Club Profile #3: Phones Chess Club, Glasgow, UK

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

Not wanting to slow down, I thought I would finish off the weekend with yet another club profile as they have been proving popular.  This time we head north to our first “international” club profile from the fair city of Glasgow in Scotland.  My thanks to Luke Barker who volunteered Phones chess club after reading about my praise of Glasgow Polytechnic Chess Club in my review of the best British Chess Club websites. I really enjoyed reading about this fascinating little club and its history founded in the glory days of British Telecom.  I won’t spoil anymore, have a read yourself…

Tell us a little bit about your club

We are a friendly club who have for many years been based in the West End of Glasgow. (One of three or four clubs to be so, and we are quite a popular club with around 10 minimum along every week and usually much more).

We play one evening a week, Monday, and matches can take place other days too of course. We are closed for the summer now, but we welcome any curious folk from September onward (pun intended!) 🙂

What kind of person plays for the club?

We have between 20 to 30 members, all amateurs, with a hardcore of 15 or so regulars. We have several teams, A B and C and they play matches in the main league here, Glasgow League has all our results and stats. We also enter a team usually in the Dunbartonshire League which overlaps our area. We have two players graded above 2000 just now, Pavlos and Bob, and several strong players bubbling under that.

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Glasgow has a vibrant chess scene, and several divisions to its leagues which our teams play in. I’m not sure we have won the League title since the 1980s (need to check that with a more senior member!) but we usually have a team in the first and second and third division, so plenty of options for members to play matches.

How diverse is your club?

Members are all ages from 18 to 70s, one of the great delights of chess is the ability of ages to socialise and play competitively together in our opinion.

We have members currently from Poland, Cyprus, Greece, Malawi, Italy, Lithuania, Spain, Morocco/France and England, as well as many Scottish. Our members live all over Glasgow too.

We thus are a very international club, which is perhaps related to our former home of the Polish Club in Glasgow, where we often had several Poles take part. But sadly we have had to move a bit down the road to our happy new home, the St Andrew Bridge Club, who are very welcoming of us, and this has been great for the health of the club and we hope to stay here for a number of years to come.

We sadly do not have any female players (which is perhaps typical of a lot of chess clubs, but they would be more than welcome!).

Do you have room for juniors?

With grateful thanks to our venue hosts we piloted a scheme this year to have a junior hour before the club night starts for the adults, and this has been a success. (We offer free coaching for local juniors). We will continue this initiative in September in the new season for juniors.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

The Club gets its unusual name from its founding history and continued support from the former British Telecom, of which it was funded by the recreation committee for workers, and we are still lucky enough to get some funding from them, even now they are BT! This has led to a longstanding club dating back to the 1960s. Back in the 1980s, the Phone experts in the team arranged a distant Spens Cup game (national intercity cup in Scotland) vs Thurso to be played over a phone connection. Their board one finished his game early and then mysteriously all their other boards started to improve their quality of play, or so the legend goes! haha.

Have you had any famous players play for you or visit you?

I am not sure which famous players have visited but I was told a story by one of our members about Boris Spassky in the 80s visiting Glasgow and teaching some members how to play better. Not sure if they were paying attention though!! haha.

What honours / leagues or cups has the club won over its history?

We most recently won the Spens Cup for the first time in many years, and in the 70s and 80s the team won the Glasgow League and I think got quite far in the Richardson tournament but I will need to ask some other members of this to be sure.
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Who are you fiercest rivals and why?!

I suppose this would be Glasgow Poly or Glasgow Montrose, who are really just friendly neighbour clubs nearby, but they do take on a “derby” feel these matches some times! (But fortunately it is not Rangers/Celtic level!)

Tell us a bit more about your local club scene and who you like to beat the most!

I think we are grateful to take points off any of the other clubs who have titled players and we like to think of ourselves as always competitive and we have organised teams with few defaults on boards of away matches, which we think is important.

What is your favourite thing about the club?

The friendliness and bonhomie, we all get along and run smoothly without being either too organised or too disorganised.

What makes your club special or unique?

The international makeup of our membership! We were heckled as the “League of Nations” (in a nice way!) when our team sheet was submitted to some opponents this year.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your club?

We have had a tough year in some respects as we lost two of our most cherished members to illness unfortunately, Derek and Allan. They are much missed and our club is only thriving today thanks to them and all the work they put in over the years. We have run two allegro tournaments this year in honour of them and we intend to repeat this in 2018 funds permitting, hopefully permanently.

As I said we have begun a junior intiative this year which continues in September so it would be great to see more juniors show up this year and also any people in the Glasgow area, whether new to the game or wanting a change are always welcome to visit us and see how they enjoy it. We only ask membership fees after a few attendances so no obligation and people are welcome. A final thanks to our hosts at the Bridge Club (our venue) who ensure we are well looked after, playing conditions-wise and with all facilities.

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A lovely detailed overview of this unique Glasgow chess club. I love how you can get a really strong feeling for the camaraderie at the club without even visiting.  As with a lot of smaller clubs, the organisation is often down to a small group of individuals who keep the group united. Our condolences on the loss of Derek and Allan but it sounds like the club is in safe hands moving forward.

Im really enjoying this series of club profiles as it highlights the variety and depth of amateur British chess clubs.  We have only had three profiles so far and we have already featured a break away new starter club, world war 2 fire wardens and the “league of nations” sponsored by British Telecom!  What other mysterious club histories are out there?

If you would like your club to be featured on the ChessJournal blog then don’t hesitate to get in touch, especially if your club is based outside the UK.  I’d love to learn more about the your local chess club scene’s, no matter where you are from.

Until next time!

Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet. Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

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Club Profile #2: Horfield & Redland Chess Club


Hello ChessJournal Fans!

Last week I introduced the Club Profiles initiative where we interview woodpushers from around the world and get them to tell us what makes their chess club so great!  In an effort to keep some momentum up, this week I have gone closer to home and spoken to my own club, Horfield & Redland Chess Club.  Ok so I’m bias but give me a break!

The interview was conducted with a good friend of mine, Mike Harris and provides a great insight to the Bristol & District Chess League which recently celebrated its centenary year.  Here we go…

Tell us a little bit about your club

We are in central Bristol – one of the main roads is called Whiteladies Road and we rent a few rooms in a church just off it. We have 4 teams spread across the Bristol League, the A and B teams both in division 1. Overall we have about 30 members and always open to more!

What kind of person plays for the club?

We don’t have any titled players – although one player regularly plays top board for Guernsey in the chess Olympiad, and we have a few players nearing master strength. However at heart we are kibitzers! We try to encourage learning in chess and welcome players of all ability; I myself have risen from the D team through to A and B team, and so have experienced all 4 Bristol leagues and their unique challenges. Outside of serious matchplay, we enjoy analysing games, playing friendly games and holding our own casual tournaments. I think the kind of players that play for us respect the game and fair play – and are keen to learn from others.


Can you tell us about the history of the club?

There is a fascinating account of how we were formed on our website – but I’ll just say it involved some air-raid wardens! We are 75 this year, and we have had a host of team honours, as well as individual Bristol champions (including this year just gone!). My best moment was last year when we won the cup; it was so tough that I chose not to pick myself for the final – but instead watched proudly on as the team won 4-4 on board count. GM Stuart Conquest – originally from Bristol – gave a simultaneous display at our club in 1992 – hopefully we’ll have more of these in future!

Who are you fiercest rivals and why?!

There is a really close and healthy rivalry in the league – the top matches are always excruciatingly close. We are one of 4 ‘big’ clubs in Bristol – and I suppose you could call them all rivals in a sense. The one that is closest to us in terms of teams is probably Clifton – any of the A to D teams would always have a close match against their Clifton counterparts. But in a match situation you just try to beat who is in front of you.

What is your favourite thing about the club?

I would say we really listen to the club and try to organise things in the fairest way for all – with the chief aim being to get everyone playing the level of chess they want to play. We have an open forum for discussion and everyone does what they can to help.


Is there anything else you would like to add about your club?

