Club Profile #9: Battersea Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal Fans!

I’ve been a little preoccupied following the British Chess Championships this week in Llandudno, North Wales.  The coverage has been excellent and a special shout out to both Andrew Martin’s Game of the day videos as well as the excellent tweetage from Phil Makepeace (@alteredcourse).

As a result, I realised its been a week since the last club profile.  Ive been sitting on this one for a couple of weeks due to life getting busy but I am really excited to bring you todays club profile of Battersea Chess Club in London. A massive thank you to Leon Watson (of Telegraph chess fame) for his excellent tongue in cheek response to our request.  Particularly with his dismissal of the noisy neighbours Hammersmith…

Tell us a little bit about your club

Right, we are Battersea Chess Club and the first thing you will want to know about us is that pints at our venue cost a mere £2.90. Yes, you read that right – £2.90. And, yes, we are Battersea as in the place in London. So, £2.90 pints in London. Surely that’s not possible? Well, if you come on down to our gaff it is. As to the question you were actually asking, well, do you need to know any more? Oh ok, I’ll run through the boring stuff: we are a medium-sized club, established way back in 1885 and based south of the river in a working men’s (person’s) club a couple of minutes’ walk from Clapham Junction station, one of the best connected stations in the capital. We have about 40 members and rising and this season we will be putting out six teams in the London League, three in the Central London League and we have two in a new more casual league we have co-founded called the Summer Chess League.

What kind of person plays for the club?

Well, who do you think? People who like cheap pints obviously. After that a very broad range of people. We have all sorts of backgrounds. But, of course, this is chess we’re talking about so unfortunately most of us are actually slightly rounded men with thinning hair and a strange desire to get out of the family home on weeknights. But if you ignore that then yes, we have a very varied set of members. We certainly welcome everyone, or try to. I can confidently say we cater for every ability – we have total beginners and we have people pushing for titles. We also have league teams to reflect that from an U125 team all the way up the ladder to a team in division 1 of the London Chess League where it is not at all unusual to come across IMs and GMs. We don’t at the moment have a formal junior set up as we meet in the evening which is too late for most kids. However we have had a couple coming through the door recently and we also have a kid we’re all excited about and think will go on to something big. His name is Denis Dupuis and you heard his name here first! But in all seriousness we desperately need as a club to broaden our membership at least to include another gender. If anyone has any ideas on how to do this, let us know.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

The club has a long and illustrious history which I could go into detail about but we have a potted history on our website which explains far better than I ever could. We were established in 1885 and, while we are not the oldest, we believe we are the oldest continually-existing club in London. Probably our most famous former player is a certain Grandmaster Ray Keene. In fact, I found out the other day he lives nearby so I might knock on his door and try to persuade him to come along and get involved. Not as treasurer though, obviously. More recently GM Keith Arkell turned out for us, and we are hoping to persuade a big name or two this year to play for us. We’ll see. As far as our performance down the years is concerned, we’ve won the London League several times but perhaps not historically been one of its really strong clubs. We’re not a Cavendish or Wood Green. Although the last time we won it we did keep the trophy for six years. Ok, that was because of the war, but it still counts! Two years ago our first team won promotion to first division again after several decades out of the top tier and we are very proud of that. It was a big achievement for us but staying in it is tough: we narrowly escaped relegation last season may well be in the same dogfight this season. Until a few years ago we were also active in the Surrey League but we pulled out because it was hard getting people to go down to Dorking on a Wednesday night.

Who are your fiercest rivals and why?!

Well, Hammersmith like to think they’re our rivals but honestly it’s a bit embarrassing really. They’re a little club, no history, their best team is only in div 3 of the London League and we beat them almost every time. It’s just… awkward. We humour them. Honestly, if you remember the TV series Bottom with Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, the Spammers (as we call them) are like Richie and Eddie – a complete shambles. Incidentally, Bottom was set in Hammersmith. The other day I saw a couple of guys playing chess in a care home – Hammersmith should probably try being rivals with them, they’ll have more success that way. Apart from those jokers, the nearest team in terms of geography is Streatham & Brixton but in my time at the club I’ve not noticed any rivalry with them. But then you wouldn’t pick a fight with a team from Streatham and Brixton, would you?

What is your favourite thing about the club?

We’re a good bunch, we’re welcoming and we’re doing our best to drag ourselves into this century. We have our eccentrics (cough, Emil) but we all have the same approach – we love the game and just want to play. Most of us genuinely love the club too. We want it to continue for another 131-years. That’s perhaps a bit optimistic admittedly, but we’ve realised that you have to be proactive to survive and we’re doing that. We need to find ways to get more members and interest more people in the game, otherwise we will wither and die. To that end over the last year we’ve had the legendary GM Simon Williams play at our club along with GM David Howell (!!!) and even the YouTube star IM John Bartholomew. He came over from the US and did a simul and blitz tournament in which he had an epic three-game play-off with the Ginger GM. It was fantastic to watch. And how many clubs have a 2700 guy like David Howell drop in?

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

If you live in London or are moving to London, just come along to one of our club nights. You’ll be guaranteed a warm welcome, especially if you come armed with a £20 new membership fee. Remember, pints are £2.90 – so you’ll practically be SAVING money. Get hold of me first and I’ll tell you what to expect and who to steer clear of (Emil again…). The last thing is just that we’re a great club (much better than Hammersmith).

Thank you Leon for a lovely funny overview of this excellently run club!  Its interesting to note the strong correlation in our club profiles between active marketing and engagement through digital mediums, and success for chess clubs.  I’ve previously mentioned Battersea Chess Club in the review of top chess club websites in the UK and their constant flow of engaging content (much like, ahem, Hammersmith) is a big draw. It must be really exciting as an “average strength” club player to know that on any given club night a famous titled player may show up!

I have a handful of remaining club profiles in the pipeline and then I feel I will draw a close to this series of articles for the summer.  If you have enjoyed this romp through British chess clubs then please do let me know and maybe we can resurrect it next summer. I also feel that a summary articles of themes and trends in running successful chess clubs is in order

In other news, regular readers will have noticed that the ChessJournal summer sale is back for August with 40% off premium subscriptions.  Thats just £2.99 a year people (or slightly more than a pint at battersea chess club)! With the new chess season fast approaching why not take advantage and give it a try?!

As always thanks for reading.  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. Set and track personal improvement goals, linking key games to them across the season. 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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40% off ChessJournal Premium in our Summer Sale

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

Just a quick one from me today to bring some exciting news in the normally quiet Chess month of August.  For the whole of August we will be offering ChessJournal Premium for a massively reduced 40%, down to just £2.99 / €3 / $4 a year.  If you are still uncertain then you can trial 3 months for just £1 / €1 / $1.5.

Longterm readers will remember that we ran a similar sale for the whole of August last year and it proved really popular with the community so myself and Matt thought we would make it an annual thing.

As I have previously blogged, we have a number of new features in the pipeline for ChessJournal that will expand our premium (and non-premium to be fair) offering.  However, the summer months are proving to be very busy times for both of us in terms of life (this weekend I am attending my third wedding in four weeks) so they will be a slight delay in bringing you these exciting changes.

Therefore, I suggest we all kick back, enjoy the sun (rain if you are UK based) and maybe take this opportunity to try ChessJournal Premium if its something you have been thinking about.

Thanks for reading and all your continued support.

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. Set and track personal improvement goals, linking key games to them across the season. Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

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Club Profile #8: Downend & Fishponds Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal Fans!

Its been a little under a week since the last club profile and today we are returning much closer to home with a post from the reigning Bristol & District League champions, Downend & Fishponds Chess Club. One of the largest and friendliest clubs in the Bristol league, Downend are an example of how to run a chess club well in recent years. Its fair to say they are the strongest club in terms of both chess ability (wining Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 in the league) but also organisation with regular support for junior chess and last season they ran a remarkable 6 (?!) teams.  The Bristol league often runs in cycles of dominance for one club and Downed’s success is well earned in recent history.  Lets hear from Richard Livermore at the club…

Tell us a little bit about your club?

I have only been a member of Downend & Fishponds Chess Club for a little over 2 years, though my association with the club goes back to 10th November 1984 when Downend sent a team to my then club, Pentyrch, near Cardiff, for a match in a knock-out competition.

I cannot remember the result, though I suspect Downend won, but the match was played in such the most friendly manner (not always the case in chess) that a return match in Bristol was immediately arranged.

We have now played over 50 return matches, playing in Downend in the Autumn and Pentyrch in the Spring for the Mike Wood Bridge Trophy, named after the long time but recently deceased president of Downend & Fishponds Chess Club.

The home team always provides a generous buffet, and of course a most warm welcome, for the matches which are looked forward to by everyone involved.

This would not be a surprise to anyone who knows either club, as one could not meet more friendly or welcoming people in any walk of life than the members of both these clubs, and when I decided to start travelling across from South Wales each week to play in the Bristol league, it did not even enter my head to approach any club other than Downend, and their welcome to me into the club was all I hoped and expected it to be.

Can you tell us about the history of your club?

The club dates back to 1949, with far too much history for me to put in here, but this can be accessed by going to the club’s excellent, and, I mean excellent, website, www.downendchess.com.

(editors note – The Downend site contains a lovely collection of photos of the history of the club.  It looks like 1967 was a successful year just like 2017!  It must run every 50 years!)

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What kind of person plays for the club?

Downend enter 6 teams in the Bristol & District Chess League catering from the strongest league players in the top division, to beginners and juniors in the lower divisions.

We have 5 juniors, certainly not beginners, playing for the teams, who are improving at a frightening rate, and receive much help and encouragement from the club’s best players.

This help and encouragement is a benchmark of our club, with the strongest players making friends with, and drinking with (yes, we do that, too) everyone, even duffers like me.

Regarding our strength, we have just had a tremendous season, winning division 1 with our A team, division 2 with our C team, division 3 with our D team, and the knock out cup as well.

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What about our B team? Well, they finished 5th in division 1, proving themselves to be stronger then all but 4 of the other clubs’ A teams.

We receive great support from members of all the teams, with players not involved in a match that evening coming along to support those playing, even in away matches, and enduring the agonies of watching their club mates and friends struggling through tight endgames under time pressure, “Why doesn’t he play Ne5 and push the g pawn….?” and other agonised whispers.

Obviously, we have strong players at the top with 4 players performing at over 200 level this season, and amongst our 190’s a 199 (unlucky).

We also have a new Hungarian player who is a FIDE Candidate Master for our A team next year.

Well, we could do do with the help!

What is your favourite thing about the club?

Our home is at Downend Cricket Club, which provides a warm welcome (that word again), and in the lighter evenings the view over the cricket pitch is lovely.

It is, incidentally, the home club of Dr. W.G. Grace, probably the greatest cricketer of the 19th century, with interesting photographs and memorabilia in the club.

If this reads a little like a “travel brochure”, then I suppose it is.

It is written out of my genuine appreciation and enjoyment of this terrific club, and I urge anyone to visit.

Well a passionate description from a proud club member that I can only concur with Richard having played at Downend & Fishponds chess club on many occasion.  I particularly like how proactive Downend tend to be on the recruitment side of things.  They are never scared of looking further afield (for example, South Wales) or building strong links with the local University to hoover up talent when strong chess players graduate.  This very tactic has contributed more than a fair share of 190 and 200 ECF rated players in recent years.

How Downend & Fishponds fair next season remains to be seen as the healthy rivalry with my own club Horfield still exists.  We haven’t forgotten losing the league two years ago by 0.5 a board point! That one still hurts…

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. Set and track personal improvement goals, linking key games to them across the season. Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

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Club Profile #7: Newton Abbot Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal Fans,

Today we swing down to the south west of England to talk to Newton Abbot chess club.  Despite coming from Bristol, I’m not very familiar with the chess scene further south so it was nice to get contacted by Trefor from Newton Abbot.  The story of Newton Abbot chess club is a really good example of reestablishing a local rural chess club.  These types of clubs typically suffer from smaller population bases to draw upon (unfortunately my own local league has lost several smaller clubs in the last decade – perhaps a topic for a subsequent blog post), so its refreshing to read about Newton Abbott’s approach.  My thanks to Trefor for taking part.

Tell us a little bit about your club

Newton Abbot Chess Club is a friendly and active club based in the South Devon market town of Newton Abbot. We meet every Thursday evening (7 p.m.) from September to mid-May at The Courtenay Centre in Kingsteignton Road, an excellent and comfortable central venue for good parking and catering facilities. Home matches in the Torbay League are held on Thursdays but away matches on other nights depending on the club and we also play in the Devon League whose matches take place on Saturday afternoons with a slower time limit.

What kind of person plays for the club?

We welcome members of all ages and standards of play. Our current membership of about 30 ranges in age from 9 to 90 and in grade from 50 to 200 ECF. We are well-known as a club which actively fosters juniors of whom we have 12-15 regularly attending and these juniors, when ready, are given plenty of opportunity to play in our league teams. A typical club evening will see 20 members in attendance and on evenings when there are two matches going on the room is full. We offer regular coaching sessions for both adults and juniors.

Our membership is diverse – in recent years we have had members from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, India, Italy and Scotland. Locally, members travel from towns such as Kingsbridge, Modbury, Totnes, Torquay and Chudleigh.

We organise several internal competitions which run right through the season: Club Championship in 3 all-play –all sections of 8 players: junior championship: Rapidplay tournament (30 minutes each).

We have a very busy match programme – last year the club was involved in over 50 league matches. We compete in divisions 1 to 4 of the Torbay Chess League (and are current League champions) as well as the Rapidplay and Knock-Out Cup competitions. The Devon League also sees us in Divisions 1 to 4 and the Knock-out Cup and we currently hold the division 4 and Knock-Out Cup trophies.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

The club is quite young – it was founded in 2005 (though there had been two previous incarnations in the distant past). The current secretary and founder felt that the town was so central in South Devon (and had good road links) that it had a good chance of attracting players from a wide area and this has proved to be the case.

