Team Sizes: Proposals for AGM 2018

Tony Perry, Division Secretary for Divisions 3 and 5 has proposed:

1. Rule 14(d) to be amended to read...........In Divisions one, two and three of the League a team shall consist of six players.

2. Rule 14(e) to be amended to read...........In Divisions four and below of the League a team shall consist of a minimum of four players, but this may be increased, by mutual agreement, to either five players or a maximum of six players.
3. Thus, the existing Rule 14(f) would become extinct.

Tony's Reasons:
a) The Association overall is in decline, evidenced sadly by an aging population. This, in turn, is resulting in a diminishing membership. Despite the valiant efforts of the SASCA administration and the emergence of Ravenfield other clubs appear to me to be struggling numbers wise. Not only have we lost teams in recent years but it very much appears that the Association will be losing Clay Cross this season.

b) The Association has also seen the demise of the Davy from 9 to 8 teams. In my opinion the reduction from eight to six boards will not only have a domino effect onto other teams within clubs but may also help the weaker clubs who struggle to raise eight players of sufficient standard to give much stronger opponents a decent game of chess! 

c) With regard to extending the minimum four board ruling to Division Four this is simply to help clubs, particularly in the lower leagues, who may be struggling with transport arrangements, eg Clay Cross. Additionally, in this time of austerity when everyone is being asked to pay more not only are petrol prices always on the increase but all members will now have to pay into the ECF membership scheme. It appears that Steve Bracey has already mooted that some sort of financial assistance be given to juniors, so what better way to eliminate the two car journey for Div four and below. (Tony Perry)

Andy Mort comments, 7th July 2018:

We’ve been here before, and should avoid repeating tired arguments, but maybe the issues are slightly different this time. If the main purpose is to support teams in lower divisions by creating a ‘trickle-down’ effect, the proposal has merit, though I think it would affect clubs differently depending on their size of membership vis-à-vis team entries.

However, I think the old argument about small clubs being deterred from accepting promotion has had its day. It has been great to see Darnall and Hillsborough establish themselves in Division 1, but they have been able to do so only by strengthening their personnel, partly as a consequence of movement of players from other Division 1 clubs, and partly on the back of the sad demise of Phoenix. Interestingly, Hillsborough only accepted promotion because teams of 8 were retained. The majority of teams in Division 2 are second teams, who will make life harder for first teams in the division following their inevitable strengthening which will result from the reduction of Division 1 teams from 8 to 6.

There are only 3 first teams in Division 2. Would the change to 6 boards encourage any of these to accept promotion without enhanced personnel? University have already intimated that they will decline promotion, and without knowledge of the playing standard and commitment of their fresher intake, may not have their minds changed by the proposed rule change. We really need University in Division 1, but …..

Interchange of teams between Divisions 1 and 2 is likely to diminish, rather than increase, but we must avoid, at all costs, forcing teams to accept promotion. No team in The Sheffield League has the personnel to maintain 2 teams in Division 1 effectively, even with 6 boards, under the current qualification rules – ask Nomads. Chesterfield (20+ members) have 2 teams in Division 1 of The Derby and District League (only 4 boards), and it’s sometimes a struggle. One team weakened early in the season may call on a player not strong enough to be selected for subsequent matches who then cannot play for the other team, and defaults become more likely as players become tied.

So, would the proposed changed be good for lower divisions seems to me to be the question.


Mike Smith' s proposal aims to ensure that if there are not enough teams for a Division 5, there will still be an opportunity to have 4-board teams, in Division 4: 

"I am mindful that there may be no division 5 this coming season and recognising the need for a 4 board division for new clubs and teams and as a fall back for any club that is losing members.
Rule 14 (d), (e) and (f) currently reads:(d) In Division One of the League a team shall consist of eight players(e) In Divisions two, three and four of the League a team shall consist of six players. [Revised 2012](f) In Divisions five and below of the League a team shall consist of a minimum of four players, but this may be increased, by mutual agreement, to either five players or a maximum of six players.  [New wording introduced in 2013.]

