Sheffield Central Chess Club?
How do we rejuvenate S&DCA
Andrew Hards (23/10/2016): Something I've been thinking about, on and off, for the last few years has been the overall state of Sheffield chess and the feeling I've had that it is generally in a bit of a downward spiral at the moment. In my time involved in Sheffield chess, very few young players have come through the ranks at the 'senior' clubs (the only two that immediately spring to mind are Henry Withington at Nomads and Elliott Spencer at Ecclesall) and the supply line at our only junior club, SASCA, may be drying up a little as well - the A team now rarely features juniors with the top 13 graded players at the club all adults (the next is Sammy Benzaira after which the next five players are also adults). We do see a regular drip feed of players into the league from other sources, but that doesn't appear to be sufficient to maintain the league - a look back at Sheffield-based teams in the last few years sees Nomads dropping a team, Woodseats dropping a couple and Phoenix folding altogether.
Which brings me to my pointl. I'm worried that the league is going to get progressively older and increasingly stale. I'm concerned that whilst we're getting new *mature* players joining, there's little sign of children moving into the league (and players are also leaving as well, so the dripfeed is being offset by those who move away or no longer can commit to evening chess). I'm concerned that we're becoming something akin to a closed shop, both in terms of overall membership but also divisionally, with only the very occasional mover when exceptional circumstances arise (Darnall & Handsworth, Stannington, University). There has been a vacancy in the top flight for some time now that simply hasn't been filled - even when a team has come up, another has folded. So.... I wanted to try a bit of an experiment and this is where you all come in.
If you could start again, from scratch... what would you do? How would you make chess in Sheffield an appealing proposition for new players and for youngsters? Assume there are no club loyalties, no specific time control, no specific league/point structure, no playing restrictions, specific team sizes, etc, etc. A completely clean slate. I'd like to pull together all the suggestions and ideas from each of you and see what that gives us - and whether there's a proposition that we could formulate off the back of that that would be something to take forward at the end of the season as a revamp, a relaunch or even just some tweaks to what we have now that will make the S&DCA league a more appealing proposition for newcomers and a more exciting one for those who have played in it for some time.
Jeremy Hamm (24/10/2016): I agree this is a worthwhile exercise. We’re all just getting steadily older: too little evidence in Sheffield (and further afield too?) of renewal going on with younger players coming through, with consequent pressures on clubs and teams and captains that will only increase on current trends.
One thing I’ve thought about for a long time – but it does rather depend on a rich benefactor… - is the desirability of a central chess venue for the city. We’d still maintain a league of course: but also there’d be opportunity to meet outside the particular confines of competition, for casual chess, tournaments, chess development (for juniors and seniors), etc. I think this would be beneficial.
Of course we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we still maintain a thriving and very successful league in Sheffield. So (at least according to my calculations) Jon Griffiths’ latest analysis in the YCA yearbook shows that of 8,990 games last season played in the 10 local leagues in Yorkshire (or at least those JG graded), Sheffield accounted for 29% of them – at 2,217, far exceeding those of Bradford, Leeds, Hull, York, Calderdale or anywhere else.
Pete Willoughby (24/10/2016): I have been trying to establish social chess ‘for Sheffield’ at Ecclesall chess club (along with Ecclesall members) with limited, almost no, success. I have however been coaching one or two beginner/ returners, again together with some Ecclesall members.
There has been some discussion regarding social chess on the Sheffield forum but I was not able to attract any of the participants to Ecclesall for special social chess events. It may partly have been that Bradway is too far out.
I was about to ask SDCA how we could realistically apply Object 2 (c ) of the rules,
promote the interests of chess players generally, and suggest something along the lines that seems to be taking shape here... (namely a) Sheffield Central Chess Club if a ‘central’ venue could be obtained.
Steve Mann (10/11/2016): Andrew's initiative was a 6-month consultation on how to renew a flow of new people into the Association (my description), and this could be seen as also having a wider objective of getting more people into chess in the clubs.
Jeremy immediately raised the idea of a Central Chess Club, an objective I support, though I don't feel optimistic regarding the possibility of my own vision being possible to realise.
Peter responded immediately to Jeremy's idea with the idea of a "central" (my inverted commas) chess club based at the Red Lion. This doesn't match up to my vision, or, I suspect, that of Jeremy, but nevertheless, a non-match (crucial point) chess evening such as I'd like to see other clubs providing, is a step in the right direction.
The idea of a central chess club is just one suggestion, but there seems no reason why something should not be put on the website if somebody wishes to do it.
Pete Willoughby (10/11/2016): In answer to the parts of (earlier comments, e.g. about initially getting a Central Chess Club up and running at The Red Lion) that reference me, I am prepared to lead the Thursday chess at the Red Lion idea if everyone agrees. I would restate that I am not DBS certificated and therefore any juniors that attend would have to be supervised by their parents/ suitable adult. This would to a great extent supersede the Ecclesall training. As far as I am aware nothing is happening with regard to setting this up as we are waiting on SDCA approval (essential). If this was forthcoming immediately and the Red Lion is still available on Thursdays, the room can be booked, advertising can start immediately afterwards, and the meetings as soon as the kit is available. I think that such SDCA approval is necessary before it being advertised on the SDCA website and elsewhere.
I do not see there being a conflict between the setting up of an immediate (Central) Chess Club (at The Red Lion) and the eventual establishing of a pukka Central Chess Club in a prestige central location. I believe that this should be one of the primary aims, providing that such a club does not try and usurp any of the existing Sheffield Chess clubs.
Steve Mann (24/10/2016): I was perhaps a little slow in realising the main reason why Jeremy copied me into his reply to Andrew.
I have 12 sets, 13 boards and 10 clocks which could be donated to Sheffield (Central) Chess Club, should it come into being. The cost of similar items new from Chess Direct would be (over £330)
Incidentally, setting it up independently of the Association (as with the congress) might bypass the hassle of being subject to the whim of an S&DCA AGM etc.