Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Debate directly related to English Chess Federation matters.

Should the ECF organise more chess?

Poll ended at Tue Oct 27, 2020 4:34 pm

Yes
12
46%
No
14
54%
 
Total votes: 26

Paul Cooksey
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Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Paul Cooksey » Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:34 pm

There was an interesting discussion at the ECF AGM about the benefits members get from the ECF. Hok noted £10 for online membership was prohibitive for his players.

Dave Thomas, outgoing as membership Director said it was a problem that he has been struggling with for 8 years, without feeling he had achieved anything. Mike Truran said he was being too modest, both agreed Rob Willmoth had a different set of skills, and was optimistic about new ideas. We discussed how people we willing to pay more to the national body for other hobbies - table tennis, bridge, etc.

In my opinion, the basic difference between the ECF and those other bodies is that the ECF doesn't organise the chess directly. So it is always in the position where its members do not receive a direct benefit to themselves justifying their subscription. People are only really happy with the ECF if they are willing to consider the indirect benefits of a national federation promoting chess.

I am myself sceptical whether the ECF should organise more chess. I would prefer it to focus on supporting the organisations that do organise chess. Alex Holowczak gave a carefully worded but broadly similar opinion, using the ESPCA as an example. But I suppose the restart of chess after COVID19, hopefully in the spring, would be an opportunity for it run more events when OTB chess might benefit from a push.

I've come to the position myself where if the ECF isn't organising chess, I think membership fees should be voluntary. I might argue why later. But I thought the first question was interesting enough for a poll

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IM Jack Rudd
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by IM Jack Rudd » Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:07 pm

Interesting question. I suppose you could ask another question: "what chess do we think should be provided that isn't currently being provided by outside operators, and would it be a good idea for the ECF to provide it?".

Matthew Turner
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Matthew Turner » Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:14 pm

I voted yes. Clearly, the current situation is a very strange, but in general, I think the ECF should employ a strong young player to work in the Office. Part of their responsibility would be to organise events and part of their remuneration would be a percentage of sponsorship income they brought in.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:15 pm

Paul Cooksey wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:34 pm
In my opinion, the basic difference between the ECF and those other bodies is that the ECF doesn't organise the chess directly.
We should bear in mind that having the ECF directly organise more things incurs a financial penalty of up to 20% and possibly higher in the future. The point being that the various organisations which run chess in the UK are with only limited exceptions individually well below the threshold for VAT registration.

This came about mostly as an historic accident rather than a deliberate piece of tax planning. The more centralised Bridge world does incur VAT as witnessed by its unsuccessful campaign to become exempt by being ruled to be a sport for tax purposes.

Gareth T Ellis
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Gareth T Ellis » Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:39 pm

Post by Matthew Turner » Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:14 pm

I voted yes. Clearly, the current situation is a very strange, but in general, I think the ECF should employ a strong young player to work in the Office. Part of their responsibility would be to organise events and part of their remuneration would be a percentage of sponsorship income they brought in.
So more expenditure at a time when cut backs are unfortunately required, better to save the current employees.
A strong player doesn't necessarily mean a good event organiser and getting sponsorship for chess has never been easy, with the current business climate it'll be even worse.

Matthew Turner
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Matthew Turner » Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:01 pm

Gareth T Ellis wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:39 pm
A strong player doesn't necessarily mean a good event organiser
Correct, but they will be able answer calls and E-mails relating to chess that non-chessplayers can't, thereby reducing the need to transfer enquirys to Directors and potentially allowing things to run more smoothly.
I am not saying that the ECF should be necessarily doing this now (for the reasons you suggested), but I think this should be an aspiration.

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Michael Farthing
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Michael Farthing » Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:07 pm

Matthew Turner wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:01 pm
Gareth T Ellis wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:39 pm
A strong player doesn't necessarily mean a good event organiser
Correct, but they will be able answer calls and E-mails relating to chess that non-chessplayers can't, thereby reducing the need to transfer enquirys to Directors and potentially allowing things to run more smoothly.
I am not saying that the ECF should be necessarily doing this now (for the reasons you suggested), but I think this should be an aspiration.
Err.. What's wrong with the ability of the current office staff to do that?