We are very happy that more and more people around the world are playing chess – it was already the most played game after football! But interest in learning and following chess seems to be increasing all the time. We want to make sure that ‘local’ chess – that is playing over the board and meeting other people doesn’t get left behind and we want to be a club which reaches out further than clubs traditionally do. To achieve this we are making real efforts to be an inviting club to all players. If anyone supports us in this effort – they can get in touch, share things online, meet us at tournaments or play some friendly games over the board or online (Horfield club or chess.com)

So there we are.  Another interesting insight to the running of an amateur chess club and I can speak first hand for Horfield how important it is to provide a suitable level of play for woodpushers of all abilities.  A running theme across the two clubs we have featured on the blog so far.

If you have any comments or ideas for the Club Profiles then do please let us know.  Also if you want your club to be featured then don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or at info@chessjournalapp.com.

Until next time

Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet. Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

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Club Profile #1: Limewood & Scarcroft Chess Club, UK

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

Today I would like to introduce you all to a new initiative that I have been thinking about for a few weeks, Club Profiles. The humble chess club is the home of many of our more fiercest ‘over the board’ battles.  Competitive engagements (no matter what your level) where we try out new ideas, old ideas and blunder our way to victory or defeat against long established rivals. If you live in the UK this probably also involves a log fire, pint of ale and a sleeping dog at your feet (perhaps I’m over romanticising this…)

As regular readers will know, the ChessJournal App is all about helping and supporting amateur woodpushers improve and learn from their ‘over the board’ games (as opposed to playing online which we believe is totally different – read this blog for our views on this). Therefore, here at the blog I have decided to start a regular feature showcasing the wealth, size  and general diversity of chess clubs around the world.

So without further ado let me introduce Limewood & Scarcroft Chess Club, near Leeds in the UK. I conducted this interview via email with Chris Tatham, Alan Riddle and club captain, Paul May. My thanks for their insightful and refreshing answers both about their club and wider chess in Britain today. Enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about your club

We’re Limewood and Scarcroft Chess Club based at the Fox and Grapes, a pleasant pub on the A64 between Leeds and York. We were formed towards the end of 2014 and are the newest club in Leeds. We have around 20 active players of all strengths with 2 teams playing in the Leeds League (Divisions 2 and 3 next season). League and club nights are on a Wednesday at 7pm.

What kind of person plays for the club?

The vision for the club was to provide a good environment to encourage new players to the game without that initial pressure to win straight away and without the lack of interest shown in weaker players by many clubs. We demonstrate this aim in our ‘B’ Team which has been consistently made up of players with ECF grades under 100 and even as low as 23 but who are among our keenest members. Most had never been a member of a chess club before. Several had to be given a tutorial in chess notation before they could take part in a real match.


On the other hand our ‘A’ Team is now attracting stronger players – our strongest is graded around 160 – and this helped the team to gain promotion to Division 2 for the coming season. One of our strongest players is Bob Maltby. He achieved a success rate of 79% on his games for us this season and has just been declared our Player of the Year.

The result is that the club can now offer a chess-playing experience suitable for a wide range of players, from hardened veteran to novice.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

We have just completed our 3rd season. We were set up towards the end of 2014 At first we struggled to get a five person team together but since then we have gone from strength to strength with the creation of a second team last season and aiming for a 3rd team next season.

Our ‘A’ Team gained promotion this season into the 2nd division by finishing 2nd. And our ‘B’ team finished bottom of a very strong bottom division. Both teams met the targets we set at the beginning of the season!

Our greatest achievement to date was winning the Leeds Mini League this season which is a 3 man handicap competition. We fielded two teams. Our top team were clear winners and our second team (all graded under 90) came joint 2nd. We also made it through to the semi-final of the Arjay knockout competition, narrowly missing out by drawing the match, but losing on board count.


Who are your fiercest rivals and why?!

In recent years the Leeds league has been growing and currently has three divisions. Two of the biggest and oldest clubs in Leeds are Alwoodley and Rose Forgrove. However in recent years the strongest clubs have been Leeds City Centre and new club Moortown (also formed in 2014).

Great to hear and read about the establishment of a very young new club and how they are already seeing success both on and off the board.  I particularly liked their comments about how chess clubs support and encourage weaker players.  Its often all too easy for splinter groups to arise in clubs where they are separated along grading boundaries.  In my experience all the great clubs (my own included) offer a level of support and inclusivity no matter your ability.  You never know when you need someone to step off the sideline and in to the game!

