Club Profile #11: Brewood Chess Circle

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Hello ChessJournal fans!

A relatively quiet month on the blog due to holidays, work and the Bristol & District Chess League kicking off.  Todays instalment is a late comer to the club profiles feature that we have been running over the summer, Brewood Chess Circle.  My thanks to their chairman David Blower for taking part.

Tell us a little bit about your club

Brewood Chess Circle is a chess club based within the village of Brewood in Staffordshire. The aim of the chess club is simple to let members meet up socially for the enjoyment of the game of chess. The chess club is a small chess club with around 20 members. We hope to gain some new members this coming season and if this website article helps us to do this than all the better. On that note just in case anyone reading this article lives in or around Brewood and is interested in possibly joining the club let me start the article by introducing the relevant details you need to know.  The club meets up on Tuesdays from 7:30pm. Best of all there isn’t actually a finishing time, meaning that we can go home as early or as late into the evening as we want.

New members are welcome, regardless of age and ability and that is something I will probably repeat a lot in the article. The club plays in two different leagues. Soon after the club was formed we joined the Wolverhampton Chess League in 1981, where we have been ever present since. We currently have one team in division two of the league and have never been in the top division, (Division 1) in our entire history of the club. We also enter two cup competitions run by the league. The other league we play in is the Cannock Chess League which we initially joined as a one off in the 1999-2000 season and then as ever presents from the 2003-2004 season onwards. We play in division two of the league, and also enter a cup competition run by the league. The team also compete in the Shropshire Rapid Play League where we are currently in division two of that league, having got relegated from division one of the league last season. The internal club competitions are also something to talk about. The club championship began when the club was first started in 1980, and has been ECF graded since 2012. We also have an ECF graded rapid play club championship which started in 2015 which makes use of digital chess clocks and Fisher incremental time controls.  The club championship trophy is a chess board with the previous winners names engraved on the outside of the board. It is a tradition at the club that the defending club champion plays their next season’s club championship matches on that board.  Playing your matches on the trophy you have won to try and defend it has to be unique!!  

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What kind of person plays for the club?

Who can join our club? The simple answer is anyone who likes chess. The amount of teams we run means that we believe we cater for players of most standards of chess. We do not have any titled players at the moment but they would also be more than welcome to join. The ability level of players at our club ranges from children who have just started learning the game to those graded in the 150s. Any new members who want to join the club and immediately want to start playing competitive chess against other local chess clubs in local leagues can have their level of play assessed and be placed into one of our clubs teams that is best suited to their ability level. Clearly we would love it if someone graded in the 200s wanted to join. However whilst the club does run competitive teams the main aim as I said at the start of the article is to meet socially for the enjoyment of chess. That was the aim when the club was formed and it is still true now. Any member who wishes to play socially but not competitively is welcome as well and there is no pressure applied to anyone to play in a team if they do not want to. This leads me onto the best thing about the club. Even if there is not a match you can be sure that there will be about half a dozen members who will turn up to the club each week. Any potential new member turning up will be sure to get a game. Simply turning up and enjoying yourself is what counts. The best thing about the club is the social atmosphere. The club accepts and encourages juniors to turn up to the club and also adults that are new to chess. Recently a couple of members had turned up who started playing as children but had took a break from the game, and had now resumed playing as an adult.

The youngest member of the club is ten years old and has being going for three years. There are six junior members at the club which is a relatively high number for a chess club which is not a specialist junior only chess club.  We are hopeful that one of our juniors will qualify for the England under 11 national team. Obviously the level of competition to get into any England team is high, so whilst it will be difficult everyone at the club is rooting for him.

Whilst the majority of the members are now adults quite a few of us started playing when we were children ourselves. I started playing when I was seven years old so I know what it is like to play chess as a child and that is something I always try and keep in mind when talking to children now at the club.

Experienced players are happy to give advice to help improve the level of play of children. Mini coaching sessions can often take place in the evening focusing on aspects of the game, that take place during the opening, the middle game and the endgame. We often have children reluctant to leave the club at the end of the evening which is a good sign that they have enjoyed themselves. Children also have the opportunity to play in teams. One of the junior members of the club helped win us the Dudley League Division 3 in the 2012-2013 season, the clubs most recent trophy win to date. The Cannock League is not a promotion and relegation league but a team graded restricted league allowing us the opportunity to play new members of the club including juniors in that team.

Meanwhile the oldest member of the club is in his mid-70s (but don’t tell anyone I have told you his age.) We also have one member of the club who has being going to it since 1980. Chess is a game you can play for years and still learn something new and that is one of the best things about the game. Improvement can take place at whatever level you are already at and it is not just juniors who wish to improve. I myself often ask one of the highest graded players at the club “can you go over this game with me.” You can guarantee that someone will always be willing to go over a game that you have just played, either to help you understand a defeat or simply if you want to show off a win!

One thing that should be stated is that there is no minimum ability level required to join the chess club. Players or parents of children should not think that they will be deemed too weak to be a member of a chess club because this is simply not true. Besides which experience shows that the best thing players can do to improve their chess is become a member of a chess club.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

The story of how the club was formed is that in 1978 two people at the Roman Catholic Church in Brewood during an idol time discovered during a conversation that they both had a mutual interest in chess. Games soon followed initially in their houses and soon the happy band of players was up to eleven. By this time there were too many people to still meet up in people’s houses and so that issues such as the club championship and trophies being engraved could probably be dealt with the suggestion was made that a club should be formed. On 29th April 1980 the club had its first AGM where the club was officially formed and games of lightning chess followed. The word Circle in the name of the club comes from the fact that those who founded the club wanted the name of the club to sound as inclusive as possible. The club does play competitive chess but the idea of it being a place where anyone who enjoys chess can turn up, remains as true now as it was in 1980 when the club was formed. The club has moved around in its 37 year history but has remained within the village of Brewood. We are very proud of that.

I am not personally aware of any famous chess club player having ever played for the club but maybe that will happen in the future. Whilst our honours board may not have as many trophies as some clubs we have won 15 trophies during the 37 year history of the club.

We are hopeful of adding more honours in future years. The Wolverhampton Chess League Division Two 2017-2018 title would be good to enable us to go into division one of the Wolverhampton Chess League for the first time in our history.

Who are your fiercest rivals and why?

The main rivals we have are Bushbury, simply because there are a few members who play for both chess clubs. As it turns out we have been drawn away to them in the first round of one of the cup competitions being run by the Wolverhampton Chess League and therefore it looks likely there will be at least one club member playing against us in our first competitive match of the season.

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

I also have to mention our internet activity. Our website address is: http://www.brewoodchess.webs.com/ We are also on Facebook, twitter and YouTube. 

The website has details of all the latest news from the club including match reports from our matches, a page with contact details for new members to join the club, and a sense of history with a page explaining the full details of the history of the club. The aim is to eventually have a complete record of every finishing position the club has ever had in any competition. There are also future plans to cater the website for juniors. The website already has some specific advice for parents on the “Joining the club” webpage of the website. Meanwhile in the future the puzzles page will be changed to a “Puzzles page for juniors,” with monthly puzzles designed with children in mind. The website also features some of our favourite games on the games page. Although keeping it up-to-date is not as easy as I would like, it has attracted some new members to the club on the back of us having a good website.

There is one final thing I would like to repeat (rather than add.) Any age. Any ability. The club caters for anyone who likes chess, including experienced league players, adults new or returning to chess and juniors. You are rarely too young and never too old to play chess. There is no minimum ability level required to join a chess club. Enjoyment of the game alone is enough. Experienced players are happy to give advice and help anyone improve at whatever skill level that a player is currently at. So why not give it a try? You will be sure to enjoy yourself.

Thank you David! So there we see a cracking example of a smaller rural club making real strides both digitally and in their local chess scene.  My particular favourite comment is the idea of having to play on the board with your name engraved on it.  A bit like a belt at boxing.  Great idea that is sure to crank the tension when the clock is ticking!

This will be the last of the club profiles moving into Autumn and Winter.  As I’ve previously said Im thinking about consolidating all of the common features of successful clubs into another article as I feel this will be really interesting.

Until next time!

Jon


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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!

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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!

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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:

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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:

applestore

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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

 

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.

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  • “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