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


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 #10: Castlehill Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal fans!

Its been quiet on the blog over August as the holiday season has kept everyone busy (plus I recently became the Publicity and Recruitment Officer for the Bristol & District Chess League which has also soaked up some of my blogging efforts).

Anyway, I have two instalments left in the Club Profiles series that I have been running on everyones favourite ChessJournal blog.  This week is the turn of Castlehill Chess Club based near Dundee, Scotland.  My apologies to the delay in publication to Keith Rose who actually sent me the interview about Castlehill at the start of August.  Anyway, lets see what Keith had to say:

Tell us a little bit about your club

Castlehill Chess Club is one of two clubs in Dundee and we meet every Thursday evening throughout the year at the Chaplaincy Centre of Dundee University. Currently there are about 35 adult members and 16 junior (aged 7 – 16) members. We enter five teams in the local Tayside and Fife League (winners of Division One 8 times, Division Two 8 times, Division Three 6 times), a team in the Scottish Spens Cup, (which we have won three times) and, jointly with Dundee CC, three teams in the Scottish National League.

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What kind of person plays for the club?

All of us are amateurs and range in strength from beginner to experienced club-level players. Our current strongest player is still a junior at 16 and is graded over 2000 in both the Scottish system and FIDE. As for ages, the youngest is seven, the oldest is well into retirement. We don’t currently have any titled members but have had a FM and WFM as members in the recent past.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

The club was formed in the early 70s, was based at the Kirkton Community Centre, Dundee and was called the ‘Self-programming Chess and Draughts Club’. This was later shortened(!) to the ‘Kirkton Community Centre Chess Club’. There five originating members. Soon after formation the members were fired with enthusiasm to form a team and enter the TAFCA League. The earliest written record is the minutes of the AGM of 1978 which had an unfortunate outcome. The election of team captains led to several members leaving. They formed another club, Dundee West End.

1979 was the first in a period of several years during which a number of changes of premises were made. In 1980-81 season the move was to the ‘1314 Club’ in Dundee City Centre, which were the premises of the SNP, and it was decided to change our club name to reflect the association.  In February 1981 we lost Z.K. (Konrad) Wierzbicki, who died at the board of a league match at Dundee University. A memorial tournament was instituted in his memory which runs to this day.

At the 1981 AGM Keith Rose was elected as Secretary and he has held this post until the current date, with the exception of three years in the late 1990s. In the Summer of ’82 the 1314 Club closed and we became somewhat nomadic. Dundee Chess Club was kind enough to allow us to use their premises for club nights whilst League matches were played in the living room of one of our members. After a short period we moved to the Labour Club in Roseangle.

In March 1984 we moved yet again, back to the 1314 Club which was renamed ‘Castlehill Club’ (after the area of Dundee where a castle was once located), where we were to remain for several years. Then began a growth which continued for a number of years. A junior club was started, a second club night added and a fourth team was entered in the TAFCA League. We moved again in about 1989 to the Taychreggan Hotel and here began our most successful period in terms of membership, adult numbers peaking at 64 and juniors at about 25. We have been at our current venue for 2 years.

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Although lacking a bar (!) it has room to accommodate our busiest nights – during the October-May periods most nights see attendances over 25 and frequently over 30. During the summer attendances are still in the high teens most weeks. This venue is also suitable for youngsters, which some of our previous homes were not.

Back in the 1970s there were five clubs in Dundee but now only we and Dundee Chess Club remain. Despite sometimes fierce rivalry the two clubs co-operate very well, each helping the other at times of difficulty, but both enjoy getting one over the other. Dundee CC has several players who are stronger than Castlehill’s but we have a larger membership and more populated club nights.

The best thing about the club is its camaraderie and friendliness. One of our number styled us ‘The Friendliest Club in Dundee’ – this goes back to a time when there still several other clubs and there was at times some unpleasant interactions. Although this has thankfully disappeared we still use this epithet. We also make a point of welcoming and inducting new people. As a young man I once entered another club to play one of their members, found myself in a crowd of unknown faces and not one spoke to me. That will never happen at Castlehill. Having reintroduced youngsters and held on to them we would like to expand our junior membership. We know there are quite a number of children taking part in school chess clubs so the aim must be to tap into that. In addition, with having a venue which is part of Dundee University we would hope to pull in students too.

So there we have it! A rich history supplied by a very long standing servant of the club (36yrs!) who clearly knows the Dundee chess scene inside out. Its also great to see such a high percentage of juniors supported at the club, yet another common trend in successful clubs that we have noticed in this series of blogs. From conversations with friends, its interesting to note how often parents end up joining a club after their child has shown an interest in our ancient game.

In other news at ChessJournal HQ, we have had a quiet development summer but are starting to think again around next steps and additional features. I hope to blog with more news once we finalise our next steps.

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 #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 #6: Camberley Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal fans!

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

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

Tell us a little bit about your club

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

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

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

Where are you based?

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

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

How many players do you have?

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

What league or division do you play in?

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

What kind of person plays for the club?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are you fiercest rivals and why?!

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

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

What is your favourite thing about the club?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time

Jon

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


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

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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

 

The New ChessJournal: Feature List


Hello ChessJournal fans,

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Until next time!

Jon


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

Launching ChessJournal

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

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

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

Thank you!

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

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

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

Stats

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

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

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

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

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

Matt & Jon

The ChessJournal Team


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay