Junior Chess Clubs

National developments, strategies and ideas.
John Kendell
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Junior Chess Clubs

Post by John Kendell » Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:55 am

My son is a keen young chess player. I also am now returning to the game after a 25 year period. I am amazed at the decline in opportunities for youngsters to play chess now compared to the opportunities available to me. I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone on here. In our area it only seems to be private schools and the odd state school. We now both attend our local chess club in Rugby which runs an excellent junior section. Most youngsters there seem to be at state schools so I'm assuming there is little organised chess in school.

What has also come as a shock is the lack of coherent information available for parents. The internet is obviously first port of call. The junior section of the Warwickshire Chess Association doesn't seem to have been written. 1 sentence describing what will be included appears to have been written in 2010, nothing since. There are links to local leagues though so at least one can find nearby clubs.

By way of comparison I looked at the Oxfordshire equivalent to find they are running 3 junior teams (under 9 and under 11), have loads of training opportunities, junior clubs galore and a very informative website.

I'm assuming all County Associations are administered voluntarily and therefore don't wish to cast blame. However had we lived 20 miles south my son would have huge opportunities to progress. We're currently scratching around trying to find games. Given that chess needs a large number of youngsters to play in order to keep the game healthy in the future what can be done to help struggling counties like Warwickshire? Does the ECF monitor or provide resources for counties (or MCCU??). I currently volunteer at a local school to help with their chess clubs but that doesn't address the bigger issue.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:22 pm

As the Junior Secretary for the Warwickshire Chess Association, I'm probably well-placed to comment!

The junior section of the Warwickshire Chess Association had been written. You may have noticed that, however, the whole website is about a year behind. The webmaster - yes, we're all volunteers - has not maintained it due to changing personal circumstances. In the absence of any other volunteers though, there's not a lot we can do about it.

Oxfordshire's Under 9 and 11 teams are almost certainly EPSCA-based. This isn't the remit of the Warwickshire Chess Association. At least, it wasn't part of my remit when I took over the job. The post had previously been vacant for a year when I took over. Instead, my remit is to enter teams to the NYCA events for U18/16/14/12, and the ECF U18/13 events. Instead, at EPSCA level, a Birmingham team basically takes away any willing volunteer who would otherwise have run a Warwickshire team.

Neither the MCCU nor ECF fund the counties. It's the other way around. The ECF is funded by players via Game Fee and Membership. All the counties, leagues and congresses that affiliate to the ECF pay this. The ECF just lost £60,000 from the government grant it receives - it now receives £0 - so the cost to players is already going up.

Warwickshire is actually far from a struggling county in the national scheme of things. We just won the NYCA Under 18 title in Telford last year.

John Kendell
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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by John Kendell » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:01 pm

Thanks for the prompt reply. Which of course has raised more questions!

Having looked at the NYCA and EPSCA websites one caters for Primary School and one for Secondary age children. Is there a quick answer as to why Warwickshire schools don't enter ESPCA events? You mention Birmingham above, couldn't a Warwickshire based school have entered via the Birmingham zone?

Isn't the Warwickshire approach losing many potential players? Or have you found the opposite?

Is there the possibility for Warwickshire to play nearby counties at under 9 and under 11? The Warwickshire Junior Competition you ran before Xmas presumably gives you a list of potential players.

Ian Kingston
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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Ian Kingston » Wed Feb 22, 2012 2:16 pm

John Kendell wrote:Thanks for the prompt reply. Which of course has raised more questions!

Having looked at the NYCA and EPSCA websites one caters for Primary School and one for Secondary age children. Is there a quick answer as to why Warwickshire schools don't enter ESPCA events? You mention Birmingham above, couldn't a Warwickshire based school have entered via the Birmingham zone?

Isn't the Warwickshire approach losing many potential players? Or have you found the opposite?

Is there the possibility for Warwickshire to play nearby counties at under 9 and under 11? The Warwickshire Junior Competition you ran before Xmas presumably gives you a list of potential players.
I suspect that there is no one in Warwickshire organising at primary school level.

