Correspondence on BCF Membership      Back to SCCU home page

Updated 19.8.00

Open Forum is your vehicle for comment and discussion, and it is open. Anything goes, within the bounds of common sense and the libel laws, provided it's got something to do with chess in the SCCU. Or England. Or anywhere, really. It will be assumed, unless you say otherwise, that contributions may also be published in the printed SCCU Bulletin.
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Correspondence about BCF Membership has become substantial, and we've given it a page to itself.

From John Saunders
I'm not entering into the debate [see Leonard Barden below] about the rights and wrongs of the British Senior Championship and its status, but I would like to say something about the presentation of results on the BCF web site during the BCF Congress [see Ken Norman and Mike Gunn 13.8.00].
     I was the person updating the British Championship web page, remotely from my home and office, and there was no extra charge on the BCF for doing this. My editorial policy was dead simple. If people sent me pairings, results or photos, I posted them. Peter Turner, Director of Junior Chess, did just that, in some cases several times a day. As fast as he could send them, I tried to post them. If other people had sent me the Senior Championship results, the Under 50 Blindfold Handicap Reserves 'B' results, etc, photographs of the janitor and the tea lady, I would have posted those too. But they didn't, so I didn't. Peter and I also had some excellent help and feedback from parents and other readers, including several in India, and I'd like to express my thanks to them for that.
     One of the beauties of the web is that there is no real limitation on space. Editors don't have to prune articles for length because the page isn't big enough. My suggestion to anyone who wants to see their competition publicised is to do it themselves. Start your own web site, or email the data to the relevant party. Don't ask what the BCF can do for you, ask what you can do for the BCF. The web is all about DIY journalism. Try it and see. I did - and ended up owning a magazine...
     ... I'll shut up now because I'm beginning to sound like Victor Kiam.
John Saunders
BCF Web Site
rjh note 19.8.00: the Senior Championship is on the BCF site now. Not the grading-limited ones, unless they've been posted since I looked.

From Leonard Barden
Dear Richard
I agree with Ken Norman [13.8.00, two letters down], and will go further. The Senior Championship will have modest status as long as it is buried among a myriad of other events at the BCF Congress.
     I sent a paper to Stewart Reuben nearly four years ago, suggesting action and asking for it to be discussed by the Management Board. My impression is that SR binned it. I enclose an (updated) copy. Apart from the belated change of name from Veteran to Senior, MB has done little or nothing. However, the Terence Chapman Grand Prix now has a Senior Prix whose results are given equal prominence with other sections. I had better emphasise (else the MB will go ballistic) that I am not writing as the Controller.
     I believe Ken Norman is also right that PC has an effect. DCMS guidelines exhort special consideration for youth, females, and other minorities, but don't mention over 60s.

In the November 1996 ChessMoves the BCF Chairman stated: "Chess is regarded as a game for the young rather than old. But the pendulum has swung too far. 0.8% of the population over 65 play, by comparison with 9.7% betwen 15 and 24."
     The BCF must take some responsibility for this poor performance through its casual treatment of what should be the flagship event for older players, the British Senior Championship.
     The United States and German federations are much more successful than the BCF in attracting older players. Senior chess regularly has a full page in the German magazine Rochade, and Germany also regularly stages the annual World Senior Championship. The US Senior is often featured in Chess Life, sometimes as a front cover item. The USCF, like the BCF, asks older players to include the federation in their legacies but, unlike the BCF, is able to project itself as serving their interests.
     By any reasonable standards, the BCF's Senior Championship is unworthy of its name. In 15 years probably only Golombek, of former internationals, has competed. Active over 60s such as Franklin, Littlewood, Parr, Wade and Phillips have never taken part. The BCF seems to have a poor regard for its own champion, and there is no link between its title and the annual World Senior.
     The fact is that senior players, if they become really sympathetic to their chess federation, are the most cost-effective revenue source available through their legacies. The BCF should have learnt much through Harry Golombek and Ron Banwell. If such large funds accrue when the BCF fails to honour its active senior players, how much more might emerge if it did.
     My proposals:
(1)  The British Senior Championship should incorporate a Veterans title for over 70s.
(2)  The event should no longer be part of the BCF Congress but should be offered to Paignton or Bristol, two congresses which have many older competitors. Sponsorship should be sought from Saga and other firms trying to attract an older market.
     I suggest two events (the exact format depending on player response):
(a)  A 7-round British Senior Championship at Paignton.
(b)  An invitation 5-round APA or 4-round Swiss at Bristol, with former internationals and the top one or two from the Open. The winner of the British Senior Invitation, or the top player available, would qualify for a BCF grant towards expenses at the next World Senior.
     The German Senior Cup is a Grand-Prix type individual and team event with 29 senior tournaments, 17 teams of 8, and 1200 participants. That shows how much scope exists for development.