We have had some considerable success since our founding: three times Devon League champions and multiple times Torbay League champions. However our greatest moment came in 2015 when we won the ECF National Club Championship (Major Section) in Birmingham.

Several years ago we had a very enjoyable visit from Grand Master Keith Arkell (a resident of nearby Paignton) who gave an enjoyable simultaneous display against 20 of our members.

We have a number of strong players with seven current members of Devon County teams including four members of the Devon team which won the ECF Under 180 title in July 2017. In addition two club members (Stephen Homer and Trefor Thynne) represented England Seniors in the World Team Championships held in Crete in April-May 2017. We are also lucky to count both the Devon Ladies’ Champion (Jacqueline Barber-Lafon) and West of England Ladies’ Champion (Nandaja Narayanan) among our membership. Something else of which we are proud is that the Presidents of the Devon County Chess Association (Paul Brooks) and Torbay League (Andrew Kinder) are active members and organisers in our club.

Who are you fiercest rivals and why?!

Our closest and most long-standing rivalry is with neighbours Teignmouth Chess Club though we have dominated encounters in recent seasons as their membership has somewhat aged while we have fostered juniors. In any one season there are usually around twenty matches between the clubs at various levels. We also have friendly rivalry in various divisions with other clubs such as South Hams (Kingsbridge), Plymouth, Exeter and Exmouth.

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One of the highlights of every season comes at the end of October when we act as hosts for the annual Devon Team Quick-Play competition. This attracts around 12-15 teams of four for a fast-moving afternoon of quick-play chess (12 minutes per player). Great fun!

News of all our activities can be found on our dedicated webpage on the CHESSDEVON website: www.chessdevon.org.uk.

What is your favourite thing about the club?

We feel that we have reconciled two objectives which are not always easily compatible; to have a strong and serious level of play for those who want it while remaining friendly, open and welcoming to new or lower-graded players. We are lucky to have an excellent venue and would welcome a visit from anybody wishing to try us out or even just passing through the town.

Of all the club profiles I have covered so far I think its fair to say that Newton Abbot should be considered an excellent example of a Pheonix club rising from the ashes.  In just 12yrs they have established themselves as a thriving club with an active presence in their local chess community.  They wisely point to the act of supporting junior level play as a major contributor to their club in recent years.  Something we have seen in other successful clubs at the moment. I think any smaller club not located near a major city could take serious inspiration from the approach of Newton Abbot.

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. Set and track personal improvement goals, linking key games to them across the season. 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 #6: Camberley Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal fans!

The requests for club profiles keep coming in.  Im really glad the community is engaging with this series of articles.  Im certainly enjoying it and it makes a change from discussing the usual “White to mate in 3 moves” posts that normally litter most chess blogs. Nothing against that type of post per se but it does get a little dry after a while (usually sack a queen is the answer). Anyway I digress…

Camberley Chess Club has the unique distinction of being one of only three chess clubs I have ever played at.  Ten years a go I was seconded on business to Camberley and used to pop down to the club for friendlies over the summer months.  Im glad to see that the Grob wielding maniac that took me apart a decade a go is still causing chaos and confusion! Lets hand over to John Upham from Camberley Chess Club who I conducted this interview with.

Tell us a little bit about your club

Camberley Chess Club is a relatively young club formed in 1972, using for many years the private and very spacious Camberley residence of three times, British Ladies Champion, WIM Patricia Anne Sunnucks in Brackendale Close.

Having retired from a colourful military role Anne cheerfully ran BMS Chess Supplies in the 1970s and 1980s always having multiple copies of the latest titles from B.T. Batsford Ltd. on a large number of shelves and Yours Truly spent far too much pocket money and student grant (£300 per term) on them!

As well as Captain Sunnucks one of our formative and most loyal players was Britain’s first (1975) correspondence Grandmaster, Keith Bevan Richardson who passed away in May of 2017. We have organised a one day rapidplay memorial tournament in his honour for the “Glorious Twelfth” of August 12th, 2017 at our club venue.

Where are you based?

Since 1982 we have met (almost) every Tuesday night throughout the year at Camberley Baptist Church, 15, Frimley Road, Camberley, GU15 3EN where we have use of a match room plus a club room for those not playing in league matches. We are active “out of season” running a club championship, club nights and coaching evenings sharing the famous motto of the Windmill Theatre : “We never closed”.

We have use of a kitchen but, not a bar (!) however, following club nights, we often retire to a nearby watering hole that we have donated chess sets to. Until recently, The William IV Tavern was adjacent now converted to a Co-Operative convenience store.

How many players do you have?

A small revival of fortunes has brought in new members bringing us up to around thirty members with a now proactive Membership Secretary constantly scouting for more.

What league or division do you play in?

A number of our teams play in the Berkshire League and in the Surrey Border League in both divisional competitions and knockout competitions. Over the years we’ve managed to get our name on every trophy in these leagues at least once. Juniors are “bloodied” in the lower divisions and brought into the higher teams as they develop.

What kind of person plays for the club?

Almost all members are keen amateurs from Camberley and surrounding areas with some from as far as Reading, Guildford and Newbury choosing to play for us rather then, for them, a more local club : we must be doing something right !

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We have players ranging from over ECF 200 to less than ECF 50 providing teams for any and all levels of experience and ability. We try and recruit players from anywhere and everywhere including U3A, libraries, schools (primaries and secondaries plus home schooled children).

Do you have any titled players? How diverse is your club? Do you have room for juniors for example?

Before relocating to Guildford, IM Andrew Martin was a key member of our first teams
Two club rooms in one venue allows a separate area for juniors to play and be coached. Many of our more mature members prefer a peaceful location for their club night. Refreshments are free with a fully equipped kitchen available.

One of our longest standing members is Professor of Food Science at The University of Reading and played “normal” chess before attending an event run by IM Michael Basman. Ever since the 1980s, Prof. Gordon Birch has bamboozled his opponents with The Grob (1.g4) and, for total consistency plays The Borg (1…g5) at every opportunity. Indeed, I have witnessed a bizarre game between the late Joe French and Prof. Birch which started 1. f4 g5 ! Suffice to say that this line has not been examined by New in Chess.

In a Bell Trophy match that I captained Gordon was paired with a Bracknell player who also plays The Grob and I was hoping for a 1. g4 g5 start to the game but, instead they asked NOT to play each other and the chess world was robbed of the chance to witness a symmetrical Grob for the first time !

Who are you fiercest rivals and why?!

Crowthorne chess club is geographically close and many members are also Crowthorne members. Every match with our friends is fiercely contested but usually finishes in a local watering hole ! Both clubs have existed for a similar time and have an overlapping catchment area.

We like to beat Guildford Chess Club as often as we can since they are much larger in membership terms and have existed for around three – four times as long but, just as with Crowthorne all matches are in good spirit whatever the outcome.

What is your favourite thing about the club?

There is a great comradery amongst friends including much banter and the like during club nights. Blitz chess is highly popular and we like to help each other improve our chess standard. Members take it turns to do coaching presentations.

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If only we had a bar to have a view from or of ! The membership fee is not especially cheap but we feel that our venue makes the fee worthwhile. Juniors pay £25 per year and this is subsidized by the adult membership.

We like to get involved with the local community and have run several promotional events in Camberley and Farnborough. The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme pushes it members our way and we are happy to take them on for accreditation.

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Several members either are already or are become ECF Accredited Coaches and teach in local schools. Members are active as officers of local and national chess organisations allowing as to have our influence on local and national chess politics.

Having celebrated our Forty Fifth Anniversary in 2017 we look forward to our 50th in 2022 ! Thank-you for allowing us to talk about our club.

Thank you John!  Another cracking insight to this medium sized club based near the M3 (I enjoyed my time at Camberley Chess Club, I did not at any point in time enjoy the nearest motorway).

The more of these club profiles I pull together the more themes start to emerge.  I think in a months time I will step back and pull together a summary blog post on the common challenges as well as traits that make clubs successful. Also perhaps we should have a vote on the blog on a very important aspect of British Chess – “Should a club have a bar? My own club Horfield seems to have survived without a bar on its current premises since 1984! Astonishing quite frankly!

As always, I hope you have enjoyed this post and do continue to share it far and wide with any league chess aficionados you know.

Until next time

Jon

P.S. Me and Matt are pulling together a big new feature called “Chess Calendar” in the next month, ahead of the new season.  I’ll blog about it soon but if you have any burning feature requests or comments on how your club schedules and plans fixtures then now is the time to get in touch – jon@chessjournalapp.com


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 #5: Coulsdon Chess Fellowship

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Hello ChessJournal Fans,

The fifth instalment today of our Club profiles features.  I have to confess to never having heard of the Coulson Chess Fellowship (CCF) when they got in touch with me so I was very surprised to learn of their size.  I’d argue the CCF falls in to the very definition of a “Mega Club” with hundreds of members!  A very unusual but welcome situation in British Chess.

This interview was conducted with Scott Freeman, the CCF Activities Coordinator and also an ECF Accredited Coach and Arbiter.

Tell us a little bit about your club

We are based in Coulsdon (Surrey) and probably have the biggest active club membership in the country. We expect to be starting the new season with approximately 120 members; roughly the same as last season, when we ran 2 teams in the Surrey leagues and 2 in the Croydon League. However unlike the vast majority of clubs, most of our members never play inter-club chess. That is their choice as we run as many teams to accommodate those who want it, but many of the members like the idea that Monday night is chess night, and that they can turn up knowing they have an arranged FIDE Rated and ECF Graded game, so they only play in the internal competitions. Parents who bring juniors like it because we have free guest wifi, so they can gete work done whilst their child(ren) play(s).

What kind of person plays for the club?

We have a huge mix of players of all ages and abilities. The oldest player last season was aged 90 whilst the youngest was just 7. Around 50% of the players are under 18, but many of them are such that they are no longer seen as juniors by those who play them – and the behaviour of our juniors is not an issue here. Nearly 10% of last season’s members are female, including 3 adults and a recent British Ladies Champion!

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

The Coulsdon & Purley Chess Club was founded in 1949 as the “Coulsdon West Chess Club” – so named as it was supported by the Coulsdon West Residents Association. The club later became the “Coulsdon & Purley Chess Club” (after it had to move to Purley) but was eventually swallowed up by CCF at the almost unanimous request of the membership, so CCF has run the show for the last decade. Although the club is now “owned” by CCF, the members are regularly communicated with to obtain a consensus when required – and there are few (if any!) issues that upset people. Members seem quite happy not to have to deal with committees and elections!

We have had a number of strong players represent us over the years; in fact one match in the late 1990’s saw us field an International Master on bottom board for a match at Guildford. Probably the most famous player to play here (albeit for a few months) was David Howell, now one of the top GM’s in this country.

Who are you fiercest rivals and why?!

It was probably Redhill in recent years, but it was always a friendly rivalry with a good rapport between the players of both teams. We don’t really have a club that we would term as big rivals.

What is your favourite thing about the club?

All of the internal competitions are FIDE Rated – and we usually have all matches completed (albeit with a very small number of default results) on time. Players have travelled many miles to play here over the years and have enjoyed the range of internal team and individual events that we run. From the standard club championship divisional structure, to the internal team event (super league) and speed chess nights (5 per year), through to the World Cup (knock-ou competitions)……and we have a replica of the football World Cup for the winner. Some players play every week, whilst others only play once a month in the Super League. Players can regulate how much they play.

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

We believe we have the best chess club in the country. Everything in centrally organised with fixtures arranged by the CCF office and posted online on Friday, giving everyone 3 days to prepare. Entries for the 2017-18 are currently being taken, so if anyone wants to consider playing, do not you have until the end of July to book, due to the large amount of work that is needed to prepare for the start of the season in September.

So very bold claims from the CCF at the end regarding being the “best chess club in the country” but its hard to argue with their success given their size.  They are obviously a very run well ship and the volume of FIDE rated games must be a big plus to prospective members.

I liked the attention to detail that the CCF has given to parents of juniors (free wifi).  Its not the first time I have spoken to club members who recognised that looking after the parents is almost as important as the children if your club wants to support junior chess. Its surprising how often parents become future members themselves of the club.

Our club profiles feature has been very popular recently so I am pleased with the response from the community to this idea.  If you have enjoyed this profile (or indeed any of the others) please do share it with your friends and club mates.  We are always looking for new clubs from the UK and also around the world to take part so don’t hesitate to get in touch. The ChessJournal Blog is here to support ‘over the board’ chess and the development of the ChessJournal App so the more feedback and input we get then the better it is for the wider chess community.

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 #4: Hammersmith Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal Fans,

Today we have another instalment in our popular club profiles feature, Hammersmith Chess Club.  Based in west London, the story of Hammersmith is encouraging to every chess club member nationwide.  As little as three years ago the club was in a very different state, with finances and membership numbers becoming a greater concern.  Fast forward to 2017 and we witness a club that has turned around its fortunes through a clever approach to both digital and how to handle its rent (although I personally think they are just being very Anglo Saxon and enjoying a beer too much in the Summer!).

This interview was conducted with Andy from Hammersmith CC over the last week, enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about your club?

We are a very friendly and welcoming club based in the inner suburb of Hammersmith, West London. With a catchment area that includes Fulham, Kensington, and a few other suburbs, we now count over 50 active members, and growing!

