Certificate of Merit

Questions and Support regarding the Certificate of Merit.
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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Thu Sep 02, 2010 1:28 am

Alex Holowczak wrote:They may still be a bit young, but there are lots of players who were at KEFW while I was there who now play in League chess
KEFW? Ah, King Edward VI Five Ways ("a selective, humanities specialist grammar school located in the Bartley Green area of south Birmingham, England"). I thought (given the Birmingham connection) that this was a "King Edwards" school, as I know of the independent school ("King Edward's School, Birmingham") from my interest in J. R. R. Tolkien, but I never knew there were so many King Edward schools in Birmingham!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation ... _Edward_VI

I guess it must get confusing at times! :)

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Thu Sep 02, 2010 1:59 am

Stewart Reuben wrote:Christopher Kreuzer >Richard, if you can remember, how many of those at RJCC attended schools outside the borough? I lived in the borough of Richmond (still do), and went to both primary and secondary school in Kingston. But I remember quite a few RJCC members (at the secondary school level) being from further afield (probably because people expand their horizons when looking for a secondary school). Am I remembering it right?<

The reason so many of those at RJCC attended and attend school outside Richmond is because they live(d) outside Richmond. This is because it was and is such a centre of excellence. Why don't you come along to the club. You should have a CRB clearance to stay for any length of time. Examples of people who came at least occasionally to RJCC include McShane, Howell, Gavin Wall, Murugan, Peter Williams.

It is perfectly true that City of London School has had quite a number of strong players who attended. Bill Hartston, Michael Hennigan are examples. I know we now have a number of strong players who come from comprehensive schools, but the fact is a huge proportion of our leading players come from academic schools. Don't misunderstand me, in many ways comprehensive schools provide a superior education for the general population.

Peter Barton as a chess coach is interesting. He encouraged girls to play chess. One year the British U15 (or 14?) had 45 entries, 15 were girls. He became a deputy headmaster and had no time to continue chess teaching. The following year you would have expected nearly 15 girls to take part. We were down to the more usual 3 or 4.
Stewart, I used to be a member of RJCC, but had to move on when I got too old. I was turfed up to Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club and am quite happy there now. :)

I remember simuls I played against both Luke and Gavin, and I managed to beat Luke (as I never tire of telling people, well he was U10 World Champion!) but Gavin sacrificed his queen against me in a blindfold simul and I was most impressed (both at the blindfold play and the queen sacrifice). What I remember most (and Richard may despair that the opening theory never really sunk in) was the games of Kriegspiel! Playing chess weekly ensured that a love for chess really took hold. Sometimes what is needed is the opportunity to play chess regularly. I think that and access to chess magazines and books was what got me really hooked on chess. Well, I suppose winning nice games and the odd tournament here and there helped as well!

I mentioned the City of London School because a friend of mine who plays chess went there. Didn't know Bill Hartston and Michael Hennigan went there, though.

Don't know much about girls chess, I'm afraid. I know there is a perennial debate about mixed and single-sex schools and whether boys and girls do better in one or the other. Has that ever been a factor in junior chess?

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Stewart Reuben » Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:16 am

Remembering that the origin of this thread is Certificate of Merit, we have wandered very far from that in turning attention to the careers of our leading players.
I once said to Campo, 'You can't legislate to produce a world class player.' 'True', he said, 'But you can supply the fertile field in which they can grow.'
Luke Mcshane could ( and perhaps could still be) have been a contender. This was never his ambition. He concentrated on his A Levels, took a gap year and got over 2600, then did his degree and then got a job. More recently he has returned to chess full-time, but don't assume that will necessarily be his career.
David Howell took his A Levels at 17. He has been doing little other than chess for the past two years. I haven't spoken to him for some time, but I got the impression he is continuing with chess at the moment.
None of Nigel Short, Michael Adams or Matthew Sadler got around to A Levels. I believe of our GMs only Jonathan Mestel, Dharshan Kumaran, Jonathan Parker and possibly William Watson were truly amateurs throughout their chess career.
Stewart Reuben

Richard Bates
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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Richard Bates » Thu Sep 02, 2010 7:57 am

Stewart Reuben wrote:Remembering that the origin of this thread is Certificate of Merit, we have wandered very far from that in turning attention to the careers of our leading players.
I once said to Campo, 'You can't legislate to produce a world class player.' 'True', he said, 'But you can supply the fertile field in which they can grow.'
Luke Mcshane could ( and perhaps could still be) have been a contender. This was never his ambition. He concentrated on his A Levels, took a gap year and got over 2600, then did his degree and then got a job. More recently he has returned to chess full-time, but don't assume that will necessarily be his career.
David Howell took his A Levels at 17. He has been doing little other than chess for the past two years. I haven't spoken to him for some time, but I got the impression he is continuing with chess at the moment.
None of Nigel Short, Michael Adams or Matthew Sadler got around to A Levels. I believe of our GMs only Jonathan Mestel, Dharshan Kumaran, Jonathan Parker and possibly William Watson were truly amateurs throughout their chess career.
Stewart Reuben
This is probably really a sign of just how difficult it is to become a Grandmaster (even with claims about rating 'inflation' devaluing the title), so that very few are good enough to be elevated before career decisions need to be made. And in the past the earning power of a Grandmaster was probably much more significant than it is now, so there was both reason for GMs to carry on, and incentive for IMs to turn professional, as a whole generation of English IMs did in the eighties. Of course there was one player who finally secured the title and then didn't pick up another piece in anger.