Angus French
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Angus French » Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:14 pm

I answered 'no' as I don't think the problem is the availability of competitive chess.

Though certainly I think the ECF should be looking for ways to enhance the membership proposition and provide better support for grassroots chess. I had hoped that the employment of a Development Officer (with a suitable terms of reference) would help with this but that idea seems to have stalled. Also I think it would be a good idea for the ECF to survey players to ask what they want.

Gareth T Ellis
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Gareth T Ellis » Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:53 pm

I am not saying that the ECF should be necessarily doing this now (for the reasons you suggested), but I think this should be an aspiration.
So aspiring to the WCU method but with a paid position instead of volunteers.

Matthew Turner
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Matthew Turner » Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:03 pm

Gareth T Ellis wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:53 pm
I am not saying that the ECF should be necessarily doing this now (for the reasons you suggested), but I think this should be an aspiration.
So aspiring to the WCU method but with a paid position instead of volunteers.
There are many great things that the ECF could learn from Welsh Chess, but it is a different scale isn't it. I do think the WCU could do with someone to spruce up the website.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:08 pm

IM Jack Rudd wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:07 pm
I suppose you could ask another question: "what chess do we think should be provided that isn't currently being provided by outside operators, and would it be a good idea for the ECF to provide it?".
The issue has come up before in a manner of speaking. When it became apparent that the e2e4 organisation wouldn't be running any more Congresses, there was a belief that the format was a success and should be continued and that the ECF should run them. In the event the 4NCL was the body that ran a successor series of events using a similar template.

Nick Grey
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Nick Grey » Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:36 pm

I voted no. I cannot go into the countryside to walk where I want
Online chess is not for everyone. I have reduced paying for books and magasines on chess.
Hope we can play in sept 2021. We have to accept not everyone will have money to play chess.

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Joey Stewart
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Joey Stewart » Tue Oct 20, 2020 11:57 pm

I do think this downtime is the perfect opportunity for the ECF to move into the 21st century by investing in the creation of their own online server similar to the fide arena but with the means to play online team chess properly, with all boards active in the same room and no needing to faff about matching each individual player with an opponent (and nobody knowing the team status until after the match has finished) - it would also not be an act of pure charity either as they could stand to recoup significant revenue from such a site in the long run through ongoing membership costs.
Lose one queen and it is a disaster, Lose 1000 queens and it is just a statistic.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Wed Oct 21, 2020 12:40 am

Picking up on some of the points raised, it's ludicrous to suggest that the ECF doesn't organise chess. They organise the British and County championships which are two of the flagship events in the calendar and other events ultimately flow into the whole. They also organise a lot of prestige junior events and are ultimately responsible for the national teams. The only way they could realistically do more is a) move into gaps in the market b) take over existing congresses and leagues, either by hostile buy outs or rival events (a scenario nobody wants).

Nobody has commented on how quickly the ECF responded to the pandemic by setting up a program of online events. These may not be for everyone but you can't say they have done nothing.

Regarding Matthew Turner's suggestion of a `chess player in the office` this seems broadly similar to the chess development officer initiative that was so unfortunately derailed last year. It's a shame that the resignation of the then publicity officer meant that the `grandmaster in the pub` initiative from a few years ago went no further.

Are the current office staff non players? The name of the best known office member is taken twice in the database and the most likely candidate has a respectable enough grade of 163.
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Hok Yin Stephen Chiu
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Re: Should the ECF try to organise more chess?

