Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Debate directly related to English Chess Federation matters.

Would you be willing to play in ECF-graded hybrid events?

Poll ended at Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:54 pm

a) Definitely. They would bring players together safely, encourage ECF membership renewals and reduce travelling costs.
7
18%
b) No. Hybrid games would not be normal, so I would wait until over-the-board chess is back.
27
68%
c) Maybe. I'd be willing to try hybrid events and see if they work.
6
15%
 
Total votes: 40

TimWall
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:23 pm

Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by TimWall » Wed Jul 15, 2020 3:54 pm

Could Hybrid events save English chess?

We need to face a stark reality: Unless the ECF reinvents itself and finds new ways to organise chess, the organisation faces potential financial collapse in the next 12-18 months. I am therefore proposing 6 steps to save English chess (and the ECF) during that period.

With the prospect of a continuing Coronavirus crisis worldwide, with particular public health challenges facing England and the rest of the UK, we know that it will be extremely difficult to go back to ‘normal’ large-scale, over-the-board (OTB) chess gatherings such as the British Championships, weekend congresses and the 4NCL in the short and possibly medium term.

As the ECF derives most of its income from membership fees from people playing ECF graded games, under its current financial model the ECF must organise graded games to survive.

Since the start of this year, there have been a number of ECF Online Events that require players to be ECF Supporters and provide players with ECF Online Ratings. But Supporters’ fees (£5 annually currently, rising to £10 if ECF Board proposals are accepted) can realistically only provide a fraction of the income that the ECF needs to survive.

1 Organise Hybrid Chess Events

My first, and most important, proposal is that for the 2020-21 season, we put our primary focus on organising and facilitating a new form of chess: Hybrid Chess Events (HCE).

Hybrid Chess Events are ones where smaller numbers of players gather at a local venue (such as a chess club, pub, community centre, library or school/college/university) and play ECF Graded Games online using a laptop under the supervision of an Independent Invigilator. In one sense, Hybrid Chess Events are simply the modern-day equivalent of the old-style telephone match, but ones where we combine modern technology offered by online playing chess servers with exam-style invigilation.

For more information about the pioneering development and theory behind Hybrid Chess Events, see this excellent article by GM Jordi Magem Badals, Technical Director of the Catalan Chess Federation: https://www.chesstech.org/2020/the-new- ... -with-new/
To generate sufficient ECF membership fees income for 2020-21, the ECF should organise and promote 3 levels of Hybrid Chess, each equating to a category of ECF membership:

1. Bronze: Local team and individual competitions (such as local or regional leagues and local individual competitions).
2. Silver: Rating-limited tournaments (the equivalent of Major & Minor tournaments in weekend congresses).
3. Gold: Open tournaments, national leagues and national individual competitions (e.g. 4NCL, National Club, Counties Championship, national championships).

(The ECF should also work with organisations such as FIDE and the European Chess Union to investigate how the more advanced levels of Hybrid Chess Events can be FIDE-rated in future. For now, the priority should be restarting ECF graded events.)

The ECF should publish rules for Hybrid Chess Events that reinforce the FIDE Laws of Chess, but specifically highlight:

a) No use of chess engines during play;
b) No use of other computer functions during play, apart from viewing other team members’ or players’ games in the same competition;
c) No other electronic devices should be on in the playing area;
d) No communication with other persons about chess games during play.

Penalties for violations of these rules should include a) bans and b) game defaults, depending on the seriousness of the violation. Any penalties should be decided by the Chief Arbiter in consultation with the Independent Invigilator.

To ensure Fair Play is under the full control of the event’s Chief Arbiter, games should be unrated by the playing server, but checked by Professor Ken Regan's software in cooperation with the ECF. Any player deemed to have used computer or other outside assistance during play after an investigation may be banned from the event. Before any ban is enacted, however, the player should be offered the opportunity to appeal to an ECF Hybrid Fair Play Appeals Committee.

The Independent Invigilator at each venue should be appointed by the ECF to ensure Fair Play at each local playing venue, monitoring players and their computer screens, and advising players on ECF social distancing guidelines during play. The Independent Invigilator should be in constant contact with the Chief Arbiter in real time during play – e.g. by email, instant messaging or video conference – to resolve any problems, including internet disconnection.

The Independent Invigilator should be independent of the players/teams at the venue (i.e. not be from that club in the case of a club or league match, or not be from that county in the case of a county match).