It's certainly possible for Warwickshire to play against nearby counties: the Midlands Championships, which will be held on 3 March in Nottingham, are one option; there are also the EPSCA Zonals and finals. Warwickshire have been missing from all of these for some time, but they're not the only absentees. Here, for instance, are the results of the 2008 Midlands Championships:

Under 11 (20 boards, 5 teams)
Nottinghamshire A 56
Lincolnshire 31
Nottinghamshire B 25½
Northamptonshire 24
Leicestershire 14½

Under 9 (12 boards, 6 teams)
Nottinghamshire A 29½
Lincolnshire 25
Northamptonshire 19
Nottinghamshire B 17
Nottinghamshire C 11½
Leicestershire 6

Girls (12 boards, 3 teams)
Nottinghamshire A 28
Northamptonshire 14
Nottinghamshire B 12

Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Staffordshire are all missing. Shropshire were there the year before, but Leicestershire didn't compete on that occasion.

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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed Feb 22, 2012 2:42 pm

John Kendell wrote:Having looked at the NYCA and EPSCA websites one caters for Primary School and one for Secondary age children. Is there a quick answer as to why Warwickshire schools don't enter ESPCA events?
Yes, there isn't a volunteer with enough time to do so. I am in fact handing over the role to someone who I know has more time than me this summer. He will have more time to do this kind of thing. That doesn't mean to say he'll do it, but he will be happy to listen to such ideas.
John Kendell wrote:You mention Birmingham above, couldn't a Warwickshire based school have entered via the Birmingham zone?
I'm not au fait with the ins and outs of EPSCA. For the schools tournament, a school from Warwickshire certainly could enter the Birmingham zone (although probably not this year). That's something to take up with your son's school/chess coach.
John Kendell wrote:Isn't the Warwickshire approach losing many potential players? Or have you found the opposite?
I find that most children will give up chess around 11/12 because their secondary school doesn't run it. This is a problem at 18 too, but it's less of a problem than it is at 11/12. This will happen regardless of the number of EPSCA teams entered. The things that keeps people in are going to a secondary school that does chess, or joining an adult club and playing for them. If you look at the Warwickshire Junior, we had 60+ under 12s usually, but 25 or so in the 18s, 16s and 14s combined.
John Kendell wrote:Is there the possibility for Warwickshire to play nearby counties at under 9 and under 11? The Warwickshire Junior Competition you ran before Xmas presumably gives you a list of potential players.
If such counties were willing, then yes. As explained by Ian, most of the Midlands-based counties don't really do EPSCA at a county level. I doubt it will happen until my successor is in post, because I simply have too many other chess-related commitments between now and May. I could perhaps get him on board now to start doing this kind of thing. I know he was involved with EPSCA before, anyway.

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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by John Kendell » Wed Feb 22, 2012 2:59 pm

Thanks again for the replies - most informative.

Steve Rooney
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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Steve Rooney » Wed Feb 22, 2012 3:27 pm

Ian is correct above that we used to run EPSCA teams in Shropshire. But to be honest we found it tough going competing against the larger counties. We were welcoming anyone who would play to make up the numbers whereas it was clear that others were able to have a selection policy and there were several occasion where we got completely smashed by counties such as Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. We often had some fairly competitive top boards but would get wiped out in the middle and lower order and the coach journey home was spent trying to rebuild egos and keep them motivated for the next match!

We noticed the trend that Alex mentions, in that very few continued chess into secondary school however, so our focus then shifted towards supporting the keener players by entering junior teams in the (adult) league which worked well for a few seasons although eventually this ran its course as they grew up! A number are still playing actively, and I would hope that even those who have put chess aside for the moment may return to it at some stage having been able to hold their own a bit as teenagers against adult opposition. We now have a group of under 11s at our monthly club, and we still run an annual UK Chess Challenge event.

I think that talented and highly motivated youngsters need to get involved in the adult chess world as soon as possible, albeit that some clubs and leagues will need a bit of a nudge to facilitate it. (We got ours to agree to junior teams playing all their matches at home for instance.)

The wider question of whether efforts are best concentrated on primary or secondary age children has been debated here on a number of occasions.

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Adam Raoof
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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Adam Raoof » Wed Feb 22, 2012 3:38 pm

Steve Rooney wrote:I think that talented and highly motivated youngsters need to get involved in the adult chess world as soon as possible, albeit that some clubs and leagues will need a bit of a nudge to facilitate it. (We got ours to agree to junior teams playing all their matches at home for instance.)
I can mention two examples where I have actually seen an increase in the number of juniors participating in chess. Hendon Chess Club has seen a steady growth of juniors representing the club, and this has often been because those juniors switched from ungraded junior events to graded 'mixed' (all abilities and ages) tournaments. Once they got an ECF grade and improved, they did not find it hard to convince a captain to field them in the Middlesex League.

Golders Green Rapidplays have seen a very sharp rise in junior participation, so much so that we have trouble finding room for the parents and siblings! This is because the kids want to play outside of their usual circles, in graded events against adults or at the very least against other juniors but in what they perceive to be a more 'formal' competition. They also want graded games.

My instinct is that if we can persuade every junior tournament to provide an ECF performance grade for the event, and submit results to contribute to a rating on an ECF list that encompasses a wide range of junior-only events, then that will provide a great deal of encouragement to kids who might normally drop out of competitive chess. Parents are very happy to buy into that kind of vision, and so are the kids.
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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Ray Sayers » Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:27 pm

PM sent. 8)

John Kendell
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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by John Kendell » Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:01 pm

It seems to me that there's a paucity of primary school chess leagues. which I guess isn't unique to Warks. The points above re getting into adult chess as quickly as possible are interesting. In my schooldays my primary school team lead to the grammar school team which competed in adult leagues as well as against other schools. Is this route still available in any areas of the country or are we relying on chess clubs / tournaments to be the sole route?

Michele Clack
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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Michele Clack » Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:07 pm

John
Had you thought of entering a few weekend congresses with your son. There is the Warwickshire Open on 3rd and 4th March at Arden School Solihull coming up. Then there is the Birmingham League rapidplay tournament in Quinton Birmingham on 25th March. Both are likely to have a fair few juniors and you would have a chance to chat to other parents who will be able to tell you whats available. There are grammar school teams in Birmingham at KIng Edward Schools, that's the route Alex H got into chess by, but I'm not sure of what's available nearer to you.

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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by John Kendell » Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:25 pm

Michele,
thanks, he's only 8 but I had thought of the Leamington rapidplay later this year. The Warks / Birmingham events clash with some rugby tournaments.

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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Michele Clack » Wed Feb 22, 2012 6:21 pm

The Leamington one is a good one for you to go to. There should be quite a lot of juniors and if the weather is nice there is a good park over the road to run around in at lunch time.

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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:32 pm

John Kendell wrote:It seems to me that there's a paucity of primary school chess leagues.
Birmingham had a very active one when I started at Five Ways. It had 6 divisions (1-4, then U13 and U12), and about 7 or 8 games in each division. Last year, the top 3 divisions of 4 had a grand total of 5 teams in them, from 3 schools. Division Two had no entrants. Due to a member of staff's ill health, 2 of those five teams even withdrew.
John Kendell wrote:The points above re getting into adult chess as quickly as possible are interesting. In my schooldays my primary school team lead to the grammar school team which competed in adult leagues as well as against other schools. Is this route still available in any areas of the country or are we relying on chess clubs / tournaments to be the sole route?
I think it's important to get children into adult chess, but it's equally important to get them into adult chess when they're ready for adult chess. It's no good to push when they're not ready for it. In many respects, this is what Steve Rooney described as the problem Shropshire had with their lower boards. Some children aged 8 don't take losing well. Your son may be able to deal with it though; you're probably the best judge of that. The gap between the bottom boards of the lowest section in something like the Birmingham Rapidplay and the Under 8 section in the Warwickshire Junior Championship is still relatively high.

In my first voyage into an adult congress - Spectrum Dudley 2006 - I was able to score 1.5/4. I was also 15, so I was old enough to take losing a game on the chin. I did well enough to want to come back for more, and didn't do badly enough to feel embarrassed. I remember, even in those days, I spent much of my free time wondering what Messrs Went and Corfe were doing at the control desk... :lol:

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Peter D Williams
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Re: Junior Chess Clubs

Post by Peter D Williams » Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:00 am

Our son was not allowed to join a adult chess club Peter played a member of the club lost the game but it was very close long game.I wont say what club it was but Peter has seen him many times since and as you all know Peter got a good chess grade now. I would suggest you contact any club first to tell them you like to bring your son to the adult club this way you be able to talk over any issues and of course you have to be sure your son is ready for adult chess as the games can go on for a long time at night.
Adult chess is the best way to get stronger at chess dont spend to long just playing juniors!
when you are successful many losers bark at you.

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