Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

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Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:19 am

Graham Borrowdale wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 1:36 pm

Other than that, I don't think that Roger's comments about compulsory membership as a contributory factor should be brushed aside so dismissively. Had the scheme been in place when I was 16 I would never have taken up chess seriously, but the club I went along to was very welcoming, put me in the C-Team for a couple of matches, then the county captain put me in the B-Team, and it went from there. Had I been told that I had to join the ECF to play so much as a club championship game, I would not have returned the following week. I might be typical, or I might not.
The problem is that Roger seems to think that the ECF are forcing all clubs to advertise themselves as, `New members welcome BUT YOU MUST JOIN THE ECF BEFORE YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN ANYTHING`. Which would be silly if it was the case, but it isn't.

Starting with a little boast; last weekend my club had five juniors (youngest aged 11, oldest aged 16) playing for us in the Yorkshire league. It may not sound like a lot but given that we fielded twenty four boards across three teams it accounts for over a fifth of those playing.Collectively they scored 60%. At least four of those players have been brought into the team (and in two cases the game) by myself; the 12 year old winning on top board for the B Team is perhaps a special case but it was me who first picked him as an eight year old just under five years ago. Experienced junior organisers can probably easily trump that but I didn't think it was too bad going for a `member of the controller arbiter nexus`, a `clown` or one of a `ragbag of clueless amateurs` to quote just three insults that have been hurled at me on this forum.

But I'll stop boasting as there is one hell of a lot more work I need to do. In fact I'm only up to 1% as things stand.

My point is that so far ECF membership fees have not been a problem, not do I anticipate them being so. The 12 year old top board (not a prodigy, just a really nice lad who plays a mean game when he's on form) is a member, as is another of the youngsters who played his first adult congress earlier this year. For the others I was able to blood them without having to worry about ECF membership fees until they'd played three games. One (the 16 year old) now has reached three games and I will need to have that conversation but the ECF is offering free junior membership so that's easily enough sorted; he just needs to fill out the form (and no rush either as it will backdate). It will be £11 for every year thereafter, going up when he turns 18 but not an excessive sum of money.

I didn't start this thread to talk about the ECF membership scheme so I'll pick on Graham and Alan's other points about what we do with adult newcomers when time permits.
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:34 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:19 am
The problem is that Roger seems to think that the ECF are forcing all clubs to advertise themselves as, `New members welcome BUT YOU MUST JOIN THE ECF BEFORE YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN ANYTHING`. Which would be silly if it was the case, but it isn't.
It's only because of opposition to compulsory membership that the concessions have had to be offered. If the ECF has to offer concessions to make it palatable, why demand membership in the first place?

Free membership for new juniors is all very well, but if the point of membership is to raise money for the ECF, that's a fail. In terms of raising money, it would be better to put a levy on the event. That way there's an income regardless of who participates.

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John Clarke
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by John Clarke » Tue Dec 12, 2017 5:03 am

It'll take more than tinkering with ECF membership rules, or tarting up club venues, to make any meaningful impact on this issue. I made a very similar point just on two years ago, here. No-one seemed to pick up on it then, so I offer it again now.

Of course, I'm only stating the problem. The solution lies almost wholly outside of chess, and short of driving the neo-liberals out of office for a prolonged period, there may not even be one. We've made a start down here by managing to install a government committed to winding back some of the worst excesses, but their hold on power could prove precarious.
"The chess-board is the world ..... the player on the other side is hidden from us ..... he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:26 pm

Re the thread you link to there, Stephen Moss is at least readable on chess. When it comes to politics, his takes are consistently terrible.
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:08 pm

A quote from http://londonchessconference.com/
Most attendees accepted that a distinction must be made between scholastic chess that is oriented towards school curricula and delivered by regular teachers who have been trained on chess didactics and how to integrate chess with the school curriculum from competitive school chess that is mostly an after-school activity delivered by chess tutors or teachers with the goal of finding and nurturing chess talent.
So don't look at the teaching of chess in infant and primary schools as doing any more in creating the next generation of players than ensuring that they know the legal moves. Assuming that is taught.