Post by Hok Yin Stephen Chiu » Wed Oct 21, 2020 12:55 am

Paul Cooksey wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:34 pm
There was an interesting discussion at the ECF AGM about the benefits members get from the ECF. Hok noted £10 for online membership was prohibitive for his players.
To the credit of the ECF, I would have probably put in a £10 levy to raise some money somewhere, if I were tasked with a financial blackhole. In fact, it's not really that prohibitive for most regular chess players. But, certainly in the view of both my leagues, the position is that we want people/clubs playing chess (even if it's unideal and online), and not give people an option to say "meh what the hell I'm not paying to play online, which I don't do anyway". Anecdotally, I'm involved in an University Alumni team which plays in an ECF Online-rated League; we were short one player one week, so we asked from the many former University chess players to step in to fill in temporarily. This replacement player then dropped out, on finding out he would basically end up paying £10 to play one game.

(There's a drop off when kids go from primary to secondary school, secondary school to university, and then from university to the world of work.. It's not clear anyone is able to actually address this. The latter is quite serious, for the last couple of years, I play about 2 games of standardplay chess a year - the minimum requirement to keep my positions in my local leagues. Obviously, I basically just organise/arbit when I have free time. But, seriously, how many 20+ year old finishes 8 hours at work, and decide that they want to spend 4 hours in silence to play competitive chess in the evening? I suspect that number isn't growing..)
IM Jack Rudd wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:07 pm
Interesting question. I suppose you could ask another question: "what chess do we think should be provided that isn't currently being provided by outside operators, and would it be a good idea for the ECF to provide it?".
Indeed - I use to think the ECF should/could be more, but when it does, e.g. the National Clubs Online Championships, is it not just a pale version of 4NCL Online? The truth, whether we like it or not, is that 4NCL and the London Chess Classic are run very well, and whatever the ECF were to do, it would simply not get the traction. However, this state of affairs, does make it easier for the average member to query whether the only value of membership the fact that the ECF have a monopoly on the Grading system?
Paul Cooksey wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:34 pm
We discussed how people we willing to pay more to the national body for other hobbies - table tennis, bridge, etc.
People are willing to pay more for other hobbies, yes. Let's take ice skating, one is willing to pay a fair bit more than chess because ice rinks require a lot of people and expensive equipment to maintain. The idea that chess is on par with other regular sports is romantic, but not particularly grounded in actual reality!
Angus French wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:14 pm
I had hoped that the employment of a Development Officer (with a suitable terms of reference) would help with this but that idea seems to have stalled.
I was very suspicious of the idea of a Development Officer when it was suggested. As if English Chess could be turned around, by any one individual being paid £5,000 with bonus (£x per 100 new members?).. It was totally ludicrous that this individual would be able to take credit, and get a bonus, for any increase in membership, when ultimately it would be down to the hard work of local leagues and congresses, and junior organisations that bring new people into chess.. [This would be considered bonkers in industry/engineering; however this stuff obviously happens, but it's the thin end of wedge to bad management practice.]
Angus French wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:14 pm
Though certainly I think the ECF should be looking for ways to enhance the membership proposition and provide better support for grassroots chess.
I have come to the conclusion that the ECF is simply unable to provide the value that 4NCL, the London Chess Classic, Hastings, CSC, ESPCA and other successful congresses/leagues provide. This is also a time and experience issue. If most of the people volunteering for the ECF also work in all these other organisations, then logically, there is not the time or resources available for the ECF to run its own events that would probably start off being a shadow of what all these other competitions are.

The best way for the ECF to enhance membership numbers, and support grassroots chess, should actually be grounded in a much more smaller conception of itself. It should see itself as a marketing/publicity platform (perhaps, by build a presence across all social media platforms), but it has to be professional looking/done (such that Sponsors perceive there is value in sponsoring the ECF), and ultimately, it should simply be an effective signposting 'service' - pointing people/clubs/leagues in the right direction (so that club/leagues copy and learn ideas from each other.

Obviously, that doesn't mean stop doing what it already does, keep doing the British Championships, and other Championships, and the County Competitions, but focus on small steps improvements. Information is key, for example, does the ECF actually hold the data they need to build upwards, making sure that contact details for every captain of the county championships are in one place, if they need to run a survey, making sure that the contact details for every League chair are in one place, etc. Really it's about getting the basics right.
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