How many casual players?

Debate directly related to English Chess Federation matters.
Tim Spanton
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Tim Spanton » Wed Dec 19, 2018 1:18 pm

It would be interesting to know at what time of year this market research was carried out.
For many people, I suspect, chess comes in the same category as Monopoly and Scrabble can do - games played to fill in idle moments over Christmas and the New Year.
So a "last month" question asked in January might well get a much higher positive response than the same question posed in July.

Ian Thompson
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Ian Thompson » Wed Dec 19, 2018 2:10 pm

Tim Spanton wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 1:18 pm
It would be interesting to know at what time of year this market research was carried out.
The YouGov one says it was carried out between 30 March and 2 April. Their figure was for "usually play at least once a month", not "did play in the last month", to which 7% said yes - that would extrapolate to about 3.5 million adults.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Dec 19, 2018 3:02 pm

Ian Thompson wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 2:10 pm
"usually play at least once a month"
Not an especially challenging question, as many other games, sports and pastimes could run up similar headcount figures.

If they had asked whether the interviewee had ever had a chess rating, that would give an estimate that might at a pinch be capable of being validated. "chess rating" would include on line play. There would be some danger of a "pointless" answer of a zero response though.

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Michael Farthing
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Michael Farthing » Wed Dec 19, 2018 4:50 pm

A chess game played in a primary school playground is as valid a game of chess as one for the world championship as far as I'm concerned. What's the relevance of whether it's rated or not?

Roger de Coverly
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Dec 19, 2018 5:44 pm

Michael Farthing wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 4:50 pm
What's the relevance of whether it's rated or not?
It tests the validity of the estimates as rated games by their very nature give you a head count. The likely problem is that the survey sample size would be that small that if you tried to estimate the number of FIDE rated players in the UK by a similar method, you'd get the answer of zero or 50,000.

Alistair Campbell
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Alistair Campbell » Wed Dec 19, 2018 6:26 pm

Ian Thompson wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 8:27 pm
Roger de Coverly wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 7:29 pm
In the latest Board (125th) minutes
Malcolm outlined the key points from the paper and supporting note. Malcolm said that it was critical to reach out to the millions of casual players who do not currently engage with the ECF,
Where does he get that count from? Is it on the same scale as the 600 million worldwide, so popular with Agon and the ex FIDE president.
Who knows, but the YouGov survey figures said 2% of the adult UK population play chess (casually) at least once a week (either against a person or a computer), so that would justify a figure of just over a million. Is there any reason to disbelieve that figure? I suppose the obvious questions are whether the sample size (4161 adults) is large enough to extrapolate to the whole population and whether the demographics of those 4161 people who responded to the YouGov survey is representative of the whole population - probably not, so how was that dealt with to come up with the 2% figure?
I’m sure the science behind sampling is well understood (although not by me) so it shouldn’t be too hard to get an expert opinion.

As an aside, I’m never quite sure whether sampled voting intentions are designed to demonstrate how people claim they are going to vote, how they actually intend to vote, or are predictions of how they actually will vote. (People will lie as to their intentions (the concept of the “shy Tory” is well known); they will change their minds; or more likely, they won’t bother to vote). I expect reputable polling organisations are aiming for the latter two – and so are of use in monitoring trends, or in predicting the actual result.

Bias is an obvious issue – your results might differ depending on whether you quiz people while standing outside a Labour Club or the local Conservative association. Telephone sampling used to be viewed as biased towards the wealthy, now it may be biased towards the elderly. I think the key is for your sample to reflect the actual population and this is where weighting comes in.

For a poll of voting intention, I note the recent YouGov poll weights by age, gender, residence, social grade and previous voting history and likelihood to vote. Presumably the population statistics of each category is relatively well known. How exactly those weights are applied, I don’t know, but I imagine that if you had sampled 120 Scots rather than the implied 100 then you would weight their votes by 5/6.

(Of course, some of these subsamples must be very small – containing a handful of people – I’m sure there was a story about how such a phenomenon affected Nate Silver’s predictions of the US Presidential elections).

From memory, hypotheses are tested by sampling, and the likelihood of the sample being consistent is calculated.

Assuming the hypothesis is that 2% of the population play chess regularly, then I think you would be pretty confident of getting a number of between 1.6% and 2.4%. (which is apparently what we had).

Were the hypothesis that 1% of the population plays, then I think the results look high (but I think they look high anyway).

I’ll make some comments on numbers in a separate post.

Alistair Campbell
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Alistair Campbell » Wed Dec 19, 2018 7:31 pm

With regard to the number of casual players:

I guess it depends what you mean by a “casual” player. I would classify anyone who has played OTB in a club or in an organised event as a “serious” player (although they may no longer be active). Incidentally, I would consider myself an active and serious player, but I probably play fewer than 50 games a year, and certainly don’t play every week. A casual player may occasionally play some form of chess on-line or “in secret” away from the eyes of officialdom. Getting a handle on the multiple of serious players that casual players represents is the tricky thing.

Now for some numbers.

The population of Scotland is about 5.3m. 1% of that is 53,000.

In Scotland, pnums are in the range of 3,000 to about 29,000 so that suggests about there have been about 26,000 player records created since 1982 (or thereabouts). There will be some double counting, and many of those players will no longer be around, but that suggests an absolute upper bar of 0.5% of the population has played “serious” chess at some time.

(Incidentally, I find that figure unexpectedly high). I think there were about 3,500 on the original list so that suggests on average about 600 new entrants to the system a year, presumably mostly juniors.

Currently there are about 1400 adult players in the grading list and maybe another 500 or so juniors.

I think Chess Edinburgh (and Lothians) has dropped from 36 teams to 31 teams in the last 14 years. My own club used to run 4 teams, now it runs two. Some of our players played for clubs which no longer exist.

Thus this 1400 could perhaps represent between a quarter and a half of adults who have ever played graded chess. So say there are 5,000 adults who may have played the game seriously as adults.

As for juniors who have passed through various chess in schools initiatives over 30 years – maybe another 600 per year – adds about 20,000 to the total.

So we have maybe 2,000 active players and 23,000 or so who were active. I would have guessed the majority of those 23,000 do not play at all any more. Many of the juniors may not have picked up a piece since their first set of exams (presumably those who coach have some idea of lapse rates?)

Now for “casual” players. Look around you – how many people do you see that could be secret players? How many of your friends play on-line regularly, that you didn’t have marked down as a chesser? How many times have I seen people playing “casually” in the pub? Never. How many times have I discovered that someone I know secretly plays? Once that I can recall, and I guess that was just a phase. [ I note Christopher has some anecdotal evidence possibly to the contrary]

My guess would be that there are fewer than 1000 Scots who regularly play chess having not been previously “known to the authorities”.

Sure, some parents of juniors probably learn to play, but almost all will give up as soon as their kids do, but you could maybe add one per six juniors to the total for regular casual opponents of serious players - say 3,500, giving 0.5% of the population (and I feel that is a stretch)

In summary, the numbers don’t add up, so something is wrong.

Possibly it is my arithmetic or assumptions.
Possibly Scotland is dramatically different from rUK
Possibly people are exaggerating the truth when replying to pollsters
Possibly the polls, despite their best efforts, are biased in some way.

Any ideas?
Last edited by Alistair Campbell on Wed Dec 19, 2018 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

J T Melsom
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by J T Melsom » Wed Dec 19, 2018 7:42 pm

Chess players in pub - I am known as the pub chess player - I normally mention that I'm on my way to a match so can't stay for another pint. In one of my local pubs the landlord and another regular, both asked for advice on the game they were playing against each other. And the pub manager is learning to play with assistance from a local arbiter. Anecdotal evidence from a small community local, but I suspect there may be more secret chess players than we imagine. The game I was asked to advise on, did go on a fair time in a position that was essentially hopeless for one side - it was clear my advice had been ignored rather than incorrectly applied :)

Roger de Coverly
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Dec 19, 2018 7:58 pm

J T Melsom wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 7:42 pm
Anecdotal evidence from a small community local, but I suspect there may be more secret chess players than we imagine.
What do you have to do to get them to "go professional"? In other words turn out in a League match or even play at a local Congress? On the rare occasions that you tempt someone into the bear pit, there are hazards. One is the significance of the mysterious timing device and what happens when it hits zero time. Another is that even "third team" players know enough tricks to be a serious handful against unprepared opposition.

J T Melsom
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by J T Melsom » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:07 pm

Roger

You don't appear to have read my earlier post about exactly these points. I don't think the on-line players have an issue with clocks, its simply a case of knowing what clock setting applies and remembering it. And familiarity helps, any change or new information is easier to grasp over time. As for playing strength issues it should be possible to give sufficient coaching to newbies who are keen to improve and get fully involved, its just that many clubs are seemingly reluctant to do this. even if one's motives are purely cynical there is a far greater chance of retaining adults than juniors, so maybe clubs should make that time investment. However, at the last county AGM one other idea was proposed namely a grading restricted competition as tried in other counties. I understand you were opposed to trialling this because it wouldn't be of interest to your club.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:31 pm

J T Melsom wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:07 pm
I don't think the on-line players have an issue with clocks
It's the concept of x moves in y minutes that I've seen new players struggle with. I don't think many, if any, online games are played with an extra time allocation.

New players won't have grades, so grading limited events don't have much point, given that such events would be required to have anti-shark rules to protect the weak.

J T Melsom
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by J T Melsom » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:49 pm

I think you need to be a little more positive towards those who are trying to address these issues, and reflect that these grading limited events run elsewhere so there is no reason not to try them in Bucks. To say 'it's not for my club' and give no other explanation gave those present who reported events to me a somewhat negative impression. It might well work better than multiple weak sides in other divisions. I'm not sure that any of the clubs would deliberately field sharks - these competitions are intended to encourage those taking first steps or genuinely weaker players - the objectives are a bit more subtle than crushing the opposition and winning the competition..

As for the clock issues - of course new players find some aspects of the game confusing, but that's true of almost anything that's new, hardly a show stopper or reason not to involve them. You wouldn't get an adult learning class rejecting somebody, they would simply ensure that they joined the right group and were given appropriate assistance.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:54 pm

To my mind the ECF opted out of promoting chess to casual players when it adopted the premise that
(1) All players wishing to play in graded competitions would be required to become members of the ECF.
That's taken from
https://www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-cont ... g-2011.pdf

J T Melsom
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by J T Melsom » Wed Dec 19, 2018 10:10 pm

Roger

You made that point earlier in the thread and were advised this was only an option going forward and does not apply at the present time. Nobody else is posting about that. I'm trying to discuss new events for new players which you have opposed, so far for what seem to be spurious reasons. If you just want to go round in circles then that's your choice, but you will find that even when you have a well founded criticism you will be ignored by more and more people because it is increasingly difficult to believe you are interested in chess adapting in any way that might attract new or returning players. I'd love you to prove this isn't the case, but you are making it impossible for all but the most saintly person to engage meaningfully with you.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: How many casual players?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Dec 19, 2018 10:24 pm

J T Melsom wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 10:10 pm
You made that point earlier in the thread and were advised this was only an option going forward and does not apply at the present time.
I don't accept this. The underlying premise of the enthusiasts for compulsory membership is as stated. Given that the idea is toxic, concessions have had to be made. The ECF's published strategy is to abolish these concessions.

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