Propose: no change to 14 (d)

14 (e) In the lowest division of the League a team shall consist of a minimum of four players, but this may be increased, by mutual agreement, to either five players or a maximum of six players

14 (f) All other Divisions of the League a team shall consist of six players.

What does this mean? If there are 5 divisions the result is no change.  If there are 4 divisions, division 4 will comprise 4 boards." (MS)

The comments below date from 2015, which was the last time when the AGM dealt with a proposal to reduce the Davy (Div 1) from 8 to 6 boards  

Overview: Winning Division 2: .Winners and/or Runners-Up in Division 2 don't want promotion, unless it's to replace a team from the same club relegated from Division 1. Why? Next winter may be the third in succession when the Davy (1st Division) can't fulfil the rule that "All divisions... will have 9 teams". Sooner or later a team may win the Weston Trophy two years in succession!

From Steve Mann

I wish to formally make yet two more proposals for changes to the S&DCA Constitution and Rules, for consideration at the 2015 AGM. These are not ones I feel strongly about, but are proposed in case the membership feels there are appropriate in view of the recent recurrence of refusals of promotion into the Davy.

Both proposals refer to Rule 23(b), which, for reference, currently reads:

(b) In each division the team placed first shall hold the appropriate trophy until the end of the following season. The first and second placed teams of each division shall both be entitled to promotion in the following season, to the next higher division, unless disqualified under Rule 15(e).

1) The first of these two proposals is to change the first sentence of Rule 23(b) to read as follows:
(b) In each division the highest-placed team which is not the current trophy holder, or else is the current trophy holder but was disqualified from promotion for the current season under Rule 15(e), shall hold the appropriate trophy until the end of the following season.

The reasoning is that refusal of promotion could result of one team repeatedly winning the same division year after year, which might be seen as unfair to other teams in that division. The change basically means the trophy holder cannot win it again immediately after refusing promotion, but they could then win it again after missing a year, as though they’d been promoted and relegated back again. (Where 15(e) came into force there is an exemption.)

2) The second of these two proposals is to add to Rule 23(b) the sentence:
A team placed first in a division in two successive seasons may not refuse any promotion to which it is entitled for the following season.

This particular wording retains the continued right of refusal of promotion by the second-placed team.  The relevant circumstances have not yet occurred, so there is no immediate impact on any team. The YCA has a similar rule.


From Paul Fletcher, 22nd June 2015:

(This issue) ... has concerned me for a long time now that is, teams not taking promotion to Division One from Division Two. Not taking promotion rarely happens in lower Divisions and is less problematic. This has made the First Division under competitive and breaching rule 14b (All divisions shall consist of 9 teams...), as well as playing the same opponents year on year, due to the same teams in Division One for the past few seasons and probably years to come.
There are a few reasons for this. However, having been in teams on both sides of the fence, with different clubs I have played for in the past, there are two main reasons which are as follows;

(a) The Second Division winners or runners up are not allowed to be promoted under Rule 15e (No club may have more than 2 teams in any division...) and

(b) a team having to find two extra players to take their rightful place in Division One and So Rule 14e raises its head again (Div 1 teams shall consist of 8 players).

Firstly, on (a), Rule 15e. Why not change this to incorporate a third team from each club as long as Rule 16d (Teams from the same club must complete their matches by Dec 31st) is strictly adhered too. The penalty for Rule 16d not being adhered too is both teams default with no points each from the games not completed by 31st December.

So Rule 15e should read, "No club should have more than 3 teams in any one Division other than the lowest."

Secondly, on (b), Rule 14e or the changing of Rule 14e cant be ignored or voted down any longer. That is the removal of Division One having 8 player teams and to move to 6 player teams instead. So the deletion of Rule 14f and Rule 14e to read: "All Divisions with the exceptioHTMLn of division 5 and below shall consist of 6 players."

