Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

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Andrew Zigmond
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Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:20 am

I'm dangling a slightly open question here but I would be interested to hear what people think? It is something that has been on my mind lately for various reasons.

The idea of trying to attract new players to the game often comes up; not just juniors but also players who sit outside the general chess playing demographic. Often this may involve some carefully spent money. My specific question is where does the responsibility for doing so lie? Is it local chess clubs, is it the ECF or is it down to individuals to do their own thing with no expectation of support from other organisations?
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:30 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:20 am
is it the ECF
Once the ECF came up with the idea of compulsory or universal membership based on an annual payment, it abdicated responsibility for attracting new players. Perhaps recognising this, it diluted the hard line principle that it was a requirement to be an ECF member before partaking in organised chess.

Looking through the participants in the London Chess Classic Blitz, there are a number of participating players who haven't played for years in English formal competitive chess. Being Blitz there weren't any formal membership requirements.

IanCalvert
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by IanCalvert » Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:44 am

I was once reliably informed that some Asian tiger countries see chess as a game for the young, honest. Maybe the answer is mainly CSC with a little help from plder players. clubs , ""counties" and the ECF?? Whatever happened to national chess day?

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:48 am

Roger de Coverly wrote: Once the ECF came up with the idea of compulsory or universal membership based on an annual payment it abdicated responsibility for attracting new players. Perhaps recognising this, it diluted the hard line principle that it was a requirement to be an ECF member before partaking in organised chess.
(my italics)

Is this not what virtually all chess clubs do; ie expect members to pay an annual subscription to participate in their activities? A chess club requires subscriptions to meet overheads such as venue hire and to be able to carry out their activities but then again you could argue that the ECF requires universal membership for similar reasons (I'm aware that I'm not entirely comparing like with like). All chess clubs could invest surplus in trying to promote the game locally, whether they should is one reason I've started this thread. Ditto the ECF.

Obviously there is a difference between new players and returning players. I should add I'm thinking more of entry level at this stage.
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Kevin Thurlow
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:37 am

"The idea of trying to attract new players to the game often comes up; not just juniors but also players who sit outside the general chess playing demographic. Often this may involve some carefully spent money. My specific question is where does the responsibility for doing so lie? Is it local chess clubs, is it the ECF or is it down to individuals to do their own thing with no expectation of support from other organisations?"

I think all the ECF can do is have a club directory and an easily-found part of its website saying "how to take up chess". Union and County websites can do the same. Clubs can also have websites. Our local library invited us to set up a few boards every so often so that passers by might express an interest. We tried to get match reports in the local paper, ( they did let me have a weekly column a few years ago), but the local paper isn't very local any more and its "sports" section has shrunk from 4 pages to about 1, so we get ignored. I think the individual club members still get people though word of mouth. But there aren't many clubs.

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:52 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:48 am
Is this not what virtually all chess clubs do; ie expect members to pay an annual subscription to participate in their activities?
The big expansion in chess activity in the early 1970s was driven by Congresses. What made the British boom bigger than elsewhere was that there weren't barriers to entry. In the USA, you would have to become a member of the USCF and buy chess equipment. In the UK you just paid an entry fee to the tournament and showed up.

A national body can support or hinder such growth and charging annual fees particularly to those sampling such activity for the first time is a hindrance. In the few areas where there is growth, the ECF charges a membership fee of zero or the organisers escape ECF demands by keeping their events out of the grading system.

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:01 am

I'm already allowing myself to get sidetracked but the ECF are not charging fees to anybody `sampling the game for the first time`. If a complete novice wants to enter a congress (unlikely) it just costs them an extra £7 and it's likely that they would just view ECF membership as a way of obtaining a discount. If you're playing in a league for the first time you get the first three games for free before a membership to the national body kicks in. In any case ECF membership is dirt cheap compared to other hobbies and that's not the point I'm making here.

I've talked about my work with secondary school age players locally and how I've started an age appropriate club, despite my not remotely being the best qualified person to do so. My work is paying dividends but they are still the squeezed middle between the local primary schools association (a registered charity - I'm on the board) and the local chess club (of which I'm the chairman). The former organisation are of the opinion their activities stop at age eleven; choosing my words carefully (because this debate is ongoing) the local chess club are currently mulling as to what extent the secondary school club and related activities come under their outreach.

I suspect most of us here are members of a chess club. I'm willing to bet most of the club stalwarts are in their sixties and seventies with very few members under forty although some more dynamic clubs (possibly with a schoolteacher in a position of authority) may have a few juniors attend. The venue is likely to be a bit dry and dusty (possibly a church hall or library side room) although tea and coffee may be available. A few members may branch out to play some games at the local pub. My point is that it's not an environment liable to attract potential players in their twenties and thirties. Again, we've had this discussion before and don't need to repeat it.

I will be 37 next month, not old (and certainly not by chess club standards) but not really that young either. However I do have friends and acquaintances who are younger, who know from my facebook that I play chess and do mention an interest in the game (perhaps they played at primary school, or their grandad used to play). I even get challenged to a game occasionally. Some form of chess activity in an unconventional environment just might entice players from the lost generation out of the woodwork. They'd need to learn and probably wouldn't be that great to start with but in time it would bridge into local leagues and congresses. But once again you might need some careful investment.