So there we are, our first club profile.  I hope you have enjoyed reading it and if you have any suggestions on format then do please leave a comment in the section below.  Obviously it is a new feature and I’m sure we will refine it as we move forward.  Also If you would like your club to be featured in a club profile then do please get in touch via our Twitter or Facebook pages of email info@chessjournalapp.com. Especially if you are a club based outside the UK! We are always fascinated to hear how other chess clubs run around the world! I already have a few clubs lined up so Im hoping this will become a regular feature to the blog.

Until next time, thanks for reading and all your support.

Cheers

Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet.  Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

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ChessJournal 2.1 now available (eventually…)

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

I’m delighted to finally write a new blog post today on our latest update, ChessJournal 2.1.

“Wait a minute Jon, that came out last week?!” I hear you cry.

Well yes. Yes it did.

Android users have been enjoying v2.1 since June 3rd but unfortunately a bug in our iOS release meant we had to go through App Store approval again and that lasted longer than either myself or Matt would have liked.

Despite this short delay, I am delighted to introduce all the new features in v2.1 as follows:

  • ECF Rating: If you are based in the UK then you now have the ability to change your ChessJournal settings to ECF rather than ELO! This was a common request from all of our British based woodpusher fans and I’m glad to finally bring this feature to you.
  • Move Indicator: Another common request was to provide an indicator on the game screen of exactly what move in a game or variation a player is on. This move indicator can also be used now to highlight to a user when a variation is available to view without having to scroll.
  • Improved Game Controls UI: We have also cleaned up the main controls around games to make them easier to alternate between evaluating positions and variations. I think this change is my favourite update in this release.
  • Name a season: Many users also asked us to provide the ability to name a season so they can functionally group different types of games e.g. “Bristol League Games” or “Somerset New Year Tournament”. You asked for it, you got it!
  • Improved PGN Import: We also tweaked some of the usability and technical aspects of importing your games from PGN.
  • Minor bug fixes: As always we did some minor clean up on bugs reported by the ChessJournal community.

So there we are! You asked and we listened!


In total myself and Matt have spent about 30hrs updating to ChessJournal 2.1 in the last few weeks (including our various liaisons with the App Store). I hope you can see the value that our efforts bring to v2.1 of ChessJournal.
If you are pleased with the update and progress that we are making with ChessJournal then please please please leave us a review in the App Store or Google Play Store. Reviews are crucial to helping us reach more of our fellow woodpushers.

In other news, I have a number of other initiatives that I am planning for the blog so stay tuned!

Until next time.

Jon


 

ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet.  Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

NOTICE: iOS Bug Fix Pending

Hello ChessJournal Fans,

We are aware of a bug in the latest iOS release of ChessJournal that is preventing season creation. We are currently going through the review process with Apple to push an update to fix it.

We anticipate this may take 48hrs.

Short term Workaround

In the short term, Seasons can still be created by switching to ECF grade (in Options), create season, and then switch back to ELO.

We apologise for any inconvenience. Thanks for your patience!
Cheers

Jon

The Top 5 British Chess Club Websites

 

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Hello ChessJournal fans,

Its been a little quiet on the blog as we have waited to see what the reaction to ChessJournal v2.0 would be but also because I’ve been busy running email campaigns out to as many chess clubs as I could find!

We don’t have a large marketing budget here at ChessJournal HQ (thats why you should tell all your friends about us and share this blog post everywhere) so I have manually contacted the club secretary of over 400 chess clubs in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Canada.  As a result I am becoming very well acquainted with the standard of digital design in the amateur chess club scene around the world…

Some chess club websites are great, some not so great.  When just looking at the British chess club scene it is obvious that many well established chess clubs obviously set up their websites in the mid 90’s and have not touched them since.  This is understandable given the pace of change in digital (for those that don’t know, working in digital is my day job) and that running a chess club is very much an amateur activity.  However, in my long slog through every British chess club website I was astounded by three common pitfalls that a lot of clubs are making:

  • Expired Domains: Kind of fundamental to running a chess club website is to actually have a working website in the first place.  I would argue that the number of broken links or expired domain names across all British chess club websites I visited was around the 10-20% mark.  Im pretty certain these clubs still exist but it must be very difficult for potential new members to contact them.
  • Missing or hidden contact details: Assuming the website was actually working, I was again astonished in 2017 how many chess clubs did not have clear and obvious contact details (telephone or email) for potential new members to get in touch.  I noticed how many clubs were obviously fearful of unwanted spam by either posting broken email addresses deliberately  (e.g. jon – at – chess journal.com) or using layers of CAPTCHAs that were unreadable to even the human eye.  Essentially  as a new visitor to (I’m afraid to say) the majority of British Chess Club websites, I often had to work very hard to get in touch.
  • Not suitable for mobile: In 2017 many modern websites receive over 50% of their traffic on mobile devices.  Again the lack of modern design skills or web templates in the British chess club scene meant that visitors to these websites on mobile phones had to work very hard to use them. Often having to view text very small or rely on pinching and zooming to find poorly designed links.

I realise my above points might sound overly negative but I trust by now that regular readers know that my heart is in the right place and I really want the amateur chess club scene in the UK to thrive.  The three points I make above would go a long way to helping potential new recruits join chess clubs across the country.  Right now , I suspect many clubs don’t realise what a difference a good website design could do to their membership.

It wasn’t all bad however! On occasion I would stumble across a club that had obviously invested in its web presence.  I thought I would pull out in my opinion the top 5 chess club websites in the UK:

  1. Jersey Chess Club: Well done Jersey! In my opinion the best chess club website I found in my long search to contact club secretaries. Clean, modern and responsive for mobile devices. Clear navigation and prominent contact details. I felt the design of Jersey’s website had a touch more class than other top five entrants who were more clean and simple. http://www.jerseychessclub.com
  2. Glasgow Polytechnic Chess Club: An absolute delight of a chess club website from this active club in Scotland.  Great layout, clear links, works fantastically on mobile and a nice nod to the Lewis Chessmen. It was very close between Glasgow Poly and Jersey but I think Jersey just nick it! A close run thing across the entire length of the British isles! http://glasgowpolychess.weebly.com/contacts.html
  3. Hammersmith Chess Club: A really nice designed site that is clean and clear with not just prominent contact details but also upcoming events which really made you want to visit the club. Links to a vibrant social media presence also helped raise Hammersmith into second spot for me. http://hammerchess.co.uk
  4. Battersea Chess Club: Again a nice clear web template with prominent navigation and contact details.  Uses a nice responsive template that adjusts to whatever device a new visitor is using and my favourite part was how new and fresh the content was on the site. http://www.batterseachessclub.org.uk
  5. Forest of Dean Chess Club: Gatecrashing into the top five, this website does exactly what a small chess club needs.  A simple one page website with contact details that reach through your phone screen and hit you in the face! Admittedly the webpage is not optimised for mobile but its such a simple site that this matters little as all the immediate information I need is right in front of me. For a small club this is exactly what you need. A pleasant surprise in my quest to visit every chess club website in the UK. http://www.fodcc.org.uk

A couple of honourable mentions must also go to Newport Chess Club in Shropshire (http://www.newportchessclub.com) who for a moment I thought would win until I realised that the website was so heavy that it took about five minutes for every luxurious page to load.  Looked great just very hard to use effectively, a shame. So close! Also Brighton & Hove Chess Club (http://www.brightonandhovechessclub.org) have made a great effort. Great looking site that captures the essence of Brighton and the beach.  Unfortunately its almost impossible to find the contact details which in my opinion is kind of fundamental. But a much stronger design effort than the lions share of British chess club websites.

So there we are folks.  Whilst I probably haven’t visited every single chess club website in the UK in the last 4 weeks, I certainly feel like I am a knowledgeable authority on the standard of digital design in the British chess club scene.

In other news, its been a month since v2.0 of ChessJournal launched so here is a massive thank you to the hundreds of wood pushers who have downloaded and registered with ChessJournal so far.  A special thank you to all the Facebook comments, emails and tweets we have received telling us how to make ChessJournal even better.  Myself and Matt have already scoped out a number of changes based on your feedback and we aim to deliver v2.1 to you all very soon. I will blog about all the new features being added in the next release as soon as I can.

