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!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

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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 #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

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

googleplay

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

 

Launching ChessJournal

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

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

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

Thank you!

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

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

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

Stats

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

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

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

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

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

Matt & Jon

The ChessJournal Team


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

ChessJournal Pivots…

Hello ChessJournal fans!

Its been a quiet couple of months on the blog following the launch of version 1.4 back at the beginning of September.  The reason being is life took over for a while (as well as the new chess season started!) but also its been a period of strategic contemplation at ChessJournal HQ.

As regular readers will know, myself and Matt like to adopt a lean design and development approach to ChessJournal, gradually iterating and adding new features regularly.  The reason for the pause has been two fold:

  • The launch of iOS 10 by Apple scuppered many of our plans as a new range of bugs, especially around keyboard use and scrolling.  What we thought would be a quick fix actually turned into a considerable rewrite of the underlying ChessJournal code (leading to much soul searching over beer).  Thankfully version 1.4.5 of ChessJournal shipped yesterday and is now available for updating, huzzah!
  • A small percentage of ChessJournal users reporting that they were losing games. Matt has donned his finest forensic development gloves and been searching tirelessly for why some users appear to lose their games.  It appears that for those users whose phones memory are almost full the iOS will routinely wipe non-native apps first…charming!

With both of these incidents occurring in quick succession as well as a flurry of new feature requests from you lovely ChessJournal fans, me and Matt have been thinking long and hard on how to move forward.

Its clear that we have a real demand for a feature rich app that helps ‘over the board’ chess players but at the same time we need to address how to help our existing user base when a significant redevelopment of the application is required. Hmmm.

Its time to pivot

Having weighed up all the options available to us we have decided to bring forward an idea we have had for a long time which we affectionately call “ChessJournal Pro” (readers familiar with lean start up philosophies may refer to this move as a pivot!).

ChessJournal Pro is effectively a new app that we have started designing and developing as of this week. Launching a new app provides two major advantages to you, the ChessJournal fan:

  1. We can build in all of the feature requests that you have been sending us into our data model from day 1.  We have learnt so much about chess players needs in the first 6 months of ChessJournal that we couldn’t possible have known when we lunched back  at the end of May!  ChessJournal 1.0 to 1.4 has been a real pleasure to work on but there has always been certain requests (variations analysis for example) that were very difficult to provide without a complete rewrite of the app.
  2. We can move ChessJournal to a cloud based service! Yes I know what you are going to say: “Jon, what about all those blog posts where you said it didn’t need to be cloud based?” `Well I was right and wrong.  ChessJournal 1,4 works great as a local storage app but it is ultimately limited in the long run (just ask the users whose Apple phones are deleting data when their phones memory is almost full…).  Ultimately, local storage on the phone will have limitations across years of use.  A final advantage of moving to a cloud based app is that we can allow users to access their games from any device or platform (hurrah for all you Android users out there!)

“But Jon I have already put loads of games into ChessJournal 1.4!”

Dont Panic! Me and Matt are dedicated to both our existing and new ChessJournal fans.  The very first new feature added to the ChessJournal Pro roadmap was a PGN import feature. Happy days!

Next Steps

We will continue to support ChessJournal 1.4 for the foreseeable future as we finalise and start work on ChessJournal: Pro Edition.  Now would be an excellent time to send in any feature requests that you have always wanted to see in ChessJournal but are not currently supported!

I plan to blog a much more detailed run down of the new app and all its lovely new features in due course but please give myself and Matt time to finalise next steps.

As always thanks for reading and being patient with us.  We are determined to bring to market the best app for personal chess study available and it is no light decision that we have decided to pivot in this new direction.  Ultimately its for the good of all!

Cheers

Jon