I think the anti-reform attitudes that we see from this thread can be summarised by the mentality shown below, of which there are a number of inaccuracies and popular misconceptions that need addressing:
Kevin Thurlow wrote: ↑
Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:59 pm
Artificial ways of producing teams will not help. Even when the 4NCL had been running for a while, you had matches with 7GMs and a female graded 120, against 7GMs and a female graded 110 or winning on default. Sometimes one side had a WGM, so the 120 female plays a 200+ player, which not everyone likes. The players winning on default will give up, the strong players excluded from the team as there is a weak player replacing them will give up, everyone loses. The reasons juniors give up is well-documented - too much coursework, then the current fad for everyone going to University, and then when you get a job, the hours are horrendous. Chess is not welcoming for female players, partly because of some male attitudes. I don't think women's ghetto chess helps. Chess should be open to all and all should be welcome, but it obviously doesn't always happen. Messing with team events is pointless. If you shoehorn a female or junior player into the team, you just get resentment, and as Alan noted, the smaller counties might not have a ready supply of such players. So the bigger and stronger counties get a bigger advantage.
It is correct to recognise the trend of fewer juniors (boys & girls), young people and women playing chess. But, simply saying that *this* is the trend and that it will merely continue, is defeatist and (if I'm so bold) complicit in reinforcing this trend.
Coursework is oftentimes the "well-documented" reason that children give parents (or the reason that parents give teachers), when juniors drop chess. But from my experience it is generally untrue. At the moment, let's look at pre-secondary school kids (U11s), I am a member of the University of Warwick Chess Society, and our members coach chess to U11s weekly (every Friday & Saturday) at a local primary school (Grange Farm Primary) and the well-known Coventry Chess Academy (CCA). At both these places, we have gender parity of the kids attending. By secondary school, the trend moves to many more boys than girls playing (perhaps the girls are getting more coursework than the boys!). In reality, juniors drop chess for reasons of fitting-in at school, this affects girls more than boys, but both see a reduction of interest - certainly fitting-in is more significant than say coursework. This is hardly surprising when kids start to notice that chess is mostly played by old guys, and all of a sudden (especially reaching secondary school) chess becomes seen a 'boy' sport. Perhaps to say that "chess is not welcoming for female players, partly because of some male attitudes" has an element of truth, but fundamentally, there is a lack of female role models in chess at every level, from local clubs, county level, to nationally. This lack of gender parity will simply not help encourage more girls to play chess, regardless of the amount of coursework they have!
Obviously, old guys playing chess is a historic trend; from my understanding, chess was traditionally a 'working man' 's sport played in working men's clubs across the country, and after the economic-political change of the 1980s, working men's clubs were in a decline, and subsequently the uptake of chess went down to. [I was confirmed this by the Director of the CCA - so I take it to be largely true...] The point is that, obviously we can not force quotas of 50:50 male-to-female, or equivalent proportions between adults:children that reflect the national population! But unless, someone is going to suggest how else we should widen participation for juniors (to which I will answer further down), this set of proposals is relatively thin gruel, not some radical "social engineering" programme that some seem to suggest...
Michael Farthing wrote: ↑
Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:52 pm
the decision to try to answer problems with the competition is being used as an opportunity by the Board to engage in social engineering. I believe strongly that is outside the remit of the ECF and is most certainly outside the remit of its Board.
Whilst we should avoid fanning too many conspiracy theories (haha), it's worth noting that these changes would be within the remit of the ECF. If the English Chess Federation's remit is not to increase the number of people playing chess in England - amid a trend of diminishing juniors and women playing chess in England - then one has to remind me what is the ECF's remit?!
And let's not kid ourselves, requiring a minimum of one woman, two U18 year olds, and one U11 is hardly groundbreaking (perhaps groundbreaking compared to complete inaction). Someone will have to provide me an example of which county doesn't have one women and two U18 juniors who plays chess proficiently! And yes, perhaps not every county may find one U11 kid graded 200+ ECF, but all counties will be constrained to the same rule...
Obviously, I mustn't forget that a few helpful souls have reminded us that "the bigger and stronger counties [will] get a bigger advantage" (or words to that effect). Perhaps... though I would like to see that evidence when it happens (I'm personally doubtful of any significant difference). Even if this is were marginally true, insisting that counties have at least one U11 junior in this proposal, will encourage the kid(s) to continue playing chess in a more profound manner than other formats. This proposal ensures there would be at least one U18 Boy and one U18 Girl for the U11 Junior to look up to - as role models in their own team, as well as, many more Juniors in the Championships overall. Incidentally, this is where I can agree with Kevin, "ghettos" don't work, so having women-only and Junior-only Divisions for the County Championships is not the answer.
Alan Walton wrote: ↑
Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:12 pm
perhaps there is something more fundamental the ECF must look at rather than the competition element; perhaps throwing more money at it may be the only option
I then found this from Alan, which was interesting - to say the least!
Yes, there is something more fundamental (and perhaps money could play a role, but it's not critical). I know some clubs have tried and not succeeded, and I know it's not easy, because I've been there before. Last year, as President of Warwick Chess
- alongside the aforementioned Tom Thorpe (Vice President) and Jonathan Robbins (Treasurer) - the Committee was committed to substantially address falling numbers and all the other trends that we've discussing here. In a nutshell, it required a lot of creativity to leave the Society with 130 members, increase the number of teams in the Coventry League that we fielded to five across 3 Divisions, send 7 Teams to the British Universities' Chess Team Championships (which Alex runs, and we also won it), and provide a change in environment where 4 of the current 12 Committee members are women (and we did not force any quotas - besides, a third would be quite an unreasonable quota, considering the demographics of the membership!).
The details of how we changed the club is something I haven't covered here, but we showed that you can increase participation (both generally, and for women) without affecting the 'standard' of play by winning the BUCA Team Championships, and that coursework and student fads were not a barrier to our success.
Some of you may point out that Warwick never resorted to forcing quotas, etc, and we took a 'bottom-up' approach to change the nature, and increase the size, of the membership; whereas opposition to the reforms here, is that somehow the 'Board' is forcing this through in a 'top-down' manner. But, the trend of diminishing numbers of Juniors and women playing chess is unlikely to be reversed by the ECF doing nothing, and expecting individual clubs and counties to independently start a wave of outreach/coaching and PR programmes to encourage young girls and boys to play chess!
What this set of proposals do, is to create an impetus for County Captains across the country to actively look for young boys and girls to play chess, and create a reason to drive clubs in each county to focus on widening participation. To be honest, it isn't nearly that ambitious, because all the reforms do, is ask for one player from each of these demographics to play! Whilst it is hardly a revolution, it will be a positive step in making County chess more inviting environment for young boys and girls to play.
Any attempt to thin down this current proposal will result in this rather entertaining situation, suggested by Brendan!
Brendan O'Gorman wrote: ↑
Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:22 am
Even then, I can’t help wondering how easy it would be to persuade a female player to travel hundreds of miles in a car to join fifteen male (probably) chess players to play one game of chess in a drab social centre in Wolverhampton. That describes my last county game several years ago (except that I’m an old bloke). It’s an experience I shall never repeat.
All views are my own, and do not represent the official views of any chess organisation that I am part of.
ECF Delegate | Coventry & District Chess League 2017-18
President | University of Warwick Chess Society 2016-17