The result is that today far fewer will become GMs, so unlikely is it that players who are "only" IMs post university will turn professional. And also that those few that do become GMs will have done so early enough that they don't feel they have made an irrevocable commitment to the game.

andrew martin

Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by andrew martin » Thu Sep 02, 2010 8:49 am

What Leonard modestly does not mention is that it was his phenomenal hard work during the seventies etc which produced those charts and kept everyone motivated. Others made a significant contribution, but it was predominantly Leonard's fantastic effort.

Now to 2010. One burning question always at the forefront of my mind is whether I can recommend professional chess to our talented players. The way chess is in the UK at present I would have to say NO. By all means become as good as you can, enjoy the game, get a GM title, but to earn a living from chess, no way, unless your ability is exceptional or you have a diverse range of skills which you can use for the benefit of others within the chess scene.

I don't know what other people feel about this?

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Alex Holowczak » Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:28 am

A professional chess player earns far less playing chess than he would if he worked in another profession; chess players tend to be strong academically, so they'll end up in a high-paid job. Given students have high debts to pay off, a high-paid job is essential to help pay it off. So it's very difficult to see how being a professional chess player can be an attractive financial proposition - unless you're something like 2600+ before you go to University.

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Adam Raoof » Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:47 am

andrew martin wrote:What Leonard modestly does not mention is that it was his phenomenal hard work during the seventies etc which produced those charts and kept everyone motivated. Others made a significant contribution, but it was predominantly Leonard's fantastic effort.

Now to 2010. One burning question always at the forefront of my mind is whether I can recommend professional chess to our talented players. The way chess is in the UK at present I would have to say NO. By all means become as good as you can, enjoy the game, get a GM title, but to earn a living from chess, no way, unless your ability is exceptional or you have a diverse range of skills which you can use for the benefit of others within the chess scene.

I don't know what other people feel about this?
The answer to this is largely dependent on how you define 'professional chess'. It is rare to be able to make a living simply by playing chess and winning prize money or receiving appearance fees. It is not impossible, but there are alternatives that are more attractive.

Entrepreneurial spirits might note that publishing chess books is remunerative. Writing them is less so. ;-)

However the area where most players who hope to make a living from chess can make money is in coaching in schools, and organising junior chess tournaments. Individual coaching is a way to make ends meet, but teaching chess in schools in an organised way is very lucrative. I am not suggesting that it is the best way to generate elite players of the next generation, but it is a way to make a living that beats most 'normal' salaried jobs.

I think Leonard Barden's methods were excellent. However the ECF is faced with criticism that it is elitist if it supports such initiatives, and accusations of neglect if it doesn't! I would support more money being directed into developing young players in the way Leonard suggests. It needs a special person to direct that initiative.

If I get elected again I am going to spend a lot of energy supporting weekend and county events next year. However, rank and file players (like me) just have to get used to the concept that we have to make a financial contribution to the development of elite areas of our sport; it is a relatively narrow focus, but the upside is that we get to enjoy watching those elite players in competition for the next 20 years if it pays off!

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Matthew Turner » Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:56 am

Andy Martin said,
"Now to 2010. One burning question always at the forefront of my mind is whether I can recommend professional chess to our talented players. The way chess is in the UK at present I would have to say NO. By all means become as good as you can, enjoy the game, get a GM title, but to earn a living from chess, no way, unless your ability is exceptional or you have a diverse range of skills which you can use for the benefit of others within the chess scene"

I think this is very true, but it is probably true of most sports, perhaps even every sport other than football? However, the governing bodies of other 'minority sports' provide earning opportunities for their leading players. We currently have a government grant of £45,000, lets imagine we paid a couple of our leading players £22,500 each (a reasonable income) to be the ECF Junior Director and International Director. They would have a short term contract (perhaps a couple of years) with targets about tournaments and sponsorships for example. I think this could make a very significant difference to the professional ranks. Of course this isn't going to happen over night, but I think this is the sort of philosophy we should be working towards.

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Adam Raoof » Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:10 am

Matthew Turner wrote:I think this is very true, but it is probably true of most sports, perhaps even every sport other than football? However, the governing bodies of other 'minority sports' provide earning opportunities for their leading players. We currently have a government grant of £45,000, lets imagine we paid a couple of our leading players £22,500 each (a reasonable income) to be the ECF Junior Director and International Director. They would have a short term contract (perhaps a couple of years) with targets about tournaments and sponsorships for example. I think this could make a very significant difference to the professional ranks. Of course this isn't going to happen over night, but I think this is the sort of philosophy we should be working towards.
That would require a change in the Constitution to allow Directors to be in office for more than one year (which I would support) and to receive salaries (which I would support with reservations).

What targets would you set them?

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Alan Walton » Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:41 am

Presumably,

You would have a staggered approach, like the following

Year 1) One top ten finish in a Continental Championship
Year 2) One top ten finish in a World Championship
Year 3) One player achieving IM title before 16 years old
Year 4) One player achieving GM title before 19 years old

These are very general but you would assume they should be achievable from what I have seen with some other European juniors, one example was a Danish junior who in 2008 was rated 2100 at 12/13 years old, within 18 months his rating was 2350+ and getting IM norms, and I have noticed another current Norwegian 12 year old who has just jumped in the latest rating 65 points to 2150

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Matthew Turner » Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:45 am

Adam,
I think it would be harder to set targets for the International Director, but here some of the things you might consider for the Junior Director. Some will be targets that you expect to achieve, others will be more aspirational

1. Send at least one represenative in each age group to World and European Champs
2. Send team to U16 Olympiad and Glorney/Faber Cups
3. Provide appropriate coaching support at these events

That is basically do what we are doing at the moment

4. Establish a perform pathway for elite chess players
5. Organise at least 3 International Junior events per year, at least 1 where IM norm are available
6. Get a 50% rise in FIDE rated players U18 in the next two years
7. Establish an elite squad of 10 - 20 players with at least 5 training session per year
8. Establish a development squad of 20 - 40 players with at least two training sessions per year and access to on-line support
9. Obtain outside sponsorship for World and European Championships
10. Get at least 2000 juniors taking the CoM on-line by year 2

This is not meant to be exhaustive list and you may disagree with some of the things I have put. However, hopefully this shows the general thrust of how the targets might be set.

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by John Upham » Thu Sep 02, 2010 1:03 pm

Matthew,

How do you assess the achievements of the current Director of Junior Chess and Education?
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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Matthew Turner » Thu Sep 02, 2010 1:21 pm

John,
The job of Junior Director is very difficult and becoming more difficult, the main junior events change dates and location almost on a whim, making planning almost impossible.
The point that I am making is that the structure of the ECF makes the Junior Directorship almost a holding role. It is very difficult just to maintain the existing level of activity. In order to move junior chess forward then the role of the Junior Director and the ECF have to be approached from a different angle, hence my suggestions above.

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Richard James » Thu Sep 02, 2010 5:40 pm

Stewart Reuben wrote:Christopher Kreuzer >Richard, if you can remember, how many of those at RJCC attended schools outside the borough? I lived in the borough of Richmond (still do), and went to both primary and secondary school in Kingston. But I remember quite a few RJCC members (at the secondary school level) being from further afield (probably because people expand their horizons when looking for a secondary school). Am I remembering it right?<

The reason so many of those at RJCC attended and attend school outside Richmond is because they live(d) outside Richmond. This is because it was and is such a centre of excellence. Why don't you come along to the club. You should have a CRB clearance to stay for any length of time. Examples of people who came at least occasionally to RJCC include McShane, Howell, Gavin Wall, Murugan, Peter Williams.
David Howell never came to RJCC. The others you mention all did, as did many others who later became IMs and GMs, notably Jonathan Rowson.

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Re: Certificate of Merit

Post by Richard James » Thu Sep 02, 2010 6:05 pm

While I agree with much of what has been said here about improving facilities for our leading young players, I think it misses the main point.

I believe the main focus of junior chess policy should be to ensure that as many children as possible continue to enjoy chess throughout their lives, regardless of the level they reach.

Yes, we need GMs and IMs, but we also need average players. We need them to be club secretaries, treasurers and match captains, to be organisers, controllers, arbiters and graders, to teach their children and grandchildren to play, to teach other people's children to play, to take part in tournaments so that the prize funds will encourage GMs and IMs to continue playing.

Is it better to produce someone who becomes a GM at 18 and then stops playing because there's no money in the game, or someone who spends 60 years enjoying his games for his local club and in local competitions while never being graded above 150? I'm pleased that RJCC produced GMs like Luke McShane and IMs like Richard Bates, but I'm if anything even more pleased that someone like Christopher Kreuzer is continuing to play and enjoy chess even though he hasn't quite (yet) reached such exalted levels. Nurturing the apex of the pyramid is all well and good, but without a solid base the whole edifice will collapse.

Perhaps we have our priorities completely wrong.

Consider this (based on watching children's chess development over the past 40 years):

The earlier a child starts playing competitive chess the more likely (s)he is to become a GM.
The later a child starts playing competitive chess the more likely (s)he is to continue playing as an adult.

To take an example (I hope he doesn't mind my mentioning him in this context): Alex Holowczak is a very enthusiastic player, organiser and member of this forum. It's really great that young people are getting involved in this way. But, to the best of my knowledge (his first published grade was in 2006) he only started playing competitively in his mid teens, just as I did many years ago.

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