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Alan Walton » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:16 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:08 pm
A quote from http://londonchessconference.com/
Most attendees accepted that a distinction must be made between scholastic chess that is oriented towards school curricula and delivered by regular teachers who have been trained on chess didactics and how to integrate chess with the school curriculum from competitive school chess that is mostly an after-school activity delivered by chess tutors or teachers with the goal of finding and nurturing chess talent.
So don't look at the teaching of chess in infant and primary schools as doing any more in creating the next generation of players than ensuring that they know the legal moves. Assuming that is taught.
When I taught in a primary/infant school, the attendees already understood the moves (normally from an older sibling or parent), it was then down to me to refine the basics (e.g. checkmating, pins, forks, counting attackers and defenders); if I believed that a child showed promise understanding these and implementing these in practice games then these children are invited to attend 3Cs on a Thursday evening when more fundamental ideas are taught (this is the general premise of chess in Oldham schools and the interlink with 3Cs still today)

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:24 pm

Alan Walton wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:16 pm

When I taught in a primary/infant school, the attendees already understood the moves (normally from an older sibling or parent)
If they are teaching it as a school subject, the starting point for at least some of the pupils is going to be zero knowledge. I wonder what they introduce first.

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:39 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:24 pm
I wonder what they introduce first.
I always introduce the chessboard first. I show them the board, and ask how many squares there are.

The answers you get are normally in three groups:
(1) The children who guess random numbers, i.e. not even trying to solve the problem
(2) The children who count 1, 2, 3, 4 etc., so they've done what you asked, but not thought about what the best way to solve the problem might be before diving in
(3) The children who realise it's just 8 x 8 because it's a square board, so they've taken your question and thought about the best way to solve the problem before answering it

This means within a minute or two of the first chess lesson, you can normally gauge how strong your group is. If just about everyone in your group is in (1), then you've got a long term ahead. You hope to have as many people in (3) as possible.

You have to be a bit careful not to misdiagnose an answer that might seem like a random number, but is actually just a mental slip in not being able to calculate 8 x 8. There might be a sort of group between (2) and (3), where they can't do 8 x 8, but they might work out they can just go 8 + 8 + 8 and so on to get to 64.

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by David Robertson » Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:20 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:24 pm
I wonder what they introduce first
Idiots. That's what they introduce first. Totally incompetent, thoroughly enthusiastic, idiots. The utterly familiar, egregiously clueless, frequently-observed chess-playing amateur. Knows nothing about teaching; nothing about learning; sod-all about child development. But, goodness me, is dedicated to spreading the gospel and alleged virtues of chess.

Applies to all? No; a few are teachers, hence thoughtful about learning development. But even there, none of us knows the first thing, from research evidence, about how youngsters learn and improve specifically at the strange requirements of chess. The more thoughtful and effective, like Richard James, use evidence that is colloquial and experientially-based; ditto, Andrew Martin with more established players. Others, like 3Cs perhaps, filter the able few.

Otherwise, it's an introduction to a 'cult', the cult of the amateur wood-pusher. Bar a small minority of exceptions, we get what the 'idiots' produce.

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:44 pm

John Clarke wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 5:03 am
It'll take more than tinkering with ECF membership rules, or tarting up club venues, to make any meaningful impact on this issue. I made a very similar point just on two years ago, here. No-one seemed to pick up on it then, so I offer it again now.

Of course, I'm only stating the problem. The solution lies almost wholly outside of chess, and short of driving the neo-liberals out of office for a prolonged period, there may not even be one. We've made a start down here by managing to install a government committed to winding back some of the worst excesses, but their hold on power could prove precarious.
I take your point just as I did in that thread; the demise of the traditional 9-17 Mon-Fri job has been a factor in the decline of chess activity in the 18-30 bracket. That's not really within our gift to change so all we can do is work around it. I'm sure most of us have acquaintances outside of the chess scene who know that we play and express an interest in the game. It's surely not impossible to get them together for a game and see what you can get kick started.

The question I started this thread to ask still hasn't been answered. Chess clubs COULD possibly attract new players outside of the traditional chess demographic - maybe not a lot but two or three across the whole country would soon stack up - if they took their activities outside of their box. The question is whether they SHOULD. And if not, whose job is it? Should outreach be the ECF's priority or should it concentrate on the core of club and congress players who ultimately fund it?
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Andy Stoker
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Andy Stoker » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:53 pm

Why should we want to attract new players? Granted - we may feel that others may enjoy the game that means so much to us. Of course, clubs may wish to keep themselves alive. But if chess clubs die and we cannot play the game in the same way - then we must mourn and carry on living.