If you haven’t downloaded and registered with ChessJournal yet then visit our main website here:

http://chessjournalapp.com

I hope you have enjoyed my rambling, tongue in cheek journey on today’s blog!

Until next time

Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet.  Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

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What you get in a ChessJournal Membership

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Hello ChessJournal fans!

Well its been just over a week since we launched version 2.0 of everyones favourite chess players diary. Myself and Matt have been delighted with the response so far. Across the App Store and Google Play we are averaging a 4.43 (out of 5) star rating and I’m getting lots of lovely emails from my fellow wood pushers!

One of the biggest changes in v2 of ChessJournal was the move to a subscription model.  A few people have questioned whats included with the different membership levels so on todays blog I thought I would outline the different levels of membership. Here we go:

Free Membership

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ChessJournal is free to download and create an account.  With the free level of membership the following features and benefits are included:

  • Unlimited storage of your competitive ‘over the board’ games in the cloud;
  • Inport and export PGN of your games to and from your personal ChessJournal;
  • Built in engine to use on all your games;
  • Statistical breakdown of your performance across competitive seasons;
  • Create personal improvement goals that you can track and link important games to;
  • Share your games via email, Twitter and Facebook;
  • Search functionality for your whole ChessJournal.

Premium Membership (£4.99 / $6.50 / €6.00 per year)

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Becoming a premium member of ChessJournal unlocks the following:

  • Ability to analyse key variations and save interesting lines with your game;
  • Annotate your games with your thoughts and lessons learned;
  • Export and share your annotations and variations via email, Twitter and Facebook.

Becoming a premium member allows you to take your ChessJournal to the next level by enabling a deeper level of self study and learning.  Here is a link to an example of a fully annotated game that I played in the Bristol & District League recently:

Jon Fisher (1788) vs. Richard Johnson (1930), 25th April 2017

My team and club mates enjoyed watching me wriggle out of that one!

Our Premium subscription offering will be getting expanded in the coming months. I will be blogging more info here in due course.

Why choose ChessJournal?

So there we are! Even with a free membership I hope you can see the value of starting your own personal ChessJournal with us.  ChessJournal offers you the ability to access and study your ‘over the board’ games whenever, wherever and on a convenient device to you (leave your laptop at home next time you play a tournament!). Even time poor amateur players can now find the time and opportunity to study using ChessJournal!

The focus of learning from your own mistakes and patterns of play, will we hope start to yield real benefit to improving, aspirational, amateur chess players.  Anecdotally within the ChessJournal community (from v1.0) I have received reports of players improving up to 100 ELO (approx. 15pts in ECF money) after using ChessJournal for a season.  I myself have achieved a rating increase of 98 ELO this season.

So thats it for this weeks blog.  My chess club, Horfield & Redland, completed the league this week so I will probably write an analysis of my season soon.  Until then thanks for reading and keep those nice reviews coming on the App Store and Google Play!

Cheers

Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet.  Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

 

The New ChessJournal: Feature List


Hello ChessJournal fans,

Hopefully most of you have noticed by now that ChessJournal v2.0 launched yesterday on both iOS and Android.  If this news is coming as a shock then please do visit our sister website chessjournalapp.com and download the app NOW.

Right then where were we? Oh yes, ChessJournal version 2.0.

When we first launched ChessJournal 1.0 last summer we were flooded with feedback from keen woodpushers who very quickly started requesting new features.  As I have blogged about previously, it became clear that we needed to expand on ChessJournal’s initial offering from 2016, which is why we have spent the first quarter of 2017 revamping your favourite chess players diary app.  In an effort to show you all how much has changed and how much we have listened to your requests I thought I would write a quick blog post listing the major changes and features.  Here we go:

  • Cloud Storage: The big one! You will notice that when you first download the new ChessJournal you will be required to create an account.  This way you can access your personal games collection from any device you chose and it also moves us away from some of the problems we previously had with local device storage e.g. changing phones or having to put the same game into both your iPad and your iPhone.  Moving to a cloud based solution has been a massive endeavour but I think you will agree it makes the ChessJournal proposition infinitely more appealing. Now wherever you are, with whatever device, you can start to evaluate your games.
  • Variations: Another big request from users.  You can now create, evaluate, annotate save and share key variations in your games.  Previously we only provided a “kibitzing scratch pad” to shuffle pieces around but now these important game variations can be saved and explored to your hearts content.  Importantly we have put this feature as part of our premium subscription offering. Whilst we endeavour to keep the bulk of ChessJournal free, we hope you can see both the immense value this feature brings but also our need to cover our costs. I will be blogging in more detail soon on our move to a subscription model.
  • Goals: You can now create and track personal improvement goals in your ChessJournal to help you achieve major chess milestones.  As you progress through the competitive chess season you can link important games that helped you (or hindered you, ouch!) achieve these goals. Both myself and Matt are really pleased to expand the “journal” aspect of ChessJournal.
  • Search Function: Now you can search all your games from the seasons listing page. No more remembering when and where you played that tricky arch nemesis!
  • Import PGN: As well as export you can now import PGN from either your existing chess games database or ChessJournal v1.0. You are welcome!
  • Flip Board: Possibly the simplest and most requested feature we received from you. Its flipping there ok?!
  • Android: Yes you heard me correctly! ChessJournal is now on Android also. Sorry to you patient folk who kept asking me over the last 10 months, but me and Matt wanted to be certain that what we launching on a second platform was right.  In hindsight we learnt a lot of valuable lessons with ChessJournal v1.0 and launching on Android at the same time would have been premature.  However, that situation has now changed!  Get yourself down to the Google Play store and start your ChessJournal today.

 

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We have also made a flurry of interface tweaks that you may or may not notice (for example orientation of the board depending on the colour you were playing) so whilst the look and feel of ChessJournal v2.0 seems familiar, under the hood it is a very different beast that has been carefully tuned in the last three months.

So there we are! We have lots of exciting plans in the pipeline over the coming months, particularly around our premium subscriptions so as always stay tuned.

Me and Matt are committed to bringing the best chess players diary to the market to help you all understand and improve your own games. Thank you for all your support thus far.  If you are enjoying ChessJournal then please do leave us a positive review on the App Store or Google Play.  Every review really helps us drive ChessJournal forward.

Until next time!

Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet.  Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

Launching ChessJournal

Hello ChessJournal fans,
So we finally did it! The new ChessJournal app has launched on both iOS and Android and is free to download today!

Because of the all the new features and our switch to cloud-based data storage (cool huh?!), this version has launched as an entirely new app. With it comes the ability to import a games PGN, search for games across seasons, set yourself personal goals and a host of other improvements (yes, you can now even flip the board!).

Perhaps the biggest change to ChessJournal is that you can now better explore variations of key positions in your game. Upgrading to a premium account will unlock the ability to create, explore, annotate, save and share these variations. Becoming a premium subscriber will help support us and we hope to bring more features to our premium subscribers in the future (we will write a separate blog on the move to a subscription model).

Thank you!

We wouldn’t have made it to this point without the help from a number of people. In no particular order, a massive thank you to:

– Joe for the official ChessJournal soundtrack;
– Kate for the super spiffy icons;
– Robin for loaning us his Android phone;
– Gareth, John, Tim and Mike for helping us with testing.

We owe them all a beer for helping us launch ChessJournal.  It just goes to show that even a small team such as us still need to call on their friends now and again.

Stats

The latest version of ChessJournal has been rebuilt from the ground up. To give you an idea of the work involved in getting to this point:

– We worked through 81 Trello cards. This covered anything from user stories to bugs found during testing;
– With the help of others, we tested over 20 release candidates across a number of devices on both iOS and Android;
– We had to renew and purchase developer licenses for both Google Play and the App Store;
– We (well Matt did) wrote 2400 new lines of code and created or changed 294 files.

In total, we estimate it has taken around 126 hours to release ChessJournal (v2), spread across evening and weekends for the past 3 and a half months. We’ve learnt a lot about app development and release during this time, but also we’re reminded just how understanding our wives have been during those late nights and long weekends!

We’re really excited to release the new and improved ChessJournal and we’ve already starting thinking about other features we would like to bring in the future, especially to those that support us and become a premium subscriber! So let us know what you think of this release and what features you might like to see.

Thanks for supporting us – we are now off to the pub!