We have 10 teams this year, catering for all levels of chess. The main League we play is the London League, where we field 5 teams ranging from League 6 up to League 3. We also play in the Thames Valley, and Middlesex Leagues, fielding 3 teams there. And most recently we were involved in launching a brand new Summer League involving 4 clubs, allowing us to field 2 teams there. On a busy night we’ll have upwards of 30 players involved in competitive chess, and with the launch of the Summer League we now offer members competitive games all year round.

We are based in a local community hall in the borough during the main season, de-camping to a nearby pub for the Summer months when the main chess season ends.

What kind of person plays for the Club?

In many ways the club is a microcosm of the city we’re based in. We have a very diverse set of players, ranging from our youngest who is barely 10 years old, up to the pensionable mainstays of the club in their 80’s! In addition, we can boast a large & growing foreign legion, featuring players from Italy, Kosovo, America, Turkey and beyond. We also count a handful of female players as members.

Our players range from the chippy amateurs, right up to a top group pushing ECF 200, with a sizeable rump of strong players in the 120-180 range. At present we don’t have any titled players, though recently we did count WIM Sue Maroroa amongst our membership.

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Whilst we don’t yet have a formal junior section, it is on the radar for the future. In the meantime, we have managed to linkup very successfully with a couple of local Junior clubs, playing multi-board Rapid games against them every year. A fun & exciting challenge for all involved!

Can you tell us about the history of the Club?

Our Club was formed in 1962, and there is a full and interesting history behind it located here:

http://hammerchess.co.uk/2016/03/18/a-brief-history-of-hammersmith-chess-club/

By far our most successful former player is four-times British champ Julian Hodgson. He played for us as a junior before going on to bigger & better things!

Who are your fiercest rivals and why?

We have a long-standing and very friendly rivalry with our South West London friends over at Battersea Chess Club. As a similarly well-run club with a lively online presence, we can often be found gently teasing each other over social media and our websites. We even went as far as having a two-legged dual over about 30 boards the other Summer, dubbed “El Chessico”, which we won, naturally!!

What is your favourite thing about the Club?

The best thing about Hammersmith is definitely the ethos – we are on a constant mission to improve what we offer our members, and create as many opportunities for playing & learning the game in a friendly and inclusive atmosphere, as possible.

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For instance, we now have a regular training rota whereby our stronger players teach theory, tactics and openings at the practice board. We introduced competitive games over the Summer (historically the London chess scene takes a break every Summer, but the demand is clearly there!), we frequently take on all-comers at a local cafe. We partnered with our local branch of MIND charity to take chess to the streets of Hammersmith earlier this year – a genuinely brilliant day! And in a nod to our recent past, this year we pioneered a linkup with a foreign club, with 15 of our members taking a trip to De Pion chess club in Amsterdam for a weekend of Chess, friendship and beers!!

Hopefully we offer something for everyone, and we are always looking to offer more.

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

Like many clubs, rent is one of our biggest costs. We took the decision a couple of years ago to give up our community hall venue over the Summer and de-camp to a nearby pub (The Albion, Hammersmith Road). So we now use their function room in the warmer months as our “home venue” – hopefully paying our way in beer – and revert back to our community hall when the main league season re-starts.

Not only has it been a brilliant move for the balance sheet, it’s also actually quite nice playing chess in a pub! It provides a welcoming atmosphere for any first-timers, and generally makes for a more sociable and relaxed time! Highly recommended.

I have to admit to being a bit of a fan boy for Hammersmith’s approach to running a chess club for the past few months.  I particularly enjoyed their club organised trip to Holland to play a local Dutch club “over the board”.  They have also been active in running events to raise money for charity (see below for their support of Mind). A more apt charity for chess players I cannot think of! These kinds of social events are exactly what can unite a club as a community as well as a competitive entity.

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Thanks again for reading.  We are starting to get lots of requests coming in for club features so thank you for all your support and sharing of the blog. Hopefully we can inspire and make a positive difference to clubs around the UK and the world! Please do continue to spread the word about the ChessJournal Blog and if you fancy it, check out our App for club and tournament players.

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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How to increase chess club membership

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Hello ChessJournal fans!

On todays blog I want to return to a topic I have spoken about before and also what is becoming a theme in recent weeks, digital marketing of chess clubs.

I previously wrote about the dearth of digital skills at most chess clubs in my article on The Top Five British Chess Club Websites.

However this week I started to notice a trend:

Finally at the start of June I posted a call to arms to the Bristol & District Chess league about the state of many clubs web presence, the declining trend in membership in the last 25yrs.

However, all the evidence seems to suggest that the popularity of chess is on the rise. America is seeing a resurgence and online platforms have skyrocketing memberships (18 million players on Chess.com?!). Perhaps most noticeable is the additional activities online, beyond just playing games, that are proving very popular such as the excellent YouTube channel from GM Simon Williams (19,000 subscribers) or the fantastic range of podcasts that are emerging such The Full English Breakfast (150,000 downloads) or the Perpetual Podcast by Ben Johnson. People online are not just playing chess, they have a serious interest in getting better at ‘Over the board’

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So why are some clubs struggling with membership? Lets think about some numbers for a moment.

Just imagine…

Chess clubs across the UK obviously vary in size but lets break them into three categories:

  • Small: Less than 10 regulars. They probably have a single team that they field in a local league. They probably struggle to find replacements if anyone is unavailable in a given week.
  • Medium: 18-25 regulars. A good size club who can field an A, B and probably C team in a local league and also have room for some strength in depth.
  • Large: Up to 40 regulars. Might have up to five teams in a local league and are able to cater for all standards of chess. Most likely based in a city and due to the size of the club probably have regular friendly nights or training sessions from the resident titled player.

Lets use the above categorisation as a starting point. Imagine if your club had 20% more members?

“Jon mate you are crazy!”

Ok, lets part the skepticism and run with this for a moment. From experience, I think its fair to say that an additional 20% of members would be a massive help to clubs by:

  • Providing the additional strength in depth so the fear of a drop out doesn’t always result in a default board.
  • Perhaps allowing the club to field that elusive second team that you have wanted to field for the last three seasons;
  • More subs obviously lessening the financial burden that some clubs feel.

Using our chess club sizes above what is an additional 20% membership:

  • To a small club it is 2 people.
  • To a medium club it is 3 – 5 people
  • To a big club it is 8 people.

Is it just me or do those numbers not seem that scary when you consider the booming numbers that the chess community is seeing online and in other countries? Now lets looks at some numbers from a digital recruitment perspective.

Digital Chess Club Recruitment

So the drum that I have been banging recently consists of four premises. Chess clubs in the Uk (but also around the world) need to:

  • Have a clean tidy professional looking website that is optimised to work on smaller devices like mobile phones and tablets (over 50% of traffic now comes from mobile phones)
  • The contact details for the club must be ridiculously easy to find. Too many clubs hide their contact details, don’t have any (?!!) or protect themselves with ridiculous anti-machine CAPTCHAs
  • Have an active presence on social media such as Facebook page, Twitter profile or ideally both.

Six weeks ago I was made webmaster of Horfield & Redland chess club in Bristol, UK. Myself and friend immediately set up a Facebook page and also a nice clean responsive website. Despite not being massively active in terms of blogging or social media (less than 1hr a week), here are some numbers:

  • Per week we are receiving an average of 59 unique visitors to the club website
  • We are receiving an average of 213 page views or 3-4 per visitor
  • We have had 7 enquiries from potential new members asking to join the club.

To stress again, all of these activities are with a relatively low amount of effort or cost. The Horfield & Redland website cost a grand total of £18 to set up and took less than two hours.

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The Bristol & District Chess League runs September to May which means in the summer months a lot of clubs consolidate and just play friendlies. Now with 59 unique visitors a week for 12 weeks over the summer that is 708 visitors before the start of the next season. As a medium sized club to increase our membership by 20% we are only looking for 5 new players or in digital chess club recruitment terms, less than 0.7% of the total visitors to our website!

These are not scary numbers people! They are eminently achievable.

What are the next steps?

If you have made it this far then I hope by now you can see that I do not believe it is hard to increase chess club membership if the amateur chess community was willing to put some effort into the digitisation of its marketing efforts.

Across the country, hundreds of chess clubs are run by hard working, diligent volunteers who perhaps do not have the expertise or know where to start with setting up and looking after a website or social media page. But there are shining examples out there to follow.

Battersea Chess Club and Hammersmith Chess Club are both excellent examples of hard working chess clubs from a digital marketing perspective. They regularly publish articles, videos and games that really want to make you visit the clubs and become a member. If you are part of a chess club and do not know where to begin with digital then you could do a lot worse than start there.

Finally, I often hear chess players lament the growth of chess online impacting league or “over the board” chess. I disagree. Both can exist happily side by side.

Online is not a threat, it is an opportunity.

ChessJournal Update

In other news, myself and Matt are busy planning the next release for ChessJournal App. We are currently exploring some requests and feature ideas around a “Chess Calendar” for storing and recording all of the tournaments, league fixtures and coaching / training sessions for a given season. Its early days but if you have any thoughts on what you might want this feature to provide then give me a shout.

Thank you for reading and all your continued support. We can do this!

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. Get statistics for your season and set and track personal improvement goals. 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 #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:

applestore

googleplay

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:

applestore

googleplay