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:54 pm

David Robertson wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:20 pm
Roger de Coverly wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:24 pm
I wonder what they introduce first
Idiots. That's what they introduce first. Totally incompetent, thoroughly enthusiastic, idiots. The utterly familiar, egregiously clueless, frequently-observed chess-playing amateur. Knows nothing about teaching; nothing about learning; sod-all about child development. But, goodness me, is dedicated to spreading the gospel and alleged virtues of chess.

Applies to all? No; a few are teachers, hence thoughtful about learning development. But even there, none of us knows the first thing, from research evidence, about how youngsters learn and improve specifically at the strange requirements of chess. The more thoughtful and effective, like Richard James, use evidence that is colloquial and experientially-based; ditto, Andrew Martin with more established players. Others, like 3Cs perhaps, filter the able few.

Otherwise, it's an introduction to a 'cult', the cult of the amateur wood-pusher. Bar a small minority of exceptions, we get what the 'idiots' produce.
Up to a point I agree with you. There is a dearth of suitably qualified chess teachers in this country and if there were enough of them about many of those involved in junior coaching would be in supporting roles at best. But in the meantime we'll have to make do with the `idiots` we have. I'm under no illusions about my abilities as a player or a coach and a time will come when there's nothing more I can teach them, in which case I'll just have find somebody better for them to play and learn against. Maybe if that once in a generation prodigy comes to me I can put him in touch with the right contacts. In the meantime I might just be able to keep the enthusiasm of the lads I coach enough for me to have some young wood pushers to play against when the club colleagues I've known for donkeys years are gone (and with most of them in their 60s and 70s I know I've got ten years more to enjoy their company at best).
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E Michael White
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by E Michael White » Wed Dec 13, 2017 9:35 am

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:39 pm
The answers you get are normally in three groups:
(1) The children who guess random numbers, i.e. not even trying to solve the problem
(2) The children who count 1, 2, 3, 4 etc., so they've done what you asked, but not thought about what the best way to solve the problem might be before diving in
(3) The children who realise it's just 8 x 8 because it's a square board, so they've taken your question and thought about the best way to solve the problem before answering it
These questions/answers form an interesting aptitude test for chessers:-

(1) ECF board and officer potential
(2) arbiter - but the 3 and 4 is pushing it a bit
(3) player

Jacques Parry
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Jacques Parry » Wed Dec 13, 2017 10:06 am

I plead guilty to being a hopeless patzer who knows nothing about child development. I give up my time to help kids learn chess in the hope that some of them might one day be glad they did. Should I find something less idiotic to do with my afternoons?

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Roger Lancaster » Wed Dec 13, 2017 10:58 am

This thread tries to cover too many areas but I'd venture to suggest that, while a national federation can act strategically (and sometimes tactically, as in the ECF's "Chess Master @ The Local" initiative last year) to foster an atmosphere conducive to chess, the main responsibility has to be at a local level. However, I then suspect there are completely different factors applying to attracting juniors, on the one hand, as opposed to returnees to the game.

I would love to offer pearls of wisdom - I'm involved with a reasonably successful Home Counties club with roughly 30 adult and 40 junior members - but this is probably partly or wholly down to good luck and I'm not sure that I have pearls to offer. Except perhaps one - and what follows, slightly edited for anonymity reasons, comes from the club's email inbox over the last month.

Hello, I wanted to enrol my daughter who is nearly 8 for chess training. Please could you send me some information. Many thanks Mrs PS (8 December)

Hello, my 9 year old son is very keen on chess and I'm keen for him to meet other players of a similar age to get some experience. Do you know of any chess meetings he could attend? We are in (local town) but can travel. Thank you. RG (5 December)

Good morning! My 11 year old daughter would like to learn chess. She joined a chess club at school and is very keen to learn more. I'd be really grateful for your advice.
Thank you Kind regards PC (30 November)

Want to know junior chess club details M (25 November)

To whom this may concern. My son is aged 10 and plays chess extremely well and i would like to how he can join a chess club in the (local) area. RC (15 November)

Dear Sir/Madam,
My son is interested in learning chess, and I am looking for chess class for my 9 years old son. If you have any relevant information can you please tell me. Many thanks in advance! Best regards JY (14 November)

I'll leave everyone to draw their own conclusions as to how a decent website, with good contact details, might help. But, perhaps significantly, our site is less successful in attracting adult enquiries - perhaps one every two months.

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