Matt & Jon

The ChessJournal Team


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet.  Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

How amateur chess players respond to 1.b3 (Larsen’s Attack)

Hello ChessJournal fans!

Whilst everyone anxiously waits for the upcoming launch of ChessJournal Pro (well I know I’m excited anyway), I thought I would write a quick blog post on  my favourite opening, Larsen’s Attack or 1.b3.

I’ve made no secret that this is my go to opening in all formats of our great game and yes I am sure some people reading this are already rolling their eyebrows! As a Class A amateur chessplayer (circa 1800 – 1825) I don’t consider myself an authority on openings (I certainly won’t be blogging on “how to play Larsen’s attack”) but I will say two things on this wonderful opening:

  1. It is theoretically sound.
  2. Amateur club chessplayers haven’t got a clue how to respond.

I have been playing Larsen’s opening for almost 6yrs in the local league and have kept a record of my results and the types of setup that my opponents responded with. It is these statistics that I thought were most interesting to your average wood pusher and the reason for writing this blog post.

Obviously my results are not always decided in the opening but I feel there is a reasonable sample size (60 Games) to enable us to draw some conclusions.

For me, the biggest interest is in comparing how amateur chessplayers respond to 1.b3 compared to professionals. First of all let’s compare black’s first move choice:

Amateurs First Move Responce to 1.b3 (Professional stats in brackets taken from ChessBase)

  • 1…e5: 33% (44%)
  • 1…d5: 15% (25%)
  • 1…c5: 12% (5%)
  • 1…nf6: 22% (16%)
  • 1…other: 18% (10%)

So we can see that club players are typically shying away from creating a large centre when confronted with 1.b3. The obvious central pawn pushes occurring only 48% of the time compared to 69% of the time in professional matches. Perhaps this conservatism also explains the higher likelihood of 1…nf6. Now let’s look at setups.

How Amateur Chess players setup against 1.b3

When studying and learning Larsen’s Attack I have effectively grouped Black’s setups into 6 setups (percentages show how often I have faced these setups):

  • “Big Centre” (12%): Black pushes both central pawns forward two squares and challenges White in a classical fashion;

  • “Little centre” (22%): Black plays e5 and a subsequent d6. A Pirc style set up;

  • “Slav” (3%): Black plays d5, c6 and e6 (with his white bishop inside or outside the pawn chain);

  • “Reversed Nimzo Indian” (23%): Black plays c5, d5 and e6.

  • “Indian” (22%): Black plays nf6, g6 and bg7.

enlight1-10

  • “Other” (18%): Black plays literally anything else such as 1. a5 I have faced on a number of occasions!

As you would expect from such a passive start as 1. b3 there is a varied responce from amateur chess players with no clear winner of an opening responce. However, what you do see is a clear push to more quieter setups, almost certainly as a result of being taken off guard early on. Only 12% of amateur chess players have dared to create a big centre against me in 6yrs!

Finally in the spirit of complete honesty I have broken down my performance against these different setups below:

  • “Big Centre”: 43%
  • “Little Centre”: 38% (ouch!)
  • “Slav”: 100% (only two games)
  • “Reversed Nimzo- Indian”: 64%
  • “Indian”: 58%
  • “Other”: 64%
  • TOTAL: 56%

As I said before, the game is not nessesserily won or lost in the opening but there does appear to be a clear difference in my results compared to my opponents decision to push the e pawn two squares. When my opponent plays e5 I typically score 40%. When they don’t push e5 and choose a different setup I typically score 64%!

So maybe the professional criticism of 1.b3 (as opposed to the Nimzo-Larsen Attack with 1.nf3, stopping e5) is right after all? Or maybe I just know where I need to study 🙂

So there we are! I hope you have found these statistics interesting. I am fascinated in the discrepancies between amateur play and professional. I hope any club players interested in 1.b3 find this article useful, if only to understand where to focus your efforts. My opponents ratings in this sample of amateur games typically range between 1600 and 2000 so very typical of an average club level.

In other news, ChessJournal Pro is ticking along nicely and we are still planning an April launch. I really can’t emphasise how excited I am! I personally have been beta testing the new app for the last week and am loving it (ok I’m bias I know).

Until next time, thanks for reading!
Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet.  Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay