2016 draw

Discussion about all aspects of the ECF County Championships.
benedgell
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by benedgell » Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:14 pm

Mike Truran wrote:
You are in the hands of volunteers some more competent than others.
At every level of chess from the Federation downward there is a dearth of organisers.
Indeed. It may be that it will be the ruination of us all in the fullness of time.
Certainly true for the south- west. I think we've got 2, potentially 3 counties this season who won't have teams because of a lack of people willing to captain. :(

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:22 pm

Single team? I think the SCCU counties quite like the idea of multiple SCCU counties qualifying for the knockout stages. Or are you saying the knockout stages of the Open would be reduced to just the Final?

The SCCU competition is strong at the moment, but it only takes one team to drop out and the whole thing starts to reduce in size.

e.g. 2015-16 and 2014-15 (two seasons) was 5 teams and 4 matches:

http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/table.htm
http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/1415/table.htm

Herts have not competed in the SCCU Open for the past two seasons.

2007-8 to 2013-14 (7 seasons) was 6 teams and 5 matches:

http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/1314/table.htm

2004-5 to 2006-7 (three seasons) was 5 teams and 4 matches:

http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/0607/table.htm

Middlesex were the missing county in those years.

Back in 2003-4 you had 7 teams and six matches:

http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/0304/table.htm

(Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire fielded Open teams)

In 2002-3 and 2001-2, Oxfordshire joined the party, so you had 8 teams and 7 matches.

http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/0203/table.htm

In 2000-1, Middlesex were also present and in the process of falling apart and defaulting 4 of their 8 matches. Some of the other teams had to play 8 matches compared to the four they play nowadays.

http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/0001/table.htm

In 1999-2000, there were ten(!) teams with nine matches to play:

http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/9900/table.htm

Forty-five (45) 16-board matches (three of them were defaulted 16-0). Potentially 720 games of chess.
The five teams playing in the SCCU Open then, that do not today: Bucks, Berks, Herts, Oxon, Cambs.
Today, it is ten (10) 16-board matches and 160 games of chess. A contraction of nearly 80%.

1998-9 was also 9 teams and 8 matches, with Berkshire instead of Middlesex:

http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/9899/table.htm

The SCCU website records don't go back further than that.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:49 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
The SCCU website records don't go back further than that.
If you go back to the 1960s, the SCCU teams were

Middlesex
Surrey
Essex
Kent
Sussex
Herts
Bucks
Berks
Oxon
Cambs
Beds
Norfolk
Suffolk
Hants

Needless to say there had to be more than one section. The organisation of this varied over time as to whether there was a mid season split in 4NCL style, a pair of equally weighted division with a play off for champion, or two divisions with second teams making up the numbers.

Hants were the first to leave, joining WECU. Then Cambs, Beds, Norfolk and Suffolk broke off to form EACU although a University based team continue to represent Cambs in the SCCU competition. That takes it to the 1990s.

The Chiltern competition was originally set up between Bucks, Berks, Oxon and Hants (Herts also briefly) to enable second team players to play matches without having to travel to Essex or Kent. Over time the rules have changed so it's now an Open and U 150 competition between Bucks, Berks, Oxon and Hants over 20 boards. It's always been independent of the BCF or ECF National stages.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Fri Jun 10, 2016 2:04 pm

Just to pick up on a few points. Obviously Alex put forward some proposals for reform last year. The two most radical points; breaking the connection with the Union stages and bringing the national stages forward so that matches were no longer played in summer; proved very unpopular and were scrapped.

Just to push back on one point regarding the lack of participation from Northern counties; I don't think the problem is lack of interest in chess but simply a lack of interest in inter county chess. There are many capable organisers within the Northern counties but they choose to devote their energy to congresses and/ or 4NCL instead.

Martin's idea of combining the MCCU and NCCU national stages as far as the open is concerned is an interesting one (although it would involve some fairly complex negotiations) but that would be a Union matter rather than an ECF one.

It perhaps doesn't help that when proposals are put to Council about the County Championships (and leaving aside the fact that Council is not always the most representative body anyway) they tend to get shoved to the end of the agenda which means either the debate gets guillotined or the meeting has to close before they can be discussed.
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MartinCarpenter
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by MartinCarpenter » Fri Jun 10, 2016 2:23 pm

The Northern county I worry slightly about is Lancashire. About ten years ago when I started they fielded very strong 16 man Open and U175 (U190 in new money!) teams at the same time.