Independent Invigilators should be local volunteers from that city or region, and would be eligible to claim reasonable travelling expenses from the organiser of the event, whether that is the ECF, a local league or a national or regional tournament. The cost of Independent Invigilators is a price worth paying, when viewed against the savings on travel and accommodation for all players, and the safety benefits of organising smaller chess gatherings in local venues.

2 Publish standard ECF safety guidelines for OTB and Hybrid Chess

The ECF should urgently conduct tests and pilot projects in OTB and Hybrid Chess, observing FIDE’s Medical Security Policy and Protocol for Upcoming Over-The-Board Events (https://www.fide.com/news/626), so that by September 2020 at the latest the ECF can publish standard guidelines on how to play OTB and Hybrid chess safely, with recommended variations and options for different types of venues, and for various sizes and types of standard-play and rapid events. Blitz is not suitable for purely OTB events, due to the problems in maintaining social distancing.

Once standard guidelines are produced, the ECF should organise online training seminars on restarting OTB and Hybrid chess to ensure the widest possible dissemination of safe practices, social distancing and anti-Covid-19 hygiene among chess players, organisers, arbiters and independent invigilators.

3 Organise ECF YouTube/Twitch Streams & Webinars

Social media video streams such as YouTube and Twitch can be used to provide a vital link for ECF Members and Supporters, and would be an excellent way to provide value for ECF Membership and Supporters Fees.

Full access to a regular ECF news, commentary and chat show on YouTube & Twitch, featuring top English players' commentary on ordinary ECF members' games and interviews with interesting players, could be provided as part of ECF Membership Fee packages.

ECF Members & Supporters would be able to participate in moderated chat, ask questions of presenters and take part in online polls, etc.

Twitch subscriptions could be used to generate income, and the presenters/commentators would be able to promote themselves and their projects through the channel.

It would also be possible to organise online webinars for ECF Members & Supporters via Zoom or other video conferencing services.

These services would increase communication between the ECF and its members and supporters. They would also reach potential new ECF members and help with combatting potential social isolation caused by the Coronavirus crisis.

4 Organise Hybrid British Championships

During the 2020-21 season, the ECF should organise a hybrid British Championships, with events in various categories, using up to dozens of regional hubs around the UK.

This event, with ECF Arbiters and Independent Invigilators present at each hub to ensure Fair Play, could be potentially more attractive to sponsors and players currently than either a purely OTB or Online Championships.

5 Take full control of Fair Play procedures in ECF Online Events

To enable ECF Members and Supporters to have the best possible confidence in ECF Online events, where participants play from home, the ECF should take control of Fair Play procedures by ensuring that all ECF Online rated games are played as unrated on the playing server, but checked by Professor Ken Regan's software. In cases where a player is deemed to have used computer or other outside assistance, the player should have the right to appeal to an ECF Online Fair Play Appeals Committee before any ban is enacted.

6 Establish 'Chess For All' charity to nurture amateur & social chess

The ECF should establish a dedicated charity to financially support grassroots amateur chess for all, providing startup grants for new community chess projects and chess clubs, and helping to provide safe, affordable and welcoming local chess venues for all – regardless of age, income, gender or ethnicity.

The fund should also help with the revival of local chess clubs affected by Coronavirus and combating social isolation among the chess community, supporting the organisation of regular social chess meetups in safe and accessible locations.
Attachments
ECF proposals for hybrid & OTB chess 150720.pdf
(141.74 KiB) Downloaded 14 times

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Jul 15, 2020 4:17 pm

TimWall wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 3:54 pm

As the ECF derives most of its income from membership fees from people playing ECF graded games, under its current financial model the ECF must organise graded games to survive.
You can shorten that to
the ECF derives most of its income from membership fees from people
Other than as an incentive to require players to become members, there's no actual need for the ECF to organise any chess.

Hybrid Chess Events are ones where smaller numbers of players gather at a local venue (such as a chess club, pub, community centre, library or school/college/university) and play ECF Graded Games online using a laptop under the supervision of an Independent Invigilator.
But first it has to be legal for smaller numbers of players to gather at the local venue. Once it becomes so, why cannot you take six players from one club, six players from another and play a match in the traditional way? If necessary spread out so that a room that can accommodate a twenty board or more match or tournament is only used for twelve players.

The FIDE laws for over the board say
11.3.1
During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard.

11.3.2.1
During a game, a player is forbidden to have any electronic device not specifically approved by the arbiter in the playing venue.

However, the regulations of an event may allow such devices to be stored in a player’s bag, provided the device is completely switched off. This bag must be placed as agreed with the arbiter. Both players are forbidden to use this bag without permission of the arbiter.
Whilst there's every reason to believe that these, particularly 11.3.1, are followed in over the board play with both players physically present, there's reason to believe that 11.3.1 is being flouted in online play. If players are expected to be contactable by messaging or whatever, 11.3.2.1 is likely to be ignored.

TimWall
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by TimWall » Wed Jul 15, 2020 4:26 pm

Hi Roger, If it's safe to play a 6-board match with 12 players in one chess club venue, that's great.
But many venues are short on space, while other social clubs (like the one where my chess club plays) are nervous about allowing people to use the premises who are not members.
My main idea in proposing hybrid events is to provide alternatives so that we can safely restart chess. If there is only online chess for the next year, I fear that the ECF may not survive.

Ian Thompson
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Location: Awbridge, Hampshire

Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by Ian Thompson » Wed Jul 15, 2020 5:07 pm

TimWall wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 3:54 pm
For more information about the pioneering development and theory behind Hybrid Chess Events, see this excellent article by GM Jordi Magem Badals, Technical Director of the Catalan Chess Federation: https://www.chesstech.org/2020/the-new- ... -with-new/
I'm not sure I would describe it as excellent:

"The player will have nearly the same experience as in an over-the-board tournament. Apart from playing the game online, he or she will continue to be in direct contact with other players and will not lose the atmosphere of a chess tournament."

Not having an opponent sitting across the table from you will make it a very different experience. More like an old-fahioned telephone match, which I did not find a pleasant experience.

"The costs for players and for organizers are significantly reduced. Since there are no travel or hotel expenses and lower venue costs, players have to invest less and organizers can increase prizes."

I doubt that multiple small venues would cost less than one large one. Unless you have a huge number of them you're not going to eliminate travel and hotel expenses either.

"At the same time, the local organisers can make a profit, since they manage the income from the registrations and the expenses (for arbiters, sanitary protocol and little else) by themselves."

Who's providing, and paying for, the communications equipment at each venue? If it's supposed to be "nearly the same experience as in an over-the-board tournament" who's providing the sets and boards?

The article was published on 23 June, 3 weeks ago, and finishes by saying "We are probably just a few days away from announcing the date and regulations of the first hybrid edition of our classic “Ciutat de Barcelona”". Have they announced anything? The website still refers to last year's event.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by David Sedgwick » Wed Jul 15, 2020 7:15 pm

The European Online Youth Individual & Team Championship 2020 is being organised along these lines.

https://www.europechess.org/european-on ... gulations/

This event may prove to be a test case of the viability of the concept.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by David Sedgwick » Wed Jul 15, 2020 7:22 pm

Ian Thompson wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 5:07 pm

Not having an opponent sitting across the table from you will make it a very different experience. More like an old-fahioned telephone match, which I did not find a pleasant experience.

Here is a post of mine from 23rd May 2010:
David Sedgwick wrote:
Sun May 23, 2010 3:50 pm
Alex Holowczak wrote:
Thanks. Does anyone know the last time a telephone match was played in the County Championship, or remember playing in one?
I played in such a match in 1985, for Surrey against Cornwall in the National Stages of the Minor Counties Championship. Board 1 for Cornwall was a talented junior called Michael Adams.

I didn't enjoy the experience much. Everything seemed very artificial.

One game was never finished, as it ended in a dispute which had to be referred to the BCF after the two independent arbiters disagreed. Fortunately the result wasn't important, as Surrey won the match fairly comfortably.

A few years later - I can't remember exactly when - there were serious problems in a telephone match between Maidstone and Dundee in the National Club Championship. This time it did matter; the score was 3-3 and Dundee won on board count. The result stood after the BCF rejected a protest by Maidstone.

Both matches, and the incidents therein, were fully covered in the SCCU Bulletin. If the SCCU ever manages to digitise the back numbers, a whole new audience will be able to read about these and other episodes.

Since that time I think it's fair to say that playing by telephone, although still permitted, has been quietly discouraged.
I have emboldened one paragraph, to reflect the fact that the back numbers of the SCCU Bulletin have now been digitised. Happy hunting.

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JustinHorton
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by JustinHorton » Wed Jul 15, 2020 8:12 pm

"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

lostontime.blogspot.com

John Reyes
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by John Reyes » Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:03 pm

Thanks Tim

I can see your points, however how can you think this will work?

but how can you think that people like me who can't play OTB chess and would i feel safe to play in a venue

I can't even go to our Social Club in manchester
Any postings on here represent my personal views only

Ian Thompson
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by Ian Thompson » Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:37 pm

David Sedgwick wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 7:15 pm
The European Online Youth Individual & Team Championship 2020 is being organised along these lines.

https://www.europechess.org/european-on ... gulations/

This event may prove to be a test case of the viability of the concept.
I wonder why the organisers think this is necessary - "A camera monitoring the playing hall shall be placed in each venue connected with local Arbiters’ Pc/laptop and central Arbiters Panel. Local arbiters’ Pc/laptop should be accessible by Chief Arbiter by Remote Control software."