(And in the interest of tidiness Rule 14g to become Rule14f and Rule14h to become Rule 14g.)
Also changing Rule 14e would help teams with changing of Rule 15e i.e. teams with two teams in Division One would find it easier to field a third team.

Previously, I had voted against this proposal on the grounds of the number of games that would be lost. So a 9 team league would lose 144 games in a season if reduced from 8 players to 6 players per team. However, Division One doesn't currently fulfil its quota, and loses 16 matches and therefore currently losing 128 games per season. So it is with a heavy heart I have to concede the point. So as Division One stands currently it seems acceptable to lose 128 games per season but not 144 games per season?
A loss is a loss in my book and it is time to cut the loses. This would at least give the promoted teams a chance of fielding a team without finding extra players and therefore more likely to take promotion.Or are we waiting for a team to become strong enough as before? ... or a team to have an influx strong of players from outside the area? ... or the teams being promoted having to be forced to find two extra players, which are often lesser players due to clubs using second team players to make the number up to eight, so they can be beaten up over chessboard every week and lose their confidence and will to play chess at all? Are we only keeping this the same because of tradition? If so tradition didn't have playing on the internet to deal with!! How many times have teams not taken promotion because they are not strong enough over 8 boards? even though they won promotion with 6 players so may give it a go? What if another team drops out and Division One finds itself with 7 teams?
In short teams not taking promotion everyone loses.

Your comments please.


Steve Mann, 24th June:

Hitherto nobody seemed to be raising the possibility of 6-player teams in the Davy this year, but Paul Fletcher has now raised it. As there is now little time for discussion and the proposing of rule changes, I've decided to unveil an idea I’d had earlier.  The answer to the question, “Should the Davy Trophy consist of teams of eight players or six players?” may simply be “Yes.”

Personally, I’d prefer eight-player teams in the Davy, but there are two schools of thought, so, to enable the Association to address problems and differences of opinion regarding Division 1 by offering a possible solution, I’d like hereby formally to make the proposal, for consideration at the 2015 S&DCA AGM, that Rule 14(e) be changed to read as follows:

“(e)      In Division One of the League a team shall consist of either eight players or six players. At the AGM, each team in Division One must be declared by its club to be either an eight-player team or a six-player team for the ensuing season.  In matches involving a six-player team the match shall be played over only six boards, otherwise the match shall be played over eight boards.”


Andy Mort, 24th June:

Whilst I understand Paul’s concern about the ‘shortfall’ of teams in Division 1 and the desire to move to 6 Board teams, legislating to make 2nd teams and even 3rd teams accept promotion is not, in my view, a practicable answer. Next season, Nomads C and Chesterfield B would be forced to take promotion, but I am quite certain that the result would be a  considerable number of defaulted games because of the restrictions imposed by having completely discrete teams. I cannot speak for Nomads, but I would be surprised if they would, in practice, be regularly capable of fielding 6 players from separate squads.

Chesterfield won Division 1 comfortably last year, and our 2nd team Division 2. However, I calculate that our active club membership is only about 17, plus two players who make occasional appearances – one based in America and one in Luxembourg. We have only a few ‘weak’ players, but they would undoubtedly end up being asked to play in Division 1 on occasions. If we were still running a 3rd team to cater specifically for these players, they a) might well not be keen enough to play more than one match per week and b) might quickly become demoralised.

We would have 2 squads of about 8/9 players, not, to my mind, big enough. A couple of matches early in the early season when several players were unavailable would ‘tie’ players. How would we deploy our players in the two squads? With difficulty, I think. Clearly Nomads have already grappled with these issues – but on the basis of choice.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that clubs voting on these issues would be devoid of self-interest. 8 boards suits Chesterfield for personnel reasons, 6 would suit several other clubs in terms of their distribution of playing strength. We could live with 6 boards, but to have 6 boards and enforced promotion for 2nd/3rd teams would lead to an increase in boards defaulted, I’m sure, which can’t be good. If teams became 6, 1st teams finishing below 2nd/3rd teams might more readily consider taking the promotions declined – perhaps ….. 5 teams from 2 clubs in Division 1 next year would not exactly increase diversity …..


Steve Bracey, 25th June:

We have a number of clubs who do not have enough strong players to be able to have a division 1 side or in the case of bigger clubs enough strong players to field 2 division 1 sides. I think this is just as true over 6 boards as it is over 8 boards. The real problem is a shortage of division 1 players rather than a shortage of teams. This is a suggestion which will increase the pool of players and hopefully enable a smaller club to consider a division 1 place or a bigger club considering entering two teams in division 1. I cannot think of any A team in division 2 who does not have a number of players who would hold their own in division 1. I do not know which rule needs changing but the essence would be as follows :

A player is registered for a primary club.

If a player’s primary club does not have a division 1 side then that player can register for a secondary club with a division 1 team.

Regardless of which board a player plays on for his secondary club it has no effect on the players eligibility to play for his primary club in a lower division.

A possible by product of this is that new strong players entering the area may consider joining a weaker club knowing they will also get games for another side in division 1.


Paul Fletcher (Update, August 21st):


The rationale behind my principle proposal, that Rule 14(e) is changed to "in all Divisions with the exception of division 5 and below a team shall consist of 6 players" is solely to remove the barriers that are preventing teams taking promotion from Division 2 to Division 1. 

Previously, I myself had voted against this proposal on the grounds of the number of games that would be lost. But I now have to concede the point.

The fact of the matter is, a 9 team league would lose 144 games in a season if reduced from 8 players to 6 players per team. However, Division One doesn't currently fulfil its quota, and loses 16 matches and therefore currently losing 128 games per season. So as Division One stands currently it seems acceptable to lose 128 games per season but not 144 games per season? Surely this can’t be right.

How many times have teams not taken promotion because they are not strong enough over 8 boards, even though they won promotion over 6 boards.

The teams being promoted shouldn't be forced to find extra players and be penalised for their success.

The two extra players often found, are usually lesser players due to clubs having to dig deeper into their club membership. 

And so, these players get beaten up over chessboard every week and lose their confidence and will to play chess at all? I quote Andy Mort on SDCA Fora, when he writes how weaker players can suffer if teams are forced into promotion, weaker players “might well not be keen enough to play more than one match per week and might quickly become demoralised”. But isn't this already happening when a team moves from 6 players to 8 players. Neither should we be waiting for a team to have an influx of players from outside the area to boost their ranks, as in the past because it may never happen. 

And If clubs and members are falsely bound by some sense of tradition in bygone years, then I have to point out in years gone by they didn't have playing on the internet compete with. We shouldn’t stagnate or standstill but should be proud of our tradition yes, whilst moving forward and evolving with the times by meeting problems head on. 

And for clubs that think playing over 6 boards will be in some way detrimental to their standing in Division One. I can belay any fears by proving this not to be the case; 

Here I have taken the liberty of showing how the league standings would change based on last season’s results, if the league were to revert to 6 players. I have done this by taking the results of last season minus boards 7 and 8. 

The top league table shows the Final Standings last season with 8 players per team and the bottom league table, with the results with the bottom two boards removed, so based on the first six boards 6 boards. 

Season 2014/15 

Team             P   W   D   L   Def   Pts  
ChesterfieldA 14   11   0   3    1      22 
Ecclesall A     14    7   2    5   0      16 
Nomads A     14     7   2    5  10     15 
SASCA A      14     6   3   5    0     15 
Barnsley A     14     5   2   7    3     12 
Phoenix A      14     5   2   7    7     12 
Woodseats A  14     6  0    8    0     12 
Nomads B      14     1  5    8   11     6 

Team              P    W D   L   Def   Pts  Difference in points 
ChesterfieldA   14    8  4   2    0      20             -2 
Nomads A       14    7  3   4    6      16              1 
SASCA A        14    5  5   4    0     15               0 
Ecclesall A       14    7  0   7    0     14              -2 
Barnsley A       14    5 3   6     0     13              1 
Phoenix A        14    5 2   7     2     12              0 
Woodseats A    14    6 0   8     0     12              0 
Nomads B        14    2 5   7     7       8              2 

As you can see, the change in points is negligible. In fact only a change 5.4% of all points won with 25% less boards.

Note that the same team comfortable wins the league with 6 players as well as 8 players, as well as the same team is relegated or should I say finishes 8th, as currently relegations is out of the question. What if Nomads B actually take relegation? 

Also note the number of defaulted games more than halves, from 32 to15. 

In short, team’s not taking promotion not because they don’t wish to, but because Association Rules make it difficult for them to do so. This is totally unnecessary and avoidable. This continued scenario is only bad for competition, which affects clubs, the league and indeed the Association. All clubs need to look past their best interest, and look to what is best for the League and Association in the way of healthy competition. 

My proposals’ don’t force promotion on any team, but remove barriers to make promotion more palatable and possible and more likely.


Brian Lever, 2nd Sept:

Having weighed up the many points made on this subject I do confess that as a long-term advocate of equal numbers of boards in all divisions, I see that the situation has become so bad - and rumours are now afoot that another another regular "Davy class" club is proposing to drop its top team - that converting Div 1 to 6 boards will not necessarily solve the problem (that we can't get the required 9 teams to play in Division 1) overnight, i.e. this year. As is implied by Paul Fletcher's "My proposals don’t force promotion on any team" (above), the Davy could still be short of teams in 2015-16 whatever rule changes are/are not effected.
However, my own views start, not with practicalities, but with what I grandly call "justice" or even "morality". I still advocate what I call "a simple, level playing field, with no glass ceiling" on the grounds that:

1. It is only fair! And who, in this wonderful, egalitarian city, wants to support unfairness needlessly? I don't know what "ism" to call the present system: the word "elitism" does sit on the edge of my tongue but seems slightly strong mainly because unlike with racism or sexism, where you can't change your skin or your sex, players CAN of course leave their clubs and join other ones (if there is one near enough!) if they think they can get top level chess there. Nevertheless it remains very deeply unfair that any club's team, winning promotion, may only be able to take what it has rightfully earned at the expense, for example, of exterminating its 2nd or 3rd team in order to man it, or may not be able to take it at all because "the rules are different up there!". These grounds alone seem enough, to me. If something is blatantly unfair, putting the injustice right ought to come before personal convenience and comfort. But, if justice isn't enough...

2. Some members of large clubs argue that Paul's proposals won't make a jot of difference to Davy team numbers. Chesterfield, Ecclesall, Nomads, Worksop, etc may not still (some say they would not) fill the Davy vacancies immediately. My argument is that if it doesn't immediately give us 9 teams, it will of necessity alter (I wan't to say "unclutter" because this special rule for the Davy is "clutter") the mindset of everyone for the future. Personally, I suspect that mindset will alter in mid-September 2015 if the Davy becomes 6-board! If players currently enjoying the cream of Div 1 find themselves in Div 2 they will put pressure on their clubs to fight for and accept promotion as of next week as well as in the more distant future.

I beg those thinking only of their immediate parochial interests ("we still won't put 2 teams in Div 1 next year, we haven't got enough good players") to put aside their short-term calculations and think of the good of the Association's - and their own clubs' - future. Do you really want the likes of University, Worksop, Aughton, Stannington, Chesterfield B, Nomads B, Phoenix B, Clay Cross (rarely, I admit), up-and-coming Darnall & Handsworth, etc. to be forever thwarted by the glass ceiling, bottlenecked against the proper and just flow of traffic because of this 8-board "bung"?

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