So of course Ken Norman is right to suggest that a Director should be appointed to develop the suggestions above and other suitable projects. I suggest Steve Boniface or John Dunleavy as two experienced people who have a genuine interest. Over 50s and over 60s will form a growing proportion of UK chess players as the postwar and Fischer generations become older.
   Leonard Barden

From Mike Gunn
I agree with Ken Norman [below]. Also missing this year are details of the gradings limited events. Those of us challenged in the gradings department cannot follow the progress (or lack of it) of our friends. Is this gradeism in action?
     It looks as if those running the site have diverted their energy into a more attractive presentation of juniors' results. I can see the point of this in publicity terms, but it is a pity if it is at the expense of a complete set of results (which publication brings a little joy into the lives of those of us with unfashionable grades).
Mike Gunn

From Ken Norman
I have been following the BCF congress on the official website. The results of the Championship, Major Open and ALL the junior tournaments have been published but no mention of SENIORS CHAMPIONSHIP. Why? This appears to be another example of ageism by the BCF. We have a Juniors Director perhaps it is time to appoint a Seniors Director.
Ken Norman

From Louise Sinclair
I am the Match Captain of the new 4NCL Chess team entered by the North Circular Chess League. As you are aware they have the asinine politically correct view that the teams must have a female player. Although I am the Match Captain I have flatly refused to play in the team as the only female player. If our woman player failed to turn up I would refuse to play as a substitute thus openly demonstrating my feelings towards this idiocy.
rjh: The rules say: "In each match a team must comprise eight players including one male and one female player." I've always wondered about the other six.

From Roger de Coverly
There doesn't seem to have been any comment about a recent FIDE proposal to extend the international list from 2001 (175) down to 1001 (50!). The report is on the BCF website at
     One of the conditions would make the open in most weekend tournaments and the top division in most evening leagues ineligible: "1.11 Where at least one of the players in the tournament has a rating 2200 or higher, each player must have a minimum of two hours in which to complete all the moves, assuming the game lasts 60 moves."
     Given the attendance of K. O'Connell (IRL) in chair, and S. Reuben (ENG), it seemed odd to read also that:- "It was agreed by those present that, in their view, the replacement of a national rating system by FIDE would not have a dramatic effect on the financial position of their Federations."
Roger de Coverly

From Richard Davey, Surrey U100 captain, to David Smith, SCCU County Match Controller
Dear David,
I enclose a copy of Surrey's result in the U100 Final. We just managed to retain the Cup on board count.
     The runners-up in the National Club Championships receive a trophy. The runners-up in the Counties Championships get nothing, not even a clap. I know how much hard work goes into reaching the Final. I really feel that some recognition should be given to the losing finalists. I don't know by how much it would be necessary to increase the entry fee in order to give each member of the losing team, as well as the winning one, a personal memento. I was wondering whether the SCCU could take the point up with the BCF, and perhaps Richard Haddrell (to whom a copy of this letter is being sent) could put something in the Bulletin and on the Website to see what others think. The Essex Open team may well support this view!
     I have written to Cyril Johnson as well.
Yours sincerely,
[Note 1.7.00. The AGM agrees, and it will be taken up with the BCF. See AGM Report in SCCU News.]

From Bryan Fewell
Chairman, BCF Finance Committee
Dear Richard,
I should like to respond and clarify matters in respect of the Finance Committee on which you reported on the SCCU Website [see BCF page, Council 15.4.00, item 12].
     (1) The BCF Constitution says "A Finance Committee....shall regularly review the financial affairs of the Federation and offer such advice as it may deem appropriate". The Finance Committee reports to the BCF Council and has, amongst other things, regularly reviewed budgets and financial forecasts including the level of reserves. It has also provided advice to the Management Board and Council on such matters as where it considers a Director has not been exercising effective management of his budget. The Committee is presently composed of 5 elected members, 4 BCF Officers ex officio and the auditor by invitation. I hope that explains our functions.
     (2) By general consent, formal meetings are avoided if at all possible to help contain BCF expenditure. Current members include those who live as far apart as Middlesborough, Barrow in Furness, Eastbourne and Margate. Business can generally be conducted satisfactorily by telephone, fax, Email or snail mail. Incidentally, I gather the Constitution Committee rarely meets either.
     (3) Normal practice is that the Chairman drafts reports to the BCF Council, having taken such preliminary soundings as he deems necessary. A draft is sent to committee members with a deadline to return comments. This has worked well historically but proved a problem in the case of the Council Meeting on 15 April because the Finance Committee Chairman did not receive financial papers in advance of delegates as had been the custom. Time was therefore of the essence in completing the report. It was tabled at the Council Meeting to avoid a further mailing to Council delegates which would have incurred expense and extra work for BCF Office staff.
     (4) On all previous occasions when amendments have been suggested to the draft report, the Finance Committee members have accepted the situation without demur realising the Chairman has had little time for further consultation and leaving it to his judgement to finalize matters. In this case, through only what can be considered to be a lack of experience, the new BCF Chairman, who is an ex officio member of the committee, complained at the Council Meeting itself because a comment suggesting a change on the draft report from the former Finance Director to ask Council to consider increasing the level of financial reserves had not been put to all members of the Finance Committee before final publication. As the BCF Chairman had been sent a copy of the final report in advance of the Council Meeting, it is to be regretted that he made no attempt to ask the Finance Committee Chairman for an explanation but chose to air the matter to delegates at the Council Meeting.
     (5) The important thing to stress is that the Finance Committee, especially in terms of its elected representatives, acts to help safeguard the BCF finances. It is vital the elected representatives are free to carry out such financial investigations as they deem necessary and to make any recommendation to Council which, in their opinion, will help to ensure the BCF remains on a sound financial footing. In that context, the views of the very experienced former Finance Director about the level of reserves should not be the subject of carping criticism from the BCF Chairman as to method of delivery. They should have received his warm support.
Bryan Fewell
[rjh: Council's views were Council's. I wish to dissociate myself from this letter's remarks about the BCF Chairman.]

From Paul Dupré
Dear Richard,
Could you interpret your comment [see SCCU News: Executive 10.3.00 item 2] that "The BCF's decision to give everyone a CD had, perhaps, been a mistake". I was overjoyed to have all this additional information. What was the consensus regarding CD being offered to certain people only.
Paul Dupré
rjh: (a) What I meant was that the Executive thought the CDs were reducing the market for Union (and County) lists. (b) I don't think any views were expressed on who ought to get CDs if everyone doesn't, but graders would be an obvious answer. Possibly also tournament organisers.
     [NB Paul's letter was much longer. The full version is in the BCF Membership page.]

From Jeff Goldberg
Firstly, let me congratulate the Southend Congress in attracting substantial sponsorship and a very strong field for the Redbus knockout but...
     It's a little disappointing to me that the selection of the field has been made without including any Essex representation. It would have been possible, in my opinion, to include either the strongest Southend player, Mike Twyble, who has been graded close to 220, or Jon Rogers, Essex Board 1 and a genuinely talented player capable of beating most of the field on his day, or Andrew Martin, IM, longtime an Essex player, or Karl Mah, an IM level player.
     It seems to me that in future years, if sponsorship is still available, it could be used not just to give professional players a pay-day, which is fine in itself, but also to encourage local players to aspire to the highest levels. Surely this is particularly easy in a Knock-Out format; as half of the field will be knocked out after round 1 anyway, why not give one or more strong local players a chance?
     Notwithstanding the above, may I wish the Southend Congress every success.
Jeff Goldberg
ILFORD Chess Club

From Neil Clifton
NYCA U16 Team Tournament
I note that only one team from the North of England (Cheshire) entered for this competition. In this context, it is very interesting that when we were setting up the ECGCF (English Counties Girls Chess Federation), we were subjected to bitter criticism for Greater Manchester Chess Association because we started right from the start that only teams representing Real Counties would be admitted.
     I had several quite unpleasant emails from GM officials protesting that GM were not allowed in. On enquiring how many times GM had entered the existing BCF U18 Girls team competition, I was met with a deafening silence. It is clear that their opposition to the ECGCF was not based on any real desire to enter the competition, but on their opposition to our 'real County" policy. As far as I know, GM are not barred from the NYCA competiton - but there still was no entry from them.
     I am reminded of Groucho Marx's famous remark: "I would not join any club that would have me as a member!"
     Interestingly, we have not had opposition from Merseyside, nor have they raised any objection to girls from the Merseyside area joining the ECGCF under the real-county Lancashire flag.
Neil Clifton
Secretary, ECGCF
[rjh: I think the Real Counties policy is perverse. Never mind the GMCCA or their motives. Where accepted infrastructures exist, let people use them if they want to.]

