County Championship Consultation

Discussion about all aspects of the ECF County Championships.
Roger de Coverly
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:53 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:41 pm
But they play in the 4NCL when asked. So I think the problem is that they're just not asked.
You are missing a rather major point of divergence between the Counties Championship and the 4NCL, being that the 4NCL doesn't place any geographical restrictions on who you can nominate for squads. That's different in county chess as without cheating on eligibility, a county might have a choice of zero, one or two players for the restricted boards. Their neighbours might have a surplus but the rules are not framed to allow cross border transfers. It was a major weakness of the consultation that it did not ask questions about the desirability of the eligibility rules.

Wasn't it obvious from the existing answers that the more difficulties you place in the paths of captains trying to raise teams, the fewer of them are willing to volunteer?

Alex Holowczak
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:59 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:53 pm
Alex Holowczak wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:41 pm
But they play in the 4NCL when asked. So I think the problem is that they're just not asked.
You are missing a rather major point of divergence between the Counties Championship and the 4NCL, being that the 4NCL doesn't place any geographical restrictions on who you can nominate for squads. That's different in county chess as without cheating on eligibility, a county might have a choice of zero, one or two players for the restricted boards. Their neighbours might have a surplus but the rules are not framed to allow cross border transfers. It was a major weakness of the consultation that it did not ask questions about the desirability of the eligibility rules.
I wasn't missing that at all. For the Open section we looked at counties that had entered recently, and we saw they all had female players they could ask. They certainly all had juniors.

But this is a bit like saying that one of the undesirable things about the Olympiad is having eligibility restrictions. How can you expect England to field a women's team if it hasn't got any women? Well, the answer is - you take steps to get a pool of female players from which to create a team. If you're going to have a County Championship, then I think it has to be a closed-border competition and that counties need to take the lead in developing junior players and female players locally. No one commented otherwise in the first questionnaire, and people generally weren't shy of suggesting their views in the "Any Other Comments" section. One person said, three times, that the competition should allow EACU to compete as one Union rather than as counties, but that was as close as it got.
Roger de Coverly wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:53 pm
Wasn't it obvious from the existing answers that the more difficulties you place in the paths of captains trying to raise teams, the fewer of them are willing to volunteer?
Yes, it was obvious. I wrote as much when I suggested it to the Board. So why did we propose it? Well, again - what are your ideas to address the problems that the Board was trying to help address? So it made the second questionnaire, to see what people thought. If that is indeed a big problem as people imagine it might be, they can say so, can't they? Or perhaps they can work collaboratively with the people in their county who are doing a lot for (say) junior chess already?

Alan Walton
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Alan Walton » Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:12 pm

Regarding the team composition element, what happens if a county doesn’t have a suitable player for that position; are they supposed to just default; they won’t have the option to get anybody in like the 4NCL due to the competition restriction

The 4NCL has been going for nearly 30 years, can you really say over this period having the female rule really helped Ladies chess, Jovanka and Harriet are still the highest rated players

So 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

Roger de Coverly
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:13 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:59 pm

I wasn't missing that at all. For the Open section we looked at counties that had entered recently, and we saw they all had female players they could ask. They certainly all had juniors.
You should look at the counties who don't enter and their reasons for not entering. If you want to play weekend chess, 4NCL and Congresses is just easier, particularly when you don't have enough players or enough strong players to put a local team together.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:21 pm

Alan Walton wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:12 pm
Regarding the team composition element, what happens if a county doesn’t have a suitable player for that position; are they supposed to just default; they won’t have the option to get anybody in like the 4NCL due to the competition restriction

The 4NCL has been going for nearly 30 years, can you really say over this period having the female rule really helped Ladies chess, Jovanka and Harriet are still the highest rated players

So 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
In the Open section, I checked that the counties that normally play in it have those people available. In all cases I found plenty of them in the grading database. So if you have the contacts within your county, it shouldn't be a problem. I realise that not every county will have a 200-strength Under 18 Boy it can call on - but of course, neither will the opposition counties.

Your other point is a good one, and you might be right. But throwing more money at it ... on what? Ideas of what to spend it on are just as important as having the money available. There was no control group for your comment about the 4NCL though - what would women's chess be like if that rule didn't exist? Would it be even worse? We don't know.
Last edited by Alex Holowczak on Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:26 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:13 pm
You should look at the counties who don't enter and their reasons for not entering. If you want to play weekend chess, 4NCL and Congresses is just easier, particularly when you don't have enough players or enough strong players to put a local team together.
I think you're right. For what it's worth, most people said that the reason they didn't enter was because they couldn't find a captain, and were worried they didn't have enough players. The reason that people said they weren't volunteering to be a captain was that they didn't think they would be able to get enough players. So I think the proposed reduction in boards helps to solve that problem.

However, much to my surprise, there seemed to be no problem for the counties that their teams might not be competitive. You might be right that this is because they didn't respond. I think the question about average grade v grading limit is important there. I don't have a strong view on the matter for the graded sections, but I think an average grade limit would make the competition more competitive in general, and give counties much more freedom to select teams if they don't have many players, because they can select the division that best fits the players who are available. They can't do that at the moment, because the hard limit in each section may reduce their pool of available players. Others will have different views, and that's fine.