There's obvious benefit to the local arbiters being able to see the video being transmitted to remote arbiters, e.g. so they can see and fix problems without being asked. Why would the Chief Arbiter need remote control of the local arbiter's laptops? Is it likely an arbiter would agree to this?

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:41 pm

John Reyes wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:03 pm
I can't even go to our Social Club in manchester
My local Community Centre tells me it proposes to reopen on 1st September.

As far as a chess club get together is concerned, does it not depend on the rule forbidding more than two households to meet indoors for social purposes to be lifted?

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:46 pm

"A few years later - I can't remember exactly when - there were serious problems in a telephone match between Maidstone and Dundee in the National Club Championship. This time it did matter; the score was 3-3 and Dundee won on board count. The result stood after the BCF rejected a protest by Maidstone."

Was that the one where the "independent" arbiter in Dundee said, "We claim the game."? "We"?, asks the definitely independent observer....

TimWall
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by TimWall » Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:49 pm

To John Reyes: You wrote about not knowing whether it is possible to go to your social club in Manchester. Many people are in a similar situation - we are currently negotiating with our chess club's venue about whether they will allow us to return (despite more than a dozen years of close cooperation with the venue's management).

I understand how many people (probably even myself included) do not currently feel very safe playing OTB chess - particularly in the standard format of 2 players, 1 board and just 1 metre plus between the players. (Using 2 boards per game seems like a more sensible idea to me). This is why I urged the ECF to try and work out its standard guidelines on how we could play OTB and Hybrid chess in the months ahead.

I don't pretend to have all (or even most) of the answers. All I am trying to do is get a debate started on how we find the best way forward, keeping players safe but also keeping the ECF going financially.

After all, if we don't have any ECF graded games, it won't be long before the membership fees dry up. And then the task of organising big events like the British Championships will be even more daunting.

So I don't think I'm exaggerating in suggesting that this is an existential crisis facing the ECF.

My last proposal in this document was that the ECF consider setting up a charity that would help local chess clubs and community groups affected by Coronavirus access safe, affordable venues - and use chess as a tool for social inclusion in these difficult times.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by David Sedgwick » Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:12 pm

Kevin Thurlow wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:46 pm
"A few years later - I can't remember exactly when - there were serious problems in a telephone match between Maidstone and Dundee in the National Club Championship. This time it did matter; the score was 3-3 and Dundee won on board count. The result stood after the BCF rejected a protest by Maidstone."

Was that the one where the "independent" arbiter in Dundee said, "We claim the game."? "We"?, asks the definitely independent observer....
I can't remember the details, but I do remember that there was full coverage in the SCCU Bulletin.

So, as I said before, happy hunting.

NickFaulks
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by NickFaulks » Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:17 pm

Kevin Thurlow wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:46 pm
Was that the one where the "independent" arbiter in Dundee said, "We claim the game."? "We"?, asks the definitely independent observer....
I was playing in a London League game where the opposing captain, claiming joint arbiter status, used exactly those words. Yeah, get stuffed.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

TimWall
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Re: Could Hybrid events save English chess?

Post by TimWall » Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:21 pm

David Sedgwick wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:12 pm
Kevin Thurlow wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:46 pm
"A few years later - I can't remember exactly when - there were serious problems in a telephone match between Maidstone and Dundee in the National Club Championship. This time it did matter; the score was 3-3 and Dundee won on board count. The result stood after the BCF rejected a protest by Maidstone."

Was that the one where the "independent" arbiter in Dundee said, "We claim the game."? "We"?, asks the definitely independent observer....
I can't remember the details, but I do remember that there was full coverage in the SCCU Bulletin.

So, as I said before, happy hunting.
David, with all due respect (and bearing in mind the phrase, "[He/she] who does not learn the lessons of history is doomed to repeat it") online playing servers in 2020 have solved virtually all the problems faced by telephone matches in the 1950s-70s. It's like comparing chalk and cheese.

The problem we have to solve is here and now, not in the dim and distant past. If we don't organise chess activities that keep the members paying their dues, how will the ECF survive?

I like nostalgic trips down memory lane as much as the next person, but can they wait a bit until we have solved our current crisis? Just a thought :)

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