Now they seemingly can't even field an open team and an U180 team at once. Maybe that is al they're worried about. Yorkshire not having an U180 team is definitely purely down to organisation/enthusiasm.
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:Single team? I think the SCCU counties quite like the idea of multiple SCCU counties qualifying for the knockout stages. Or are you saying the knockout stages of the Open would be reduced to just the Final?
The number of teams in the Open competition has been progressively decreasing over time in recent years. That's been countered by allowing ever more teams to qualify.

Now? 6 teams in theory, but only 5 teams actually playing their matches in the K/O section for the past two seasons. 3 of those are I believe from the SCCU. Surely that isn't sensibly sustainable. If Yorkshire had lost our 1/4 final, the semis would have had 3 SCCU counties and a bye :)

More teams best but where from? Conceivably minor counties somehow I guess.

If that can't be done then one very sane option would be to cut the number of qualifiers from the NCCU/SCCU down and have the qualifiers being really meaningful. Maybe straight to final, maybe a semi.

Nick Grey
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Nick Grey » Fri Jun 10, 2016 3:52 pm

It was a shame to have a busy week at work, & on a day off picking up on this thread. I feel sorry for Staffs & Middlesex organisers & players - generally there are a lot of volunteers doing a lot of organising & then teams & maybe the organisations collapse. It is difficult enough for the counties to find & book venues. There is another big semi-final to take place tomorrow Surrey v Yorkshire & the winner gets to play Middlesex in the final.

I have been playing County Chess since the mid-80s. In those days we had 1st, 2nd & 3rd teams, then U175s/U150s, & expansion downwards, then U180s/U160s. I was playing because of only one game on one day & at most a monthly commitment. That left time for the family. I cut my chess commitments as well.

One of the highlights was if we qualified for the national stages was to play other Counties. Some inevitable issues in April, May, June & July with holidays, & other player absences. It was also good to have excellent SCCU matches & very sympathetic to Counties that were not getting volunteers to captain teams & had to pull out at various times.

Surrey have 4 teams in the semi-finals - Open, U180, U160, U140 this weekend. This seems to be a first for us. The U160 team (or U150 or 3rd team) have never got to the semi-final stages let alone a final & we look forward to playing Middlesex tomorrow. We will be finished in time to pick up the England football match (8pm ko).

Lancashire fielded a team in the Open in the quarter-final, should be applauded for getting players out. With U180/U140 Lancashire v Surrey semifinals being played on Sunday it seems that Lancashire are in fine shape. it will also be nice if we win a few of this weekend's matches for the players but also those that have played County Chess for a lot longer than I who are unavailable this weekend. They have been very supportive.

We like our SCCU stages but then again want to have national stages too. It is fantastic to play counties from North, West, East, in between. We equally have encouraged older players by making phone calls, knowing full well that they have not got computers, women, Juniors & their parents, as well our regulars & new players.

On a particular point of leaving to ECF & Council & putting it late on the agenda. Perhaps bring forward. The ECF ought to consult with Unions & the Counties themselves anyway. It will be nice if it could be put on the agenda further up as this an ECF competition.

I'm sure Alex does. Andrew has been very supportive in the national stages. SCCU have been encouraging & all the Counties that have played.

Anyway those that are playing County Chess & organising too have a good weekend.

Mick Norris
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Mick Norris » Fri Jun 10, 2016 5:50 pm

MartinCarpenter wrote:Well, if Lancs keep being daft, Yorkshire could always take ourselves off to the MCCU ;)
Or we could form a Northern Chess Federation* together

* original idea of Martin Regan
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Andrew Zigmond
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Fri Jun 10, 2016 6:02 pm

MartinCarpenter wrote:Yorkshire not having an U180 team is definitely purely down to organisation/enthusiasm.
Exactly. Everybody in the 170-180 bracket expecting somebody else to volunteer for all the hard work ...
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Alex Holowczak
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Alex Holowczak » Fri Jun 10, 2016 7:19 pm

The biggest issue with the County Championship - and this thread is a great example of that - is that everybody has different ideas about what can be done to improve, fix, or change it. There's never a consensus. In fact, there are probably more people with opinions on how to improve the County Championship than there are captaining teams in the County Championship - which is the thing that would improve it most, of course.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Fri Jun 10, 2016 10:11 pm

I hesitated to add this because I might be overstepping the mark - the responsibility for leading policy debates on the County Championships lies with Alex, not me. In any case I thought it belonged in a seperate post to the one I made above.

Abolishing the minor counties ... could it work?

A glance at the matches so far in the Minor Counties shows how strong some of the teams are actually. That Mark Hebden will not have any further involvement in the 2016 competition because his team went out in the quarters says it all.

Combining the two sections would give you (possibly) a fifteen team competition across four rounds which would make for an exciting contest. I'm sure the current open heavyweights would welcome the challenge of the minor counties teams and there would possibly be less North vs South contests. Of course the ball is perhaps more in the court of the Minor Counties teams.

To the contributors to this thread who play inter County chess (ie most of you) it is YOUR competition. Alex and myself can be radical reformers or cautious tweakers. It depends which one you would prefer.

But I'm just making conversation.
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Graham Borrowdale
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Graham Borrowdale » Fri Jun 10, 2016 11:16 pm

The irony of the Minor Counties being so strong is that counties, or their unions, seem to prefer to play in it because they feel they have a better chance of winning it. So, for example, the EACU does not send a team to the Open final stages, but has 3 teams in the Minor Counties, all of which have reached the semi-finals this year. And then we see teams defaulting in the Open, apparently through lack of interest. So for me, the Open and Minor Counties could be combined, to make a viable final stages for the mid-range to top teams, as Andrew Zigmond describes above.

Mike Truran wrote:Is county chess in long term decline? Discuss.

Light blue touch paper and retire......
On the original question there would seem to be no doubt that it is in decline - you only have to look at the average age of the players to see that - but it does serve a market. I sense that most county players, at least in the SCCU and EACU, are there to play chess, every 2 or 3 weeks through the season, with the final stages being the icing on the cake should they get there. The final stages are not the main event.

Richard Bates
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Richard Bates » Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:13 am

Another option might be to change the Minor Counties into a "plate" competition, perhaps to be contested by the 4 losing quarter finalists in the Open. Whether you apply the average grading restriction to the plate would be a matter of discussion.

MartinCarpenter
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by MartinCarpenter » Sat Jun 11, 2016 8:41 am

The open very definitely needs more teams somehow. Imagine if Yorks had a bad run of organisation in the next few years....

I can understand why these teams are in the minor counties - yes all these teams averaging precisely 180 must surely be able to manage ~185 on a good day. Impressive and enough to compete with the top Open teams, but its still 10 pts/board and over 16 boards you'd still only something between win 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 matches, and very rarely several in a row.

Must get a bit dispiriting over time.

I dislike the idea in principle but if it got some of these teams back into the open, then dropping down to 12 boards/team would make sense. Maybe go back to 16 for the semis/finals when it gets a little easier to raise teams.

If you look at the teams this/last year, outside the final, even the big teams like Yorkshire/the SCCU teams are slightly struggling to field an entire 16 man team of 180-190+ players for the K/O matches.

Mick Norris
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Mick Norris » Sat Jun 11, 2016 10:44 am

Richard Bates wrote:Another option might be to change the Minor Counties into a "plate" competition, perhaps to be contested by the 4 losing quarter finalists in the Open. Whether you apply the average grading restriction to the plate would be a matter of discussion.
I like this idea, particularly if it could involve some sort of seeding to allow the possibility of the best teams being kept apart
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Sean Hewitt
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Re: 2016 draw

Post by Sean Hewitt » Sat Jun 11, 2016 11:59 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote: A glance at the matches so far in the Minor Counties shows how strong some of the teams are actually. That Mark Hebden will not have any further involvement in the 2016 competition because his team went out in the quarters says it all.

Combining the two sections would give you (possibly) a fifteen team competition across four rounds which would make for an exciting contest. I'm sure the current open heavyweights would welcome the challenge of the minor counties teams and there would possibly be less North vs South contests. Of course the ball is perhaps more in the court of the Minor Counties teams.
I think that would be the death of the county championships full stop. Leicestershire stopped playing in the open not because we couldn't win it (we couldn't, but we've not won the minor counties either) but because we couldn't field a competitive team in the open. Faced with open teams from the SCCU, plus Yorks / Lancs we simply got whacked every time - which then makes getting a strong side out next time all the more difficult. We can raise a decent side in the minor counties precisely because the average cap means we can be competitve. Win or lose, we've not had a one sided match that I can recall.

It's a question of numbers. The strongest counties in the open are also the largest (measured by number of active players and by population) and that's absolutely no surprise. Though there are some big counties that are not as strong as you might suspect, there are no small counties that break the stranglehold of the large counties. It's also worth saying that an average cap for the minor counties is far superior to a grading limit in this regard - e.g. Jack Rudd can play for Somerset in the monor counties but not the U180 - and many smaller counties do have the odd strong player.

If you were going to get rid of a national section, the u180 section is the one to go. It is mainly the preserve of the larger counties I mention above whislt teams like Devon would be a welcome addition to the minor counties. But there is a demand for that section so I'd keep it.

Abolishing or regionalising qualifying is the way forward, but the SCCU don't appear to be prepared to counternance that.

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