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 » Tue Apr 28, 2015 7:16 am

When I were a lad we had strong club players teaching maths and running the school chess clubs. At Bede we had George Whitfield (NALGO, 180+ BCF) and at Red House they had Paul Bielby (YMCA, 190+). They ensured a steady stream of teenagers coming through to the clubs. Nowadays you still see schools claiming to run a chess club but I suspect not run by a serious chess player.

The death of the grammar school may also have something to do with this. It is much easier to generate momentum if you have a pool of talent to recruit from. Hence the better results where there are more selective independent schools (e.g. Newcastle/Northumberland more successful than Sunderland/Durham).
Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

MartinCarpenter
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by MartinCarpenter » Tue Apr 28, 2015 10:04 am

Cleveland chess? Needs some sort of miracle in terms of a revival for Middleborough I fear :(

If you look at the last 40/50 years 'Boro has lost a non trivial chunk of its population and suffered really badly economically with it. Combine that with the general reduction in chess playing over the country and you'd need to be working miracles to have chess stable, let alone thriving. I suspect the issues in much of the Durham league have similar roots.

I doubt if its a coincidence that Darlington - population up 7 per cent in the last census, seemingly reasonable economic health - is doing relatively well in a comparative sense. Some juniors, a fair number of teams etc.

Yorkshire evening (and Saturday) league chess is definitely in a happier state than it sounds like Liverpool is. Plenty of people <40. Goodness, our open county team last season was probably under 40 on average. Rather fewer <20 in many places, and you could see us suffering in 30 years time.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Apr 28, 2015 10:24 am

MartinCarpenter wrote:Cleveland chess? Needs some sort of miracle in terms of a revival for Middleborough I fear
A bastion of the compulsory membership concept even before the NCCU and ECF membership schemes. No-one and I mean no-one is allowed to play in the local league without being a member of the Cleveland County Association. It's not even that it needs the money, with around £ 15,000 in the bank from the sale of an historic chess set given to their predecessors in the Nineteenth century.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Tue Apr 28, 2015 10:45 am

I think the average age of the Yorkshire League is helped by the fact that the three main power centres (Bradford, Sheffield, York) are all university towns although in all cases credit needs to be given for the fact that they've kept a generation of juniors playing as well. In all honesty the situation in Yorkshire is not quite as dire as I thought it might be ten years ago but in terms of keeping the game going I have noticed a Mr Micawber approach (`oh well, something will come up`) to the problem.

I think the questions we need to be asking ourselves are a) when people buck the trend locally what are they doing that's different b) (the biggie) can anything be done to network this nationally with investment - the money seems to be there but nobody agrees how best to spend it and c) will other local organisers actually sieze any opportunity?

Obviously small clubs that play in the local WMC and whose members get slightly greyer year on year are not suddenly going to become 21st century chess powerhouses. Their members will probably take the view that they've had their heyday and are now just enjoying the time that's left to them. We just need to work around such clubs until such time as they fade out.
Controller - Yorkshire League
Chairman - Harrogate Chess Club
All views expressed entirely my own

MartinCarpenter
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by MartinCarpenter » Tue Apr 28, 2015 11:04 am

I managed to play Cleveland with just being an ECF member. They do like their rules to a genuinely impressive extent though - forcing teams to replay defaulted matches? Can't be helping much but I doubt if its the major problem.

Even with York, our junior system did basically stop ~10 years ago. Some young folk since then but mostly either random luck - Wellers! - or via the University. The odd 20-30 year old moving into the area too. If we don't restart the junior system properly in say 10-15 years we'll definitely start to suffer a bit 5-10 years after that. Think they're trying.

Think the other two are more reliant on proper junior systems, although Sheffield A disconnected from theirs of course. Bradford have of course done well out of Leeds Uni in recent seasons ;)

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:28 pm

The Surrey League is apparently doing ok, although clubs still have to nominate players for high teams, the old rules have been removed about players playing too many games for higher teams becoming ineligible for lower teams. You can nominate people who rarely appear, use reserves all season and they can still play for lower teams. There is a "Main league", then a Minor Trophy for players under 145 (or players estimated as under 145 by the League, whatever their real strength.) Several clubs entered teams in the bottom division of the Main League and in the Minor Trophy and used exactly the same players! It is also allowed now to play for as many clubs as you like, as long as you don't play for two clubs in the same division...

So there are always great celebrations that the league has lots of teams, but the whole thing would collapse if the traditional rules were applied. Even so, there are too many divisions, and at least one should be removed.

The London Civil Service etc League had strict eligibility requirements, which have now disappeared, but its replacement is struggling somewhat. Of course, CS foundered partly due to dispersal of London-based jobs to elsewhere, privatisation and staff cuts etc.

David Pardoe
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Pardoe » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:33 pm

We all know that the fat cat bankers and crack pot politicians have turned our society on its head.
However, there must be considerable scope for suitable volunteers to run Saturday clubs and `after school clubs`, maybe using church halls or other similar places, particularly in our urban and inner city areas. Yes, you`d need suitably CRB cleared volunteers. Time to roll up sleeves and get stuck in to some long overdue fence mending.
Chess is the game for participation (on all levels...)...and kids really do like to participate, so getting up and running, catering for players of all ages and standards, and even providing coaching and tips/post game analysis, internal club competitions, etc... should be possible. With additional help and support from parents, the youngsters would be flying in no time, and organising friendly matches against other local bodies/schools would add to the fun. All that equipment languishing in cupboards in our derelict clubs could be brought to good use.. Past players might emerge from mothballs to help add there experience and reinvigorate the chess scene..
With modest charges to cover costs, and good numbers, such bodies should thrive, given a reasonable chance, and some good local promotion.

Its coming up to AGM season, so maybe this would be a good topic to include on discussion agendas for clubs and leagues.
Leagues need to look at initiatives to start or restart clubs in towns or areas where no clubs are currently present...
Towns like Buxton and Uttoxeter could surely operate good well supported clubs... And some of our inner city areas would surely make good projects. Energy, positive thinking, enthusiasm, and a bit of hard graft could bring untold rewards, and help re-energize our battered communities.. That vital component `the willing volunteer` is a much needed element.
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Alan Walton
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Alan Walton » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:55 pm

David Pardoe wrote:That vital component `the willing volunteer` is a much needed element.
Do you really think all the ideas you bat around haven't been thought of already, setting up new clubs does require very committed persons and takes alot of time and effort, and is this modern world time is very much at a premium

You mentioned Buxton, but it was only this year that High Peak (based in Buxton) pulled out of the Stockport league. I don't know the exact reason for this but I suspect it is down to lack of interest / willing to organise within the area

So instead of writing all these ideas on the forum, why don't you set up a new club (or develop them at an existing club) and reap all these great rewards

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Tue Apr 28, 2015 1:01 pm

David Pardoe wrote:Time to roll up sleeves and get stuck in to some long overdue fence mending.
Wise words from David. We should look to those who lead by example.
Controller - Yorkshire League
Chairman - Harrogate Chess Club
All views expressed entirely my own

David Pardoe
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Pardoe » Tue Apr 28, 2015 1:17 pm

Indeed so Andrew...and I have held many chess posts, and set up and run chess clubs in previous years.
I`ve also been active on league, county, and Union committees...
But I`ll just mention an example of one who is indeed leading by example..
The Secretary of South Shields chess club contacted me recently to say that his committee had been busy promoting the local club, and reports a surge of interest and raised membership numbers. He`s very keen to hear from others who \are interested in joining that club.
They meet at a nice pub venue at the Ship Inn .. Cleadon. Do go along if you live in that area and enjoy some good chess battles with fellow players.

Anyone with other ideas should put them forward...

PS Nobody is saying this is easy... In Manchester we have been extremely lucky to have some really dedicated junior organisers who have put in huge amounts of personnel commitment, partly base on good connections with the Education community.
Another plug... Fiona Green is one such volunteer in the South Manchester area and has set up an active junior group at Wythenshaw. More details on the Manchester league website. Again, she`s keen to hear from anyone who can help and from any juniors in the South Manchester area who`d like to join.

Here`s an extract from the Manchester website...
Junior Chess in Manchester

The Manchester Chess Federation encourages and supports children and schools who want to take up chess.

