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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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


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You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

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Club Profile #5: Coulsdon Chess Fellowship

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Hello ChessJournal Fans,

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

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

Tell us a little bit about your club

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

What kind of person plays for the club?

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

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

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

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

Who are you fiercest rivals and why?!

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

What is your favourite thing about the club?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time

Jon


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

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Club Profile #4: Hammersmith Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal Fans,

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

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

Tell us a little bit about your club?

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

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

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

What kind of person plays for the Club?

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

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

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

Can you tell us about the history of the Club?

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

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

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

Who are your fiercest rivals and why?

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

What is your favourite thing about the Club?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time

Jon


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

ChessJournal 2.1 now available (eventually…)

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

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

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

Well yes. Yes it did.

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

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

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

So there we are! You asked and we listened!


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

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

Until next time.

Jon


 

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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

What you get in a ChessJournal Membership

cjcloud

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)

cjannotate

Becoming a premium member of ChessJournal unlocks the following:

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

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

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

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

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

Why choose ChessJournal?

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

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

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

Cheers

Jon


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

 

The New ChessJournal: Feature List


Hello ChessJournal fans,

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Until next time!

Jon


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

Launching ChessJournal

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

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

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

Thank you!

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

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

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

Stats

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

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

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

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

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

Matt & Jon

The ChessJournal Team


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

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

Hello ChessJournal fans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Amateur Chess players setup against 1.b3

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

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

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

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

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

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

enlight1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, thanks for reading!
Jon


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

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay