Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Discussion about all aspects of the ECF County Championships.
Kevin Thurlow
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Tue Jul 16, 2019 8:00 pm

"I will be sending the winners medal to the recycling bin as it became a worthless token as soon as the baby wept"

Don't do that - your eloquent post deserves a medal!

Nick Grey
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Nick Grey » Tue Jul 16, 2019 8:56 pm

We hope Lincs players get compensation. I hope you win the 101st Minor Counties. And I agree with Kevin about you deserving a medal!

Jon Underwood
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Jon Underwood » Wed Jul 17, 2019 9:36 am

This thread seems to be confirming the internet as the go to place for thoughtless, ill-informed abuse.

First some context -

Plymouth (Devon's largest city) is more than 250 miles from Kettering. Even the furthest small outposts of Lancashire and Yorkshire are around the 175 mile mark, and of course the vast majority of their players would be a lot closer than that. The rules allow the nomination of a central venue for finals day. Yet every year for more than a decade Devon has been the furthest away of the teams to make the national stages, unless Cornwall have made it, in which case it has been them.

That journey is about 4.5 hours non-stop. On a summer Saturday you'd have to allow 5.5, plus stops, and I suspect most people have heard horror stories of families withering to skeletons in their cars to and from a West Country holiday. Then you are supposed to be in a fit state to play a 5 hour chess match for a prestigious title. And then drive back. Did anyone think for a moment what would happen if someone had an accident on the way and the position DCCA and the ECF would then find themselves in?

You can't hire a minibus and driver. We tried. It's too far even from Exeter and the firms rightly point out the legal restrictions which now apply. So there remains the option of an overnight stay and leaving work early on Friday. Obviously that rules out a hell of a lot of people, never mind about the cost. We are a minor county, note the name, and don't have a bottomless pool of players.

In what sense is Kettering central? Maybe only if you chop off Devon and Cornwall – though it is a widespread belief that they are both in fact in England (don't tell the provisional wing of Mebyon Kernow where I live) In what way is this a fair sporting contest (note the ECF value statement)? Why does it happen year after year, and then this year get made worse and nobody at the ECF had even thought about it. We start to wonder if this is some sort of hate campaign to get rid of WECU permanently, which may well have finally succeeded.

Here's what actually happened this year (all can be proved with emails which may yet be necessary)-

When the final venue was revealed, and a good two months before the day itself, I put in a very polite protest to the ECF that we were unlikely to be able to get a team to Kettering should we actually make it. It just rules out too many players. I got a very sympathetic response straight away, and it was acknowledged that there would have to be alternative arrangements should Cornwall make it. So I thought common sense and fairness would prevail.

We did in fact qualify for the final (see below), before the other semi final had even been contested, (so they could have warned the others easily that there was an issue) I then put in another more formal request/protest/objection.

And then for the best part of a month, despite further prompting, I heard... nothing.

When I eventually said - look this is getting desperate now, what is going on? - I eventually got a response along the lines of, we have considered your case and basically you can get stuffed.

Then with 12 days ago I got another message saying: we've got the green light from above, looking for a venue near Worcester for your match, see the ECF does listen. I said fine we would bend over backwards to do that, we'd even do it on another day as I appreciate that is quite short notice. That hope lasted several hours until we got another message saying Lincs had said no and it was back to |Plan A which, as you may recall, was get stuffed.

We did have 13 players who were willing to make the trip to Kettering and stay overnight, so I offered a 12 board match with 8 days to go (7 for us of course since we are special and required to leave on the Friday), though I did point to the ECF what we were I think justifiably furious and wouldn't be dropping our protest. I also said we would have to know in 24 hours – obviously organising a 500 mile round trip for 12 people with an overnight stay takes some doing, what with bookings and cancellations and life in general.

I thought I would get a pretty much instant reply but Lincs weren't keen apparently and I eventually pulled the plug after a day of people wanting a definitive answer.

There seems to an attitude implicit on this thread that we are simply yokels whinging about the time we would have to spend away from our farm animals, and without the money and gumption to organise the necessary chopper flight for 16.

I have asked every chess player we could find on Earth who knows the right order to spread the jam and cream (from a best of two guesses). That includes four titled players. Three have never played for us before and declined. The fourth now lives in Australia and we couldn't find his contact details. One of our players who would have been board 1 was set to drag his wife from holiday in N Wales and drive to Kettering in a campervan.

Even the 12 board match we would very likely have lost with a weakenened team but you can perhaps understand why I am quite cross we have been made out as some band of cider-swilling lightweights who just can't be bothered.

The ECF did graciously admit we have gone above and beyond to play that match

On this theme, here's what some other captains have experienced, since it seems clear some people have little idea of the difficulties involved.

In this year's QF the Notts captain told me he was struggling to get the team together, though they did eventually make it, and a classic match it was too.

For this year's semi final Suffolk couldn't get a team and conceded the match rather than waste everyone's time by defaulting a whole lot of boards.

In both cases the travel for both sides was far less than would have been required for us to go to Kettering.

In last year's semi the opposing captain told me they had struggled to get a full team out to the neutral venue (still more like 150 miles than 250), but luckily he was able to call on the services of GM Matthew Turner to push up their average to something more competitive; overkill maybe - at 250 I guess he's the finest player to have graced the minor counties semi or indeed even the open for quite a while. We were quite surprised, having faced him playing for our neighbours Somerset previously. (I note Matthew represents Scotland and isn't even an ECF member – gather he might have had the same sort of experience at their hands I now have.)

I read this on a county website, where a captain writes concerning the difficulties they face even competing in the union stages:

"The MCCU fixture list always provides [] with some difficulties in selecting a team in alternate seasons. Last year we had the luxury of two home games in [] and two matches at neutral venues. This season we are faced with two matches away from home and two matches at neutral venues. So getting a strong team for every match will not be easy due to the amount of travel involved..."

The county in our semi final last year.. Lincolnshire. And the county lamenting having to travel across just the Midlands to their union matches? Er, that'd be Lincolnshire too.

And I sympathise.

Mike Gunn
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Mike Gunn » Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:07 am

I sympathise with Devon. I think we should change the rules so that either team has the right to insist on a telephone match (at all stages of the competition). I understand from earlier discussion that such a thing can be easily done these days via the internet although the name of the software you would use escapes me. Can anyone fill in the details? The important thing is that chess games are played and we shouldn't be requiring people to travel hundreds of miles to do so.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by David Sedgwick » Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:12 am

Thank you for your detailed account of events. I have edited my earlier post.
Jon Underwood wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 9:36 am
When the final venue was revealed, and a good two months before the day itself, I put in a very polite protest to the ECF that we were unlikely to be able to get a team to Kettering should we actually make it.
Are you saying that you, and every other team presumably, had to decide whether to enter the National Stages before you knew where the Finals were to be? In my opinion that should not be the case.

Jon Underwood
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Jon Underwood » Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:15 am

I'd be perfectly happy with any team being able to insist on a neutral venue if they specified that was the case in March, say. We're not asking for the earth, just a somewhat level playing field.

Jon Underwood
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Jon Underwood » Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:18 am

David Sedgwick wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:12 am
Thank you for your detailed account of events. I have edited my earlier post.
Jon Underwood wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 9:36 am
When the final venue was revealed, and a good two months before the day itself, I put in a very polite protest to the ECF that we were unlikely to be able to get a team to Kettering should we actually make it.
Are you saying that you, and every other team presumably, had to decide whether to enter the National Stages before you knew where the Finals were to be? In my opinion that should not be the case.
Thanks.

Yes I am saying that, it is true. Though also I am saying the Finals should never be held anywhere which savagely disadvantages someone. How would it be right for counties to make their decision based on where the final had to be held? I absolutely do not think the final should be held in Bristol next year as some kind of payback - even though that would be slightly closer to all of this years teams than Kettering was to us.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by David Sedgwick » Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:22 am

Jon Underwood wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:15 am
I'd be perfectly happy with any team being able to insist on a neutral venue if they specified that was the case in March, say. We're not asking for the earth, just a somewhat level playing field.
Perhaps teams could be asked to indicate, when submitting their entries for the National Stages at the end of March, if they felt that they would not be able to field a team at the designated central venue for the Finals. The ECF could then decide whether to accept the entry on that understanding, or to refuse it.

Jon Underwood
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Jon Underwood » Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:29 am

David Sedgwick wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:22 am
Jon Underwood wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:15 am
I'd be perfectly happy with any team being able to insist on a neutral venue if they specified that was the case in March, say. We're not asking for the earth, just a somewhat level playing field.
Perhaps teams could be asked to indicate, when submitting their entries for the National Stages at the end of March, if they felt that they would not be able to field a team at the designated central venue for the Finals. The ECF could then decide whether to accept the entry on that understanding, or to refuse it.
Yes, though wouldn't it be a sad state of affairs if they did refuse? Say Cornwall (birthplace of arguably our best ever player I might add) made it to the final for the first time ever and were then ejected. I don't know whether the final venue was actually known for sure in March or whether it just wasn't published until afterwards. Discussions I've had suggested the ECF has some idea earlier but I don't know for certain.

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David Shepherd
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by David Shepherd » Wed Jul 17, 2019 12:08 pm

Jon Underwood wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 9:36 am
First some context -

Plymouth (Devon's largest city) is more than 250 miles from Kettering. Even the furthest small outposts of Lancashire and Yorkshire are around the 175 mile mark, and of course the vast majority of their players would be a lot closer than that. The rules allow the nomination of a central venue for finals day.
I believe the straight line distance from to Plymouth to Kettering is about 203 miles. The distance from Berwick on Tweed to Kettering is 239 miles and from Penzance to Kettering it is 261 miles. Its fairly central in that sense. Ignoring Devon & Cornwall would mean the selected venue was too far South.

The problem with any central venue is that it may be inconvenient for some of the teams to get to.

Neil Graham
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Neil Graham » Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:13 pm

Can I thank Mick Norris firstly for updating the stats?

Secondly if I may before starting on specifics about central venues may I thank the Director of Home Chess, the Championship Controller and the Arbiters for their sterling work at the finals.

Thirdly I'll deal with the previous postings in due course once I've digested the comments.

Finally I understood this to be a flagship event of the Federation and thankfully it is treated as such. We played at an excellent central venue with all the amenities (clocks, equipment, scoresheets, arbiters etc provided). It was a proper Finals day which we were pleased to be part of. To reach these finals we have had to pay out *£250 to hire a variety of village halls mostly in the back of beyond, negotiate with other captains, sort out payments to arbiters if required, lug equipment and refreshments here there and everywhere, set up tables & chairs then put back tables and chairs and then find that one venue wants to charge us £10 extra because we didn't peruse the small print closely enough and forgot to provide a tea-towel.

I remember the last Final I played in before we had central venues and a proper finals day. It was played in the Nether Wallop (or similar) Village Hall miles away from anywhere; indeed probably everywhere. Of course we were unable to view these salubrious premises before the final. The selection of tables/chairs resembled the Himalayas - none fitted together and rose and fell like the mountain chain. The younger members had to sit on the nursery chairs to play on the tables reserved for the pre-school play groups. Afterwards we left payment in the kitchen. Subsequently we found it had disappeared from the drawer where it had been placed.

God forbid we have to return to those days!

* This figure just covers the final stages and not the Union qualification where we spent well over £300 in hire costs.

Richard Bates
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Richard Bates » Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:24 pm

Has any serious investigation been done into the potential for “telephone” matches? It seems crazy that something which was a fairly common place solution in the past to deal with the impossibility of finding reasonable venues for teams based at the extremities of the country, should have so far drifted from the debate at a time when modern technology should suggest completely the opposite.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Roger de Coverly » Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:52 pm

Richard Bates wrote:
Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:24 pm
It seems crazy that something which was a fairly common place solution in the past to deal with the impossibility of finding reasonable venues for teams based at the extremities of the country, should have so far drifted from the debate at a time when modern technology should suggest completely the opposite.
I cannot recall any County telephone matches in thirty years. There was one between Berkshire and Cumberland/Cumbria in the mid 1980s which wasn't completed although Berks got enough points for a winning margin. As you say it should be straightforward enough with mobile communications, or play via one of the internet servers. You would still need a neutral arbiter at each end to ensure fair play.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Alex Holowczak » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:42 pm

Richard Bates wrote:
Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:24 pm
Has any serious investigation been done into the potential for “telephone” matches?
No. When it was in the rules to allow them, and I suggested it to team captainss when they complained about the distances involved in their upcoming match, it was generally met with incredulity and the desire to persevere with trying to play face-to-face. It was fairly clear which way the wind was blowing on the matter, so I didn't feel the need to investigate it. That's why the provision was removed from the rules.

I did offer the idea of playing matches by Internet on occasion, even though there was no provision in the rules to do so. There was generally a bit more appetite to try to make that work, but there were too many hurdles, some of which I summarise from memory below:
1. "<Some fraction> of our team don't play chess online and wouldn't feel comfortable with it"
2. "Where would we all meet?"
3. "What about cheating? Where do we get the arbiter from?"
4. "Which website do we use? Or do we have to download software?"
5. No server of which I am currently aware can handle such a long time limit; so we'd need to ask one of the companies to do it, and so there'd probably be money involved.
6. What happens if there's a disconnection, which is more likely given the length of the time limit?

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Joey Stewart
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Re: Finals 13 July 2019 @ Kettering

Post by Joey Stewart » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:46 pm

Simple solution - the ecf purchase a set of cheap tablets, use the fide online arena as a "venue" and have the machines locked out of any app downloads or web browsers to avoid the cheating issue.

l this allows the whole game to be played in an agreeable venue to the arbiter (since they will be the one needing to travel and ensure there is no conferring between the players, bring the tablets, or in rare cases have a "misclick" move redacted).

A pretty good solution to help revitalise county chess, at a relatively low cost to the ecf (Im sure the whole thing could be financed by having one less reserve in the olympiad team for a year)
Lose one queen and it is a disaster, Lose 1000 queens and it is just a statistic.

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