Alex Holowczak wrote:
The number of juniors playing chess in England is also the lowest it has been since before the Fischer boom.
Anyway, it depends what exactly you mean by 'playing chess'. Do you mean playing fairly serious competitive chess, taking part in Mickey Mouse kiddichess events, or moving the pieces round the board in vaguely legal fashion?
The number of secondary school age juniors playing competitive chess possibly is the lowest since the 1950s. It's certainly much lower than in the 1960s, when the Keene/Hartston/Basman generation came to prominence as well.
We need to go for quality at primary school age and quantity at secondary school age, but with appropriate support for our most promising players at any age. At present we're going for quantity at primary school age, which does not translate into either quantity or quality at secondary school age and therefore does not translate into adult chess players (note Rob Thompson's comment elsewhere about the number of young adult players in a Dutch tournament).
I would also add, with regard to previous comments, that my impression over many years, is that many junior chess organisers, especially those involved with EPSCA, have always taken a disturbingly parochial view when it comes to providing advice and support for our top juniors.