Sadly our chess culture is far more amateurish than other countries. When I speak to people from Georgia, France, Holland, Norway etc it is clear how professional and serious they are. They are amazed that our leading players have to pay their own entry fees and expenses to play in events like the European Individual and that people like myself pay rather than be paid to do what we do. I think this also drops down to junior level, we have a huge sum of money in the John Robinson Trust and yet many of our top juniors receive little in the way of support apart from what their parents can and can't afford.
I also find a lot of parents and juniors ask me for guidance purely because they receive little advice on the type of events they should be playing in or how best to plan their child's chess development. Often all they need is a bit of encouragement and advice on the type of events to play and the kind of coaching they need but too much of what they hear is from people with self-interest. I find it very sad when I hear from parents that they have been warned not to play in certain events and feel pressured into having coaching off those with influence rather than going for who they are most comfortable with.
I think we have a lot of talented kids at a young age but for whatever reason we don't appear able to nurture them from 11-16 as well as other countries. Whilst it may be true that they don't work as hard I think it's more that they don't know how to work to maximise their potential in the time they have and have fewer opportunities than those in other comparable countries. Some countries have chess on the school curriculum which has to be an advantage but others don't and still seem to thrive.
Hi Lawrence, Mike, Peter S, Neill, Roger, Alex and Peter W,
I think that you are all correct to a certain degree. I think that as Neill has said, there is a distinction between what happens with the elite and how to promote chess to all and we do need to understand this when we talk about chess for juniors because the needs of the two groups are different (though do overlap at certain times).
Our relative performance when compared to other countries is a measure of what happens with our elite and for advice on this I do think that Lawrence is spot on. I do feel sorry for our kids sometimes though, as they are not battling on an even playing field most of the time and that is not always obvious to the average on-looker. I do agree with Peter W; that if we need help, it is not always obvious how to get it or go about getting it. I also have no idea how the ECF junior funds are spent.
In terms of the fallout at the secondary age, it may well be that we have a structural problem in how we introduce children to chess (as Mike has suggested) and again Richard James seems to know more about this than most. I do think though that Neill is right and correct to look at how we might reverse that particular trend if we can or at least make a dent in it. I do like all the variety of chess competitions in this country and having such a pro-active JD at the moment means that things are looking positive anyway.
That is not to say that we can not and should not make it even better.
I strongly believe that we should take a long, hard, look at how teenagers perceive chess and make an effort on a national level to change the image of chess. This will IMO have a knock-on effect in the adult chess world as well as encourage many kids to stay on.
It really is an uphill battle (in the state sector in particular - which does represent the masses) to stop people's eyes glazing over at the mere mention of chess. Yet when I speak to people from Eastern Europe, India or China, people tend to look interested, impressed and even want to be involved.
I think that encouraging participation should be the goal of everyone in the ECF as it is our biggest problem. If we solve it, then it would help the ECF by having more money flowing in from memberships and tournaments. It would help event organisers, it would help adult chess to thrive and of course it would help our juniors.