From Kevin Clark
Dear Richard
Regarding the proposals for the Minor Counties Championship [see Rules section], these are similar to my suggestions which you published in the Bulletin a couple of years ago. So I am broadly in favour, as they allow a county to play its normal first team, rather than an "artificial" one. However, the proposed rule needs (in my opinion) adjustments as follows:
     (1) The penalty should be 1 game point lost by the stronger team for each 2˝ grading points (or part thereof) that its average grade exceeds 180 or the weaker team's average grade if higher.
     (2) Provision should be made for a minimum grade for "makeweight" players, otherwise it is possible for a team of (for example) 15 players with an average grade of 190 to compete if they are accompanied by a (graded) beginner!
     I hope this makes sense!
Yours sincerely,
KR Clark (Herts Open captain)
[rjh: Interesting. (1) is effectively the same as the Director's proposal, but with a shift in implication. The rules say that your average grade must be below 180. The Director's proposal is an addition to this, not a replacement. I think it is meant as a penalty for breaking the rule. Kevin sees it as a licence to break the rule, and the penalty turns into a handicap. I think.]

From John Philpott
Dear Richard
Cyril Johnson has given notice of an interesting and varied selection of County Championship rule changes [see Rules section] that he intends to put forward at the April Council meeting. One change that is of particular interest to me is that to rule 8.1, which if Cyril's proposal were accepted would have the effect of reducing the minimum number of boards for matches in the National Stages from 16 to 12 for the U175, U150 and U125 Divisions, while leaving the Open at 16 and the U100 at 12 as at present. Two points need to be noted at the outset.
     (a) These are minimum numbers, so the captains can mutually agree to play a higher even number of boards. In the National Stages I have asked opposing captains on a number of occasions if they would be interested in playing on a higher number of boards, but so far without success, and I am therefore not optimistic that the effect of such a change is likely to be counteracted by the action of individual captains.
     (b) This is not one of the rules that has to be applied in the Union qualifying stages. Consequently, there is nothing to stop the SCCU, if the change is passed, from continuing to conduct its qualifying competitions over the present number of boards. Indeed, positive action would be necessary to change the SCCU rules if it were desired to mirror the changes to the national rules.

Speaking purely as the Essex U175 match captain, a change of this nature is the last development that I would like to see. I regularly comment in letters to members of my team and AGM reports as to how difficult it is to offer everybody in my squad sufficient chess given the 16 board nature of the competition, and how I would greatly prefer a 20 board competition. Reducing the competition to 12 boards would in effect result in four further Essex players being deprived of County chess altogether, since with the exception of one individual who is much stronger than his published grade, and three occasions when I have had to replace a player at short notice, everybody who has turned out for my team this season has had a published grade too high to enable them to play in the U150 competition.
     On an Essex wide basis, I cannot see any benefit for our other teams. Suffice it to say Essex has, as usual, entered all five Divisions of the competition this season and has to date only defaulted one board in the course of 26 matches.

Now as a former President of the Union I would hope that I was capable of looking beyond the interests of Essex and its U175 team in particular in order to focus in on what is appropriate for the general good of the competition, and in particular whether an alternative approach would lead to more chess being played (which at the end of the day is, after all, what we are here to encourage). There are three levels which need to be considered.
     (1) The SCCU competitions.
     (2) The qualifying competitions organised by the other Unions.
     (3) The national knock-out stages.
Unfortunately there is a lack of readily available information on (2) since as far as I am aware the other Unions do not currently run their own websites and the information submitted by their match captains to ChessMoves and the BCF Website is patchy to say the least. However, I am not unduly concerned about this since their representatives will be able to express their own views in April. In any event, if the number of boards is a problem, there is nothing to stop a Union from organising its own competition over 12 boards even if the National Stages are conducted over 16. The BCF Yearbook indicates that this was precisely what the EACU did with their U125 competition last season.

Within the SCCU I tend to regard the number of teams that participate (currently 31) as relatively healthy, and I would not have expected a reduction in the number of boards to result in a significant increase, particularly as the existence of the Chiltern League is always going to render the participation of certain Counties in the U175 and U150 Divisions unlikely. It should also be borne in mind that an increase in the number of teams does not necessarily result in an increase in the amount of chess played because at a certain level an event will become single-round rather than double-round. The U175 competition currently comprises four teams playing a double round competition over 16 boards, giving rise (barring defaults) to 192 games of chess. If this were to become six teams playing a single round competition over 12 boards, only 180 games would be played.
     However, if the number of teams is healthy, the number of defaults is not and has not been for a number of seasons. The results posted to date on the Website indicate that so far in 1999/2000 there have been 7 defaulted matches (2 by Cambs and 1 by Berks in the Open, 1 by Kent in the U150 and 3 by Herts in the U100) and 66 individual defaults outside those matches which break down as 42 in the Open, 7 each in the U175 and U150 and 5 each in the U125 and U100. Although there is a problem that clearly needs to be addressed, it is not Union-wide since Bucks, Oxon and Sussex have yet to register a single default.
     How best to tackle this is a far from simple matter. One or two ideas have appeared recently on the Website. I myself feel that deducting penalty points is not an appropriate way of going about this. Where a team is incurring a large number of defaults it has probably put itself out of the running for a qualifying place anyway (e.g. Cambs in the Open) so point penalties will have little effect on such Counties in practice. On the other hand, even a well run team can incur defaults as a result of unforeseen circumstances. I am understandably proud of my record of no defaults in 33 Essex U175 matches as captain, but one day a car with four players might break down on the way to Sussex, and I think that I would be sufficiently penalised by the almost certain loss of the match without suffering a "double-whammy" in the form of a further points deduction. It is the persistent defaulters that we need to be seeking to legislate against. As the problem would appear to stem from a team being entered without adequate advance consideration being given as to its ability to meet its obligations in the competition, I would be inclined to favour some relatively tough conditions (with a financial impact) being imposed on a County that seeks to re-enter a Division in which it incurred more than an "acceptable" (definition to be debated) number of defaults in the previous season.
     What I am absolutely convinced of is that reducing the number of boards is not only not the way to try to solve this problem, but would be counter-productive in terms of the future well-being of the competition. If the numbers were reduced, I would still expect some teams to fail to meet their commitments because of lack of organisation and motivation, with the likely consequence of a further reduction in the number of boards being suggested in a few years time. In the meantime, the better organised teams will suffer because players who are currently keen will be unable to get a regular game and will eventually lose interest in County chess altogether. In any event, I cannot help noticing that the default problem is concentrated (6 of the 7 match defaults and 47 of the 66 other individual defaults) in the Open and U100 Divisions which would not be affected by the present proposal.

For the National Stages, my prime concern is that there should be at least eight entries in each Division so that there can be a proper knock-out starting at the quarter-final stage. I tend to regard the preliminary round as a device where necessary to reduce the teams in a Division to eight, rather than something that we should be seeking to expand for its own sake. After a little juggling in the U175 competition, there are now at least eight entries in each Division for this year. A preliminary round is needed in all the Divisions apart from the Minor Counties and U175; this is perhaps to be expected, as with the "180 average" principle that applies in the Minor Counties it would be exceedingly difficult for a County to mount a successful campaign in this and the U175 competition in the same season. I am far from clear as to how a reduction in the number of boards is expected to improve the National Stages. For more chess to be played there would have to be a substantial increase in the number of preliminary round matches played to compensate for the 25% reduction in games from the quarter finals onwards.

I hope that these comments will help to stimulate a debate on the subject, both on the Website and at the forthcoming SCCU Executive meeting.
Yours sincerely
John Philpott
Copies to Cyril Johnson and David Smith.

From Lester Millin
In reply to Howard Grist [see 10.2.00 further down], his not having problems with grading Southend entries does not mean that a County like Oxfordshire with a large turnover of players from one year to the next will not suffer problems. University players change regularly, and there are 2 Universities in Oxfordshire now. The Kidlington Congress gets many enties from the North, thanks to Andrew Butterworth sending entry forms to northern players. If all Congress entry forms were required to have a space for the B.C.F. Grading Code, it would help the grading system. Maybe not a lot, but Howard should not put his head in the sand and imagine all is well.
Lester Millin
     [rjh: You don't want to know this, but I'm not sure there's any real disagreement. Lester's suggestion, as he now accepts, is not nearly a solution to the problem. But it might help. As for imagining all is well, I don't think Howard said it was and I doubt if anyone would.]

From Stewart Reuben
Dear Richard,
North London v South (see Paul McKeown 17th January below)
Such an event also took place post-war, possibly 1948 and certainly before my time. It was billed as 1000 player but my mind has lost it whether it was 500 a side or 1000. Peter Shaw probably knows. They divided the teams into sections numbered separately so that players did not have to be on boards like 393.
     More recently Pergamon sponsored North London v South London in the year of the London League Centenary. It was a day's jamboree at the Barbican. I think about 600 people played. There were other activities.
     I first played County chess on Board 64 for Middlesex. The SCCU had three divisions, the bottom was Ebony and the next up Amboyna. The 4 Home counties used to play 100 board matches at the National Chess Centre at Hill's Restaurant by Liverpool Street Station - now alas long-gone. John Poole was Middlesex captain and says it was not hard to raise a team. You just sent out the invitations and took note of those who said they would play, but did not turn up. There were not many of these.
     Times have very much changed. Ordinary weekend Swisses did not exist then and certainly not rapidplays. The Mind Sports Olympiad at the end of August wants to attract as many people as possible. Any thoughts on events from your readers would be welcome.
Stewart Reuben

From John Cannon
Dear Richard,
Re the board 12 result of the U175 Sussex-Surrey match of 11.12.99 reported in the Jan 2000 SCCU Bulletin. I have no idea how my name came to be given as Les. My first name, which I have never used, is Lewis, and "L John Cannon" is appropriate where full details and a forename are required.
     Incidentally this was my 329th county game for Sussex since Oct 1959 (20 for Northumberland earlier). Geoffrey James is the only Sussex player anywhere near this total - a few years ago he was a dozen or so behind, but we haven't compared notes lately. Ken Whyld raised the issue of who might top this particular pinnacle, in his BCM "Notes and Queries" column some years ago. At the time I wondered whether Sir Stuart Milner Barry might have been a candidate, but there was no response to the BCM enquiry. County chess is less inclined to be everyone's cup of tea these days than it once was, but even so I would have thought that there must be other 300+ contenders out there somewhere.
With best wishes,
John Cannon
[rjh: Yes, we still get letters addressed to the printed Bulletin. John has now reached the 350 mark overall, with a win against Essex on Saturday. Any advance on 330 (plus 20), anyone? It sounds hard to beat.]

From Bob Lee-Anderson
For your consideration sir!
Re: the defaults problem in SCCU counties matches/BCF inter counties matches
A possible new scoring system
(a) 3 points for a win
(b) 2 points for a draw
(c) 1 point for a loss
(d) 0 point for a default
This could apply to match points as well as game points.
(a) To discourage defaults and [fax illegible] appropriately
(b) Award an appearance point thereby encouraging players to play for their county
(c) Discouraging disputes
RCN Lee-Anderson

From Howard Grist
In response to Lester's "unpublished" letter [below] to ChessMoves:-
I think Lester has rather missed the point with duplicated names in the current BCF list. His request for BCF grading codes to be included on entry forms, even if they were duly completed by competitors, would make very little difference to the number of duplicate names on the list. I do not ask for grading codes on the entry form for the Southend Congress (for which I both receive entries and grade) and have had no problems in matching a player's entry form, complete with name, address, grade and club with his BCF code, providing the player does have a BCF Code.
     If a player does not have a BCF Code, then the situation is rather more complex, and this complexity accounts for at least 95% of the duplicated names on the current list. The BCF grading system needs some method of deciding that two (or more) names who have not previously appeared on the grading list, playing in different congresses/leagues are, in fact, one and the same person. Last year this was done almost solely by name and date of birth, which was not a great success. Hopefully this year will see a rather less subtle method of merging.
Howard Grist Howard.Grist@RebusGroup.Com
SCCU Grading Secretary, Southend Congress Secretary/Grader
P.S. Thanks for the latest issue of the Bulletin. I was rather concerned about the number of county matches I had to grade until I realised you"d already printed some of them in the November issue!

[rjh: Oh dear. I was in a hurry. I'm sure they only appear once each on the site. On duplicated names: the graders' "merge list", which appeared in December, includes quite a lot of duplicates that look to be ancient. But the brand-new ones outnumber them easily, and most of those are for new players.]

From Lester Millin
I thought that my [not yet published] letter to ChessMoves might also interest you. I notice that the International Tournament at Yateley Manor also includes a space for the B.C.F. Code.
20 January 2000 17:48
Letter to the Editor of ChessMoves
I have looked through 20+ entry forms for Congresses being played between Christmas and Easter. Only 3, Kidlington, Surrey and Portsmouth, ask for the B.C.F. Grading Code to be included alongside the grade. I suggest this is the reason why so many chess players have 2 or more grades in the B.C.F. Grading List. It may also be the reason why only 10% of Kidlington entrants bother to write in their code. If other congresses do not require this information, why should Kidlington?
     I think it would be a good idea if all congresses hoping to be part of the Onyx Grand Prix were required to leave a space for the B.C.F. Grading Code. If players got into the habit of writing down this information, then maybe the grading book would be more accurate in the future.
Lester Millin
[rjh: You wouldn't expect this to have appeared in ChessMoves yet, but Lester has suggested we put it here as well to see what response it gets. Could be the missing codes are only a part of the problem. Any views?]

From Trevor Jones
Dear Richard,
I've just been on the phone tonight to the Cambs captain (phone number from my Surrey captain), about tomorrow's U150 match in Whittlesford about 5 miles south from central Cambridge and 1 mile from Whittlesford railway station, to ascertain information which I would have thought to be generally useful for people coming from afar:
  1. Is there a restaurant or pub doing meals in the village?
  2. What is the phone of the local taxi firm? - for use from my mobile on the train in case it's pouring with rain - as I don't expect a taxi rank at Whittlesford station.
But apparently he had not even thought of finding such information, let alone including it in advance details to Fred Manning. But at least he was able to give me more precise details for finding the venue in relation to my mid-1960s 1in OS map of Cambridgeshire than the second-hand info over the phone from Fred Manning. It sounds as if it might be quite a pleasant spot (but for the risk of going hungry).
     I do ask the SCCU to encourage home captains to find out and make available such information in future - especially in the case of out-of-the-way venues (as regards public transport) - not everyone drives cars, and people dispersed around a whole county should not be expected to organise lifts together. Indeed local bus routes and times might also be relevant at some venues, although I'm quite happy about a 1-mile walk in decent weather as long as there's a footpath.
Yours sincerely
H. Trevor Jones
PS 31.1.00
In fact Whittlesford Sta had a man in the ticket office who told me of the Red Lion Hotel just across the footbridge, where I had a nice pub lunch, and also of a McDonalds a little further away. It wasn't raining, so I had a pleasant country walk thence to the match, along an un-busy road with a footpath and even limited street-lighting after dark. Furthermore the village has an hourly bus to Cambridge, calling right outside the venue and also calling not too far from the station. So I recommend the venue, but this is the info that should in future be given to visiting teams. The Red Lion even sold me a port whilst awaiting my train home (from that side of the station)!

From Paul McKeown
As captain of the Middlesex Open Team, I recently took possession of the Middlesex County Chess Association Match Books, a set of three very beautiful leather bound journals detailing all the matches that Middlesex have played (at all levels, open, 2nd, 3rd, 4th teams, friendly matches, correspondence matches, etc.) since they began competing in 1908. Included are such information as players club allegiances, gradings, newspaper cuttings, photographs, even the bill of fare for a Middlesex team dinner at Simpsons in the Strand!
     Recognising the value this offers to anyone interested in the development of County Chess in England, I have begun scanning it into my computer both as a graphic image and as text (by Optical Character Recognition), and intend when this is complete to produce statistics - players, results v. the different counties, team grading averages, etc.
     Richard, do you think this is of any interest to the Southern Counties Chess Union, in general? If so, I would be very happy to publish this either on the SCCU web-site, or on the MCCA web-site (which Zoë Ryle is producing)1, so that you could advertise it and link to it. Alternatively I would also be willing to distribute it as a CD-ROM to any that might be interested - have you any ideas?

On a different note, my historical delvings have led to me to note that on September 24th, 1921, two teams of 400 (yes) players played each other representing North of the Thames and South of the Thames. This event took place in Central Hall, Westminster and was narrowly won by the North of the Thames team. North of the Thames was largely represented by players from Middlesex, with significant contributions from Essex and Herts, and included some players from as far afield as Manchester, etc. South of the Thames was represented largely by players from Surrey, with significant contributions from Kent, Sussex, Berkshire and Hampshire, and included players from as far afield as Devon2.
     Given that next year is the 80th anniversary of this magnificent event, it seems a great opportunity to attract some media coverage for chess, by staging a re-run, perhaps on Saturday 22nd of September, 2001. What do you think? I am of course proposing myself as captain of the North of the Thames team, providing of course that I can get the support of other county match captains, etc, in raising the necessary team.
Best Regards,
Paul McKeown (home), (work)
     Paul has asked the Guinness people if there's a record for number of boards in a chess match...
1 You can't go there yet. The Middx site exists, but there have been problems getting it to work. We'll let you know when it's accessable.
2 Devon, like Hants, was then of course in the SCCU's patch. Manchester wasn't!

From Neil Clifton
Recent correspondence1 about SCCU Girls titles seems to have revealed an unsatisfactory, inconsistent and faintly ridiculous situation, which I suggest should be addressed by SCCU at the first opportunity. What needs to be decided is:
1. What SCCU Girls Titles, if any, should exist. Are there trophies to go with these titles?2 If not, presumably they should be acquired.
2. Whether it is desirable that they should be awarded for play in fully open, mixed-sex junior, or girls only events.
3. Whether there is any logic in them being awarded in events which, with all due respect to the events themselves, are peripheral in terms of the number of strong girl players competing.

     My own opinions are roughly as set out below.
1. The whole area of SCCU girls' titles is in need of thorough overhaul and should be organised logically and rationally so that it can be well understood by players, teachers, trainers and parents involved.
2. SCCU girls' titles should be awarded annually in the following age groups: U8, U10, U12, U14 and U18. All titles should be supported by suitably prestigious trophies to be held for one year.
3. If it is decided that they should be awarded for play in mixed-sex junior events they should be awarded at the London Junior Championships. If it is decided that they should be awarded for play in girls only events, they should be awarded at the Surrey Girls Chess Congress. The titles should ideally all be awarded at the same event, or event-group in the case of LJC. A body of opinion has recently formed within certain chess circles that the Unions have outlived their usefulness and that a fully reorganised BCF will cease to recognise them and will instead deal directly with Counties. Those in the Southern Counties who oppose such views would do well to ensure that our house is well in order and we do not allow our titles to become marginalised.
Neil Clifton
     1 Neil may be thinking of recent news items.      2 No. The SCCU has no junior individual trophies. Some are believed to have existed, but they are lost. See the bottom of the Trophies page.

From Dave Shipp
Dear Richard,
You asked, a while ago, what could be done to stem the flood of defaults in County matches. Why not simply deduct a penalty point?
Dave Shipp (Kent U100 captain)
     rjh: It was a while ago, and Dave said this a while ago and I forgot to put it in. Sorry. Game defaults don't seem to have got any less frequent since. Other suggestions, anyone?
     (Very) vaguely on the subject, a match captain recently gave advance notice that he would be defaulting some games, and was surprised, when he got there, to find that the opponents had no players physically present to win those games. He accepted that this was normal practice, when it was explained to him, but still felt that the practice was open to abuse. Which it is, of course. On the other hand a different match captain telephoned his opposite number, earlier this season, and said "I'm afraid I'm going to be n players short." And the opposite number said, "Oh, good. Because so am I."

From Syringa Turvey
Dear Richard,
In response to Trevor Jones' note [below] on tea and coffee being an integral part of chess, I would like to point out that much the same was said by many about smoking a few years ago. Times change... Not that I can imagine coping with chess without that regular caffeine fix myself.

From Trevor Jones
I see (BCF report 13.11.99) that caffeine is a prohibited substance in the Olympics. Tea and coffee are an integral part of chess. If they're not allowed in the Olympics, then the Olympics aren't for us.
Trevor Jones

From Jeff Goldberg
I just wanted to congratulate you on the incredible speed with which the SCCU Counties results appear! Next time my opponent offers me a draw in a county game I'll quickly look up the website to find out whether I accepted it or not!
Jeff Goldberg
     [rjh: I do try to be prompt, but I can't take all the credit. It's a team effort. I couldn't do it without the help of some very prompt match captains.]

From Jonathan Rogers
Dear Richard,
I expect that most of your readers who apply for Millennium Festival Funding [see Notices 23.9.99] will be disappointed. My Club (Barbican 4NCL) applied for funding back in July, on account of (a) the costs involved in travelling to Birmingham, plus hotel expenses, (b) the relatively large number of juniors in the Club who obviously have no income and (c) the fact that we are unsponsored. We fulfilled all the criteria in their glossy brochure - BUT THE CRITERIA WHICH THEY ACTUALLY APPLY ARE VERY DIFFERENT, and they rejected us in a very cursory fashion.
     Their brochure indicates that each application will be assessed on its merits, but in fact each application is pigeonholed, as an art, cultural event, or sport, etc. And then they take advice from appropriate outside bodies (who are not listed in the brochure) as to whether the application meets THEIR criteria. In our case, our application was prima facie classified as a 'sport", and was referred to 'sport England", one of the renamed UK Sporting Councils. They informed the Millennium Funding people that they did not recognise chess as a sport, and that was that - hours of our time in making the application (which is an arduous procedure) and apparently about ten minutes of theirs in rejecting it.
     The problem is: that even if the government does legislate in the coming session to amend the classification of chess, it will almost certainly happen just one year too late for anyone to benefit from the Millennium Fund. My view is that only clubs which concentrate upon the training/educative aspects of chess have any chance of success, and only then if whichever charity/educational institution with whom the Award Officers consult happens to recognise chess as a worthy subject.
Jonathan Rogers

We invited comments about the new grading list.
From Neville Belinfante
Dear Richard
My printed copy of the grading book arrived in the post yesterday, and I took it with me to the Kensington Congress. The general reaction of players and parents was very favourable with the wealth of new information shown. The "top twenty" lists are also expanded, with the top 20 in every age group from U18 down to U7 and also the top boys and top girls at U18, U16, U14, U12 and U10.
     One complaint that will be made is that there are a large number of duplicate players, and you said so yourself two weeks ago. However this is nothing new. Last year, you printed a letter from Ian Farquarson of Cambridge who was complaining that his son William [Bennet] had a number of different entries.
     The new system will be using Date of Birth to help player identification. The grading book prints a player's date of birth where it is known to the BