out to them. I still remember the night when PH Clarke visited to give a Simultaineous to about 36 local players at the Marine and Tech College..
What a night that was...Mr Clarke found himself speared by a Sicilian I`d been cooking up... my good luck he was distracted by 30 odd others eagerly battling for a book prize!!!
And Sunderland football team need some support if they are to stay in the Premier.. Go along this Saturday...they have a key battle v Southampton!!
Last edited by David Pardoe on Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
BRING BACK THE BCF

MartinCarpenter
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by MartinCarpenter » Mon Apr 27, 2015 3:31 pm

Sunderland does sound sad. My last season in the Durham league (13/14) the top division had 2 Durham teams, Darlington and Hetton who all had normal enough seasons.

Gateshead survived the season but were (genuinely) tragically starting to suffer the inevitable fate of an ageing player base :( Consett finally folded and Leam Lane couldn't get a driver any more so went as well. Reasonable numbers of teams in the 2nd Div so it'll struggle on. Hopefully better luck this season too!

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Jon Mahony
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Jon Mahony » Mon Apr 27, 2015 4:23 pm

David Pardoe wrote: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...
Yeah it has actually being brought up lately that it may be a good idea to get leaflets for the club printed and put around places like the ones you suggest - as we know from running the Leeds congress this can be done quite cheaply.

Yes we want to build up the coffers and try and plan for the future, but sadly the cost of hiring half decent venues is extortionate - in order to pay for it we would have to up the subs to rates even I wouldn’t pay - as they are mainly hired on a nightly basis it would also be goodbye to 3 man teams, and it would mean closing the club during summer (or moving somewhere else for that time).

I think there is a tightrope between thinking ahead, and alienating existing members, if a few regulars drop off because of club subs, we will soon find ourselves struggling.
MartinCarpenter wrote: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.
Indeed, Leeds CC is one of the oldest in the country and at one stage the largest, we have some score sheets in our position of (very bad!) games played by ex-members, before the turn of the last century and can even claim the great Yates as an ex member. One of our current members Lincoln, is currently researching our history.

However as you say Martin, some very unfortunate circumstances over the years lead to the clubs pull getting diminished a great deal - A rather notorious ex club secretary (and prize winning author) who was fond of having revolutions and counter revolutions destroyed a large amount of the membership base to the point where it was 3 people left in a pub :roll:

There was also a prolific ex member, who I’m told was a genuine psychopath - surprisingly he didn’t do a great deal for the club reputation!

The club leadership has passed through a couple of people since then, until I eventually found it in my hands a couple of years ago. These days we are a small, but very close knit club - I would go as far as to say an extended family (pass the puke bags :lol:).

We don’t really have a huge amount of strong players (sadly I am probably in the top 2 or 3 which says it all!) but the A team did manage to win the Leeds division 3 title this year, we are going up to division 2 which will actually be fairly tough - I’m hoping the possibility of playing stronger players, will attract some better players to us over the summer.
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David Robertson
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Robertson » Mon Apr 27, 2015 4:50 pm

Chris Wardle wrote:I don't know who you are, but shut your face!
You might win some friends with this :)
Chris Wardle wrote:The Northumbria League is in excellent health...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
Strategic analysis and horizon-scanning aren't among your hobbies, I'm guessing

Neill Cooper
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Neill Cooper » Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:30 pm

Jonathan Bryant wrote:
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.
This year juniors played for CCF 1, Surbiton 1, South Norwood 1, Wimbledon 1, Ashtead 1 and Redhill 2 in the Surrey Trophy (http://www.scca.co.uk/comps/comps_index.html) leaving just Redhill 1, Guildford 1 and Kingston 1 without any juniors. Redhill 1 and Guildford 1 both have players who have graduated in past couple of years, leaving (I think) Kingston 1 the only team without any players under 25.

Mick Norris
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Mick Norris » Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:41 pm

According to our Results website, there are 63 juniors playing in the Manchester League

3Cs account for 20, and other clubs with junior sections are Worsley 7, Bolton 17, Heywood 4, and Ashton which is a junior only set up has 6 - note, these clubs all play in different leagues, so all may have many more juniors playing

Only 5 other clubs have a junior player (some more than 1) out of the 16 clubs in the league, so 6 have no juniors

I'd say a couple of clubs in Manchester are in decline which may look terminal - we have had a merger, and some clubs have disappeared over the last few years - I would say that the pattern over the last century has been for clubs to fold and others to appear

I have been to Manchester University this morning, which reminds me they no longer have a team, albeit we do have (mostly postgrad) students and staff playing in the league for other clubs

I am aware this doesn't answer Mike's questions, but it does provide data
Any postings on here represent my personal views and should not be taken as representative of the Manchester Chess Federation www.manchesterchess.co.uk

David Pardoe
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Pardoe » Mon Apr 27, 2015 6:18 pm

....and lets not forget, those who rubbish the North Easts chess scene, how they have come up trumps in the 4NCL Northern League, where they have put together some excellent representative teams....and head this seasons drive for promotion to Div 2.
Meanwhile the NCCU I hope will take stock of chess affairs across the region and take positive steps to encourage league and club play, and other tournament chess.
Self help is high on the list of pre requisites for success...
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Clive Blackburn

Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Clive Blackburn » Mon Apr 27, 2015 6:43 pm

Jon Mahony was talking about the history of Leeds chess club and said that there were
Jon Mahony wrote:....games played by ex-members, before the turn of the last century....
I think that many chess clubs can make that claim but Jon probably meant that the games were played at the end of the 19th century rather than the end of the 20th! :lol:

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Mon Apr 27, 2015 7:56 pm

David Pardoe wrote:Meanwhile the NCCU I hope will take stock of chess affairs across the region and take positive steps to encourage league and club play, and other tournament chess.
I wouldn't be too optimistic.

To be fair there are some extremely capable and enthusiastic organisers in the North but they seem to devote their energies to congress and 4NCL organisation.
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Mike Truran
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Mike Truran » Mon Apr 27, 2015 8:22 pm

So is the whole local league landscape changing? And if it is, should we resist it, or find the best way we can to adapt to the new world?

Whatever, of course, the new world is.

Paul Douglass
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Paul Douglass » Mon Apr 27, 2015 8:34 pm

MartinCarpenter wrote: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.
I play in the Cleveland league and it is unfortunately in a sad state of affairs.

Twenty years ago, it was awash with teams, with a wide spectrum of ages playing from all over Cleveland. Times have changed; cultures here have changed considerably.

There's plenty of junior activity in Primary schools but nothing at Secondary schools. Most schools are state ran around here and teachers have an abundance of work outside of the classroom, limiting their time for extra curricular activities.

Cleveland has around 15k in the bank but no one has the energy or inclination to put forward ideas on how to best use some of the cash to promote the game. Perhaps it's best to turn the lights out!! That is a joke; I care passionately about my local scene.

As you can see, venues are not the only problem.

Ideas are most appreciated!!
Paul Douglass

"Every time I win a tournament I have to think that there is something wrong with modern chess." - Victor Korchnoi

Mick Norris
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Mick Norris » Mon Apr 27, 2015 9:04 pm

Andrew Zigmond wrote:
David Pardoe wrote:Meanwhile the NCCU I hope will take stock of chess affairs across the region and take positive steps to encourage league and club play, and other tournament chess.
I wouldn't be too optimistic.

To be fair there are some extremely capable and enthusiastic organisers in the North but they seem to devote their energies to congress and 4NCL organisation.
Well Andrew, if you perceive that the NCCU is the problem, we have suggested a solution to those who agree with you :wink:
Any postings on here represent my personal views and should not be taken as representative of the Manchester Chess Federation www.manchesterchess.co.uk

David Robertson
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Robertson » Mon Apr 27, 2015 10:40 pm

Mike Truran wrote:So is the whole local league landscape changing? And if it is, should we resist it, or find the best way we can to adapt to the new world? Whatever, of course, the new world is.
The whole local league landscape isn't changing. That's part of the problem. The changes are currently unevenly distributed. The decline is far more apparent and severe in large parts of the North than it is in London & SE where leagues and junior participation continue to thrive, if not flourish. Hence the bulk of the chess community - players in London & SE - can offer a sympathetic glance northwards, but otherwise shrug and move on. After all, what can be done? What can they do? They already do their bit to help in some ways by allowing the 4NCL 'centre of gravity' to be the Midlands.

Meanwhile, what is the North doing to address the problem? With local exceptions, not very much. The NCCU has been a pitiful waste of space for more than two decades. The optimism of the 'new' counties in the late 1970s had dissipated by the mid-1980s. Only the ancestral counties of the Rose remain competitively viable (pace Greater Manchester :roll: ) And please, do not let anyone try to bring forward twaddle about a thriving u-150 or u-125 county scene. If county-level chess has been reduced to a Saturday afternoon mash-up between competing teams of patzer geriatrics in some bleak barn, then you need look no further for evidence of decline. The whole of this u-rubbish needs to be shifted from ECF, and farmed out to Age Concern.

Of local leagues, we've been offered some evidence. The pattern is pretty general, and dismal: reductions in the numbers of leagues, of divisions within leagues, of teams within divisions, of boards within teams. The bigger cities fare better than their peripheries; and some clubs better than others. But nowhere, absolutely nowhere, has the flight of Time's arrow been arrested. The chess community is old, very old, compared with 30 years back. Junior players are scarce indeed. The average age of players in Div 1 of the Liverpool League looks to me, at a guess, to be 55+ with few if any u-40. I took a look at recent match cards for the Liverpool League Div 1. I could find not a single junior in any match for any team. The same appeared to be the case in Div 2 as far as I could tell. It's not completely depressing though: lower down, in Div 4 & 5, there are now two 'mainly/only junior' teams. Green shoots? It would be nice to think so. Alas, no secondary school in the Merseyside area has had a chess team in two decades. Without support there, it's hard to see how these not-yet-very-promising youngsters will train on. A 3Cs-style commitment isn't on offer.

Matters are rather better where I currently play at Chester. Whereas my former club, Atticus, while still strong, is aging markedly and has no juniors to my knowledge, my current club (Chester) has 60+ members, of which 20+ are juniors. These juniors are all u-14; and they all (or nearly all) play in the local Chester & North Wales league; or in the slightly weaker Wirral league. Indeed, we field 12 teams in the latter, of which roughly a half are junior teams. And the best of them, Chester D, may yet win promotion to Div 1 this week. Andrew Camp, if he's reading this, may be able to say more about junior presence from other clubs in the lower divisions of the Chester & NW league.

Returning to the large contingent of Chester juniors (which now includes an England u-11 international), why can Chester do what Atticus doesn't? There's an answer I'm tempted to give, but I'll keep it to this: Atticus grows old and older because it has no juniors; and it has none because there are none to have. At Chester, we have plenty because diligent club members took advantage of the one school in the area that offered chess, and have coached the youngsters - even pre-entry. That school? King's School, Chester - fee-paying independent etc etc.

So some good news, up to a point. But problems remain. If 'our' juniors want a school match, they have to play Manchester GS or Bolton School. That's how barren the region has become for secondary school chess. No Bluecoat School (Liverpool) or Caldy Grange GS (Wirral) any more, both past winners of the 'Sunday Times', but devoid of chess since the mid-1980s.

And so it goes. Hit or miss. Some good; lots awful. Meanwhile, back in the league and club committees, the dodderers dodder on.
Last edited by David Robertson on Tue Apr 28, 2015 11:46 am, edited 2 times in total.

Alan Kennedy
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Alan Kennedy » Mon Apr 27, 2015 11:11 pm

David Robertson wrote: Back in the league and club committees, the dodderers dodder on.
It does not have to be like this - it just takes a few determined individuals to bring about change. For example we (a) run a local school club (b) took the juniors to tournaments (c) encouraged parents to join the teams (d) ran a beginners tournament (e) bought some books to form a library that children could use (f) used to make sure on club nights we studied tactics from some of the puzzle books (g) played through games and within about three years we had considerable momentum. http://www.witneychess.co.uk/junior_chess_club.htm gives a list of resources. In terms of committment - very little as once the tone was set all the adults joined in.

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