The following Chess Clubs have active Junior sections and are all affiliated to the Manchester Chess Federation:
•Three C’s Chess Club
•Bolton Chess Club
•Worsley Chess Club
•Ashton Community Chess Club
•Wythenshawe Junior Chess Club (see below)




The following Associations enter teams at under 9 and under 11 teams into the English Primary Schools Chess Associations National Tournament, they are all affiliated to the Manchester Chess Federation:

Manchester

Oldham

Tameside

The Manchester Chess Federation enters teams at Under 12, Under 14, Under 16 and Under 18 into regional and national tournaments run by National Youth Chess and the English Chess Federation.



Wythenshawe Junior Chess Club

Venue: Wythenshawe Cricket Club,

78 Longley Lane, Northenden M22 4JH

Organiser: Fiona Green email: fionagreen04@hotmail.com

Time: 6.30 pm till 8.00 pm Note... Club might be closed during summer months, but do check it out...
BRING BACK THE BCF

MartinCarpenter
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by MartinCarpenter » Tue Apr 28, 2015 3:26 pm

Just saw this and thought it was amusing in context :) Not, of course, that there's any real reason not to try this sort of event.

http://yorkshirechess.org/nccu-senior-c ... mpionship/

David Robertson
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by David Robertson » Tue Apr 28, 2015 3:42 pm

Hard to fault a product pitched at an expanding market :roll:

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Chris Goodall
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Chris Goodall » Tue Apr 28, 2015 9:36 pm

David Robertson wrote:Matters are rather better where I currently play at Chester.
Are you just bashing the North East to make your own club look good?
Andrew Zigmond wrote: 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.
Last year Leam Lane's only team withdrew from the Northumbria League after one round citing a lack of willing organisers. I corralled a few of their players and un-withdrew the team. We played the rest of the season as Jesmond Leam Lane Aces, with Jesmond players filling in. It was a huge success. The willing organisers magically returned, refreshed by the rest. Not only did the club reform to take the team back, they even added a second team. Sometimes people just need to know they're not the only one left that cares.

Veterans, in particular, seem to resign themselves to "the death of league chess" and use it as a pretext for not caring. They've seen the decline from 66 teams in the 80s to 27 in the 2000s and assume that this is an ongoing decline that can't be resisted. I get some surprised faces from the oldies when I tell them that actually, numbers in the Northumbria League have been stable for the past decade. At exactly where they were right before Fischer-Spassky, which suggests that a baseline of interest has been reached. Newcomers to our clubs don't have David Robertson's gloomy narrative in their heads, which may be why they're consistently better at pitching in.
Chris Goodall, formerly known as Chris Wardle. Northumbria League hand-cranker; ECF Grader for Bernicia and the NCCU.
Newcastle is not in Scotland!

Martin Benjamin
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Martin Benjamin » Tue Apr 28, 2015 10:46 pm

Looking strictly at evening league chess and how to build a natural progression from junior chess to evening league matches, there are some factors outside chess clubs' control (e.g. greater emphasis on homework), but I think taking a leaf out of cricket's book, offering something different alongside "one game" evening league chess would help. In my opinion, younger players are more likely to be enticed out of home of an evening to play two rapidplay games, ten blitz games, or some "20/20" (where each player starts with 20 seconds each, there always 40 seconds available in total, with one player's time increasing, while the other's decreases) than by the prospect of just one game. Not just the young generation, either. I enjoyed one league I played in which was two rapidplay games, and like team blitz tournaments, I found this a refreshing change from just one evening game. This is not "the answer", just one suggestion which might bolster the numbers.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: The Death of League Chess?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Apr 28, 2015 11:14 pm

Chris Wardle wrote: At exactly where they were right before Fischer-Spassky, which suggests that a baseline of interest has been reached.
I don't think the demographics are the same. In 1970 there was a vast under swell of skilled school and university players just waiting for suitable events to play in. The University Championships (BUCA) of that era, when properly organised, fell only marginally short of being thirty two 8 board teams, so that's the same size as divisions 1 and 2 of the 4NCL. The Sunday Times schools knock out also had a massive entry. For whatever reason, a number of the well established older players ceased to be sufficiently active, so the 1970 BCF National List (players above 200) included mostly university players or those who had recently graduated.

Looking back at the histories, it's apparent that the BCF had been plodding away trying to encourage Junior Chess ( in the sense of the 12 - 21 age group) for around twenty years since the early 1950s with payday only really coming from 1972 onwards.

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