Ian Thompson
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Ian Thompson » Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:47 pm

Alan Walton wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:12 pm
Regarding the team composition element, what happens if a county doesn’t have a suitable player for that position; are they supposed to just default; they won’t have the option to get anybody in like the 4NCL due to the competition restriction
I think there's a good chance they will have an eligible player. For the junior players there's a reasonable chance that at least one of the adult players in the team, on merit, will have a child who knows how the pieces move who could be brought along to the match to avoid a default. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:49 pm

One contributor to this thread has suggested that the proposals in the consultation paper should be thrown aside with great force. He is entitled to this view but personally I think some of the responses to this paper should be thrown aside with even greater force.

Firstly we should remind ourselves of what the document actually is. It is a second stage consultation paper based around responses to an open survey. It reflects what 183 respondents have said about the county championships. It invites responses with a deadline of over a month for doing so and notes that the relevant director will happily clarify any points on request. It is not a fully signed and sealed act of law. Yes, there are some radical proposals put forward because some players may have radical ideas. They may not be the right ideas but it is only right that these should be reflected in the proposals. Reading the comments from Neil Graham and David Sedgwick I am left with the impression that they are not so much appalled by radical proposals (which is their right) as the fact that some players may actually hold such views.

In four years as county championships controller I have dealt with David Sedgwick on a few matters and have always had considerable respect for him, even when we disagreed. For that reason I can scarcely believed he has authored the post below.
David Sedgwick wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:11 am
Important as the above discussion is, the paper contains even more damaging proposals.

One of the key reasons for the formation of the BCF in 1904 was to facilitate competition amongst the Champion Counties of each Union. The resulting model - Union Championships serving as qualifying competitions for National Stages - has served the BCF / ECF extremely well for 114 years.

I didn't take part in the initial consultation, as I always suspected that its purpose was to provide a fig leaf for a predetermined agenda, that agenda being the abandonment of that model and the destruction of the Union Championships.

This paper confirms my worst fears.

The ECF Council of a decade ago would have thrown these proposals out resoundingly. Whether that still happens will be an acid test of the Council of today.

The Union Championships will survive anyway, of course. It will be the ECF Counties Championships which will end up being destroyed if these proposals are adopted.

There is one important respect in which even the rejection of the proposals must not be the end of the matter. The whole episode demonstrates the need to transfer responsibility for the National Stages away from the Director of Home Chess and into the hands of a Committee of the five Unions.
It is hard to know where to start with this. David may feel that the current model works well; the whingeing and whining that has found its way into my inbox in four years (and which I was sick to the back teeth of after two) suggests otherwise. If I know my history the original format was simply a straight contest of the union champions and I suppose in 2017 we still follow that tradition (albeit with only two competing unions). However the competition has expanded to six grade limited section and that is the point where the union nomination structure creaks.

I wish I could share David's optimism that the union competitions will survive. Three of the five are practically non existent.

As for David's last proposal, and having been on skype calls with union representatives, may I nominate him as chairman of the committee? It's just a shame I can't then be a fly on the wall.

I'm sure most of us can remember 2015 when Alex was challenged for the home directorship and had to fight a nasty, deeply personal campaign when he was attacked for being a defender of the status quo, unwilling to bring about the radical change the ECF's heritage events needed. Three years on he brings in proposals that are perhaps too radical and we see the result ...

Finally, as the outgoing controller I can say what I like. It has been a privilege to be involved with such a historic competition and I am grateful to Alex for giving me this opportunity (and the ECF board, the makeup of which changed radically several times during those four years, for appointing and reappointing me). I have met many organisers up and down the country who are dedicated to the competition and the experience of inter county play; as a team captain myself I know how painful it can be. However there are a sizeable minority of county captains and union officials (and on occasion players) who delight in sending emails that criticize me for applying this rule or for not applying that rule and for not having the authority to do something or not doing something quickly enough. In 2018 I am looking forward to not having to deal with any of this and devote my energies to attracting and encouraging new players to the game, the thing I have always been most passionate about.

For the record I don't think requiring players from specific demographics is the way forward.
Last edited by Andrew Zigmond on Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Michael Farthing
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Michael Farthing » Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:52 pm

My concern here is that there is a 'political' agenda of diversification that is being introduced without any previous consultation and which is being given equivalent weight to any objective of improving the competition. Put simply, 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.

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:59 pm

"England lags significantly behind other countries with regard to women's chess and junior chess. We expect to be behind eastern Europe, and countries with large amounts of government support. But we also lag significantly behind countries with whom we have the resources to compete with. This suggests we are not doing enough in these areas, and we need ways to improve that. The proposals in 4 are my best shot at doing something to address that problem, based on formulas that are used in other countries to increase participation in these areas. If you disagree with them, then that's fine. Those who are clearly against it - what are your alternative proposals to deal with the fundamental problem English chess has of female participation and juniors remaining involved in adult chess?"