Which takes me back to whose job it is? Local chess clubs could reach out but is there any reason why they should; it's like telling a prog rock band first formed in the 1960s and still touring after all these years that they might attract a younger fan base if they added some pop punk elements to their music. They could do that, but nobody would suggest it for some fairly obvious reasons ...
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:16 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:01 am
I'm already allowing myself to get sidetracked but the ECF are not charging fees to anybody `sampling the game for the first time`. If a complete novice wants to enter a congress (unlikely) it just costs them an extra £7 and it's likely that they would just view ECF membership as a way of obtaining a discount. If you're playing in a league for the first time you get the first three games for free before a membership to the national body kicks in. In any case ECF membership is dirt cheap compared to other hobbies and that's not the point I'm making here.
The underlying premise of a membership scheme is that it's compulsory to become a member in order to participate. It's admitted even by the die hard advocates of such schemes that a certain amount of dilution of the hard nosed attitude is necessary in order to attract new players. My case is that you so dilute universal membership as to abolish it entirely, rather than tinker at the edges. If that means putting a levy on Congress organisers, then so be it and put up with the screaming.

The "(unlikely)" comment about novices entering tournaments shows where English chess has lost its way since the 1970s. If as claimed by Agon, there are 6 million chess players in the UK, Congresses ought to be trying to get some of them playing in their events. Establishing a more genuine figure than the 6 million would help of course.

MartinCarpenter
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by MartinCarpenter » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:22 am

I suspect that you're defining new players joining as in joining existing non trivial leagues etc - that automatically means that the existing clubs are involved, which yes means all sorts of inertia to overcome.

Club venues fit for human habitation would be a start :)

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:30 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:16 am
The underlying premise of a membership scheme is that it's compulsory to become a member in order to participate.
In my earlier post I have demonstrated that it isn't. It is a conversation I need to have with new players at some point but not straight away.
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:36 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:30 am
In my earlier post I have demonstrated that it isn't.
That's because the ECF have diluted it and is presumably financial worse off as a consequence. If the ECF had the same rules as the USCF, everyone including visitors for tournaments would have to become a member to be allowed to play.

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:26 pm

The ECF membership scheme has very little to do with this. It has yet to have the slightest bit of impact on the secondary schools club I run and it certainly wouldn't prevent me trying to get some chess going among 20/30 year old acquaintances in a venue more to their taste than the ones chess clubs use. I also don't think that harking back to the 1970s is very helpful as things are very different now. It's one for the chess history thread rather than I here but I believe that the young guns of the Fischer/ Spassky boom didn't also react well to the likes of Golombek and Ritson-Morry lecturing them on how things were done in the 1930s when Yates and Thomas were at their peak.

Which takes me back to my original point; where does the responsibility for outreach lie?
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Graham Borrowdale
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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Graham Borrowdale » Mon Dec 11, 2017 1:36 pm

Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:26 pm
...where does the responsibility for outreach lie?
I don't see that any group has responsibility. I would say that senior schools are the most likely to bring players to a level of interest such that they would consider joining a chess club, but, as has often been noted on here, senior schools chess is all but dead, with a few exceptions. Below senior school, the environment of an 'adult' chess club would be unsuitable for most children. Above that age, and there is great competition for 'young adults' time, and they would probably need to be very interested in chess to want to join a club.

In addition, it depends whether the objective is to encourage people to play chess, or to play chess seriously. I have seen people turn up at club nights, get sent to the far corner because there was a serious match going on, and for them never to return. If they turn up with an existing grade, they tend to get a much warmer welcome, as potential team members. Its nobody's fault, and people like Andrew are clearly working hard to address the issues, but most club players just want to go along to club nights and play chess. Chess playing ability and organisational skills do not tend to go hand in hand.

Other than that, I don't think that Roger's comments about compulsory membership as a contributory factor should be brushed aside so dismissively. Had the scheme been in place when I was 16 I would never have taken up chess seriously, but the club I went along to was very welcoming, put me in the C-Team for a couple of matches, then the county captain put me in the B-Team, and it went from there. Had I been told that I had to join the ECF to play so much as a club championship game, I would not have returned the following week. I might be typical, or I might not.

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Alan Walton » Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:20 pm

It depends on what age you are trying to attract; I presuming all these players are total newcomers, and not current players moving to an area looking for a club who already have an idea on what is expected

Therefore you break it down into two areas

1) Juniors : having the correct structures in place in the local area through schools,then having the correct environment for them to progressive into club chess (unfortunately the vast majority of clubs struggle with this, inadequate venues and lack tolerance to young juniors from older members)

2) Adults : perhaps this is trickier, diving straight into clubs for these players may mean the get disheartened when they realise their current ability isn't good enough and just means they get beat up easily; therefore something like the Manchester Social Club, where players of any level can turn up a just play for fun and a couple of drinks is an ideal option

Membership isn't really a factor until these players are a good enough standard to play club/league/tournaments; but even then as Andrew has said current membership isn't that expensive (most people should be able to find a £1 a week to play competitively in my personal view)

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Re: Attracting new players to the game; who is responsible?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:45 pm

Alan Walton wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:20 pm
Adults : perhaps this is trickier, diving straight into clubs for these players may mean the get disheartened when they realise their current ability isn't good enough and just means they get beat up easily
With the wide availability of online chess or even chess engines, you might expect that new players would be able to emulate Google's Deep Mind and learn how to play to a decent level for themselves . That doesn't seem to happen though as witnessed by the rich vein of material supplied to Geoff Chandler at the redhotpawn site.

https://www.redhotpawn.com/forum/only-c ... ign.175174

The minority who do so can realise that many adult club players aren't very good after all.

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