I was going to stay well away from this thread, but I feel I have a small amount of insight to add. It took a while to write, so apologies if it appears completely out of context of any current discussions in this thread.
I would start by saying I have a lot of respect for Charlie. He's been my daughter's coach at a few international events - the World Cadets last year in Spain, and also at one or two Glorney Cups, and also we were there with him in Montenegro at the European Schools a couple of years ago. He also gets a special mention for inviting Niamh to do some commentary at the British Championships in Hull, which was a terrific, memorable experience. Charlie without a doubt has the most boundless energy and enthusiasm of anyone I think I've ever come across in chess. I've seen him play dozens and dozens of his 'banter' blitz games against top juniors, chess parents and fellow coaches ...and effortlessly slaughter the lot! He's a good coach, particularly great at making post-game analysis insightful, interesting and entertaining. I have absolutely no doubt that when the rest of us have run out of puff in old age, Charlie will still be there like some energizer bunny, loving and living 24/7 chess.
I think like a few chess parents I've had a little puzzlement about the whole ECF Academy tender/Longsons/Charlie saga. My daughter has nearly completed 3 years as a member of the International Program at the ECF Academy, which is coming to an end in November. We pay £400 a year for the tuition fees, and can attend all 4 weekends a year. We pay extra for the hotel and food, but all in all I would say it's value for money. You take what I would call 'pot luck' as to the quality of teaching you may get in any given weekend. The feedback I would get from my daughter was certain teachers were very good - take a bow Andrew Martin and Glenn Flear - others were fair to average and the odd one was quite poor. No it wasn't Charlie.
My take on the Academy is that it is a positive thing for junior chess, oddly not so much for the tuition, as honestly I don't think the children remember very much theory after the weekends, but more the social aspect. These weekends effectively provide something different, a social chess experience - junior players coming together, breaking down rivalries into more friendships, bringing chess parents a bit closer together. I think in the main young Academy players improvement comes much more from the week in, week out grind of working with chess parents, chess coaches, working on their training materials and playing regular junior and adult competitions.
So I suppose I was a bit surprised to read Charlie's proposal for the ECF Academy tender. I'm sorry but the whole £100 registration fee and £100 a month was a red flag. That is over 3 times what I am paying for the current Academy. I know there were lots of other things on the list, but I'm sorry but it read like 4 Academy weekends, an hour of Skype coaching a month, and access to training materials and competitions that chess parents/coaches often already have ...If this is coming out overly harshly, I do apologise! I haven't seen what Sarah Longson is proposing to charge for her regional idea, but I suppose there is a worry that these Academy's might be, to some degree, becoming commercial enterprises for the coaches running them, and may no longer value for money for parents. I may be completely wrong of course, and it is early days.
Regardless, it would be great if Charlie does bring more FIDE competitions to the North of England. The part of his Junior Squad proposal I really liked was this idea of having this great range of new long plays, rapid plays, blitz, and interestingly training competitions. I really hope he does make that happen, and that he opens up access to everyone, not just paid up 'Squad Members.'
To my mind quite a large stumbling block for his Great Britain Junior Squad will be getting the better junior players to join up. A lot of good juniors have been there and done that with the Academy experience. New emerging players may want to go to official 'Official' Academy instead. Or the other one ...the National Squad. It will be have to be a truly eye catching product to pull the good players in. And of course a lot of chess parents don't have bottomless pockets, where they can just sign their children up for everything.
On a final note, and again I apologise if this is a bit harsh. My day job is a Trading Standards officer. However, I'm writing this just as keen chess follower and chess parent. I don't work in Charlie's area, and I don't honestly mind what he does. But my word to the wise; there is a commonly used piece of criminal legislation in Trading Standards - Section 5 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which is a section of law dealing with unfair trading. Without boring everyone to death it is often applied to businesses using false information to influence a 'transactional decision' by a consumer. To my mind (and probably a lot of other chess parents' minds) the 168 Open victories, means that in Keith Arkell style, Charlie has won 168 weekenders. That obviously would be an amazing feat, and would influence chess parents to sign up for coaching and the new Junior Squad. If it's not entirely true you should think about clarifying what you mean on your advertising materials. To my mind you don't need to make such claims because your CV is already very impressive. And of course there is potential for the description 'Official Great Britain Junior Squad' to also fall foul of the same section of legislation. But as I said I don't mind personally and would love to see you create a junior chess boom in the North of England.
Good luck with it all I say!
Last edited by Matt Bridgeman
on Tue May 14, 2019 9:46 pm, edited 4 times in total.