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.

Ian Thompson
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Ian Thompson » Sun Dec 31, 2017 2:10 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:21 pm
In the Open section, I checked that the counties that normally play in it have those people available. In all cases I found plenty of them in the grading database. So if you have the contacts within your county, it shouldn't be a problem. I realise that not every county will have a 200-strength Under 18 Boy it can call on - but of course, neither will the opposition counties.
If you checked counties that already play to see whether they could still play under revised eligibility rules, that's done nothing to expand participation in county chess. It's just checked that the revised rules won't decrease participation.

The question that needs answering to see if requiring juniors and females to play would increase participation is whether there are currently any counties who don't currently complete who would under revised eligibility rules. Has any research been done to suggest that counties that can't currently raise a full team of players of any description could raise a team if some of the team had to be females or juniors?

Alan Walton
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Alan Walton » Sun Dec 31, 2017 2:20 pm

Is there proof out there that county captains are not picking juniors or female players because of their age and/or gender; over the many years I have been playing county chess for Greater Manchester and Yorkshire (mainly in the Open and U180 sections) I have seen plenty of juniors and female players participate

Most captains will select the strongest 16 possible players from their pool of players, if this includes a female/junior then will be asked to play if not so be it

It all comes down to the perception of playing chess within these demographics, I think people already in the chess world put too much emphasis on the competitions; it is most probably more fundamental than this and most probably needs a societal change in thinking about why people want to play chess

Alex Holowczak
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:45 pm

Ian Thompson wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 2:10 pm
Alex Holowczak wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:21 pm
In the Open section, I checked that the counties that normally play in it have those people available. In all cases I found plenty of them in the grading database. So if you have the contacts within your county, it shouldn't be a problem. I realise that not every county will have a 200-strength Under 18 Boy it can call on - but of course, neither will the opposition counties.
If you checked counties that already play to see whether they could still play under revised eligibility rules, that's done nothing to expand participation in county chess. It's just checked that the revised rules won't decrease participation.
Correct. But chessplayers are creatures of self-interest, as this thread has shown, so if it was going to cause a problem for the existing counties, it would have been a non-starter.
Ian Thompson wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 2:10 pm
The question that needs answering to see if requiring juniors and females to play would increase participation is whether there are currently any counties who don't currently complete who would under revised eligibility rules. Has any research been done to suggest that counties that can't currently raise a full team of players of any description could raise a team if some of the team had to be females or juniors?
You're conflating two issues:
- The issue of increasing participation in general
- The issue of increasing participation from certain demographics

The first point would be measured by more counties entering teams in the lower sections, which under the proposals would have no requirement to include these players at all. I am hoping to hear from counties about whether or not some of these changes may make them more likely to enter teams in future during the process of this consultation phase.

The second is an attempt by the ECF to address an area in which it is underperforming relative to other similar Federations, which I think it has a duty to try to do something about. The first questionnaire said it wasn't an issue that people felt very strongly about. But it isn't very surprising that a group of old men think there's no problem that the only other people playing are old men.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:49 pm

Alan Walton wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 2:20 pm
Is there proof out there that county captains are not picking juniors or female players because of their age and/or gender; over the many years I have been playing county chess for Greater Manchester and Yorkshire (mainly in the Open and U180 sections) I have seen plenty of juniors and female players participate

Most captains will select the strongest 16 possible players from their pool of players, if this includes a female/junior then will be asked to play if not so be it

It all comes down to the perception of playing chess within these demographics, I think people already in the chess world put too much emphasis on the competitions; it is most probably more fundamental than this and most probably needs a societal change in thinking about why people want to play chess
There are some county captains, and Neil Graham is an excellent example, who select their teams well. Neil gets a long list of players from his county, and goes through the clubs in the county to get contact details, and gets them involved. I know Worcestershire do the same. However, I also know that other counties don't do this. I am aware of a few teams where there have been new captains, and the captain has just inherited the old e-mail distribution list, can get a full team out of that, and doesn't really need any more players so doesn't try to recruit them. Anecdotally, Neil is the exception rather than the norm, but it would be interesting to know if this is the reality.

If you have seen plenty of juniors and female players participate, then good. The proposal is really trying to persuade counties to involve such people in their county teams, rather than sticking with their tried and trusted mailing list.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: County Championship Consultation

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:52 pm

Michael Farthing wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:52 pm
My concern here is that there is a 'political' agenda of diversification that is being introduced without any previous consultation and which is being given equivalent weight to any objective of improving the competition. Put simply, 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.
I don't understand the "without any previous consultation" point. I have published a consultation paper, and the process has to start somewhere.

If this proves unpopular, then the Board will get a very clear steer that this isn't the way to go about improving women's chess participation or integrating juniors within adult competitions. So instead, juniors in particular will just to continue to play in the 4NCL, where similar rules are already in force, and the County Championship will continue its slow decline, while the 4NCL will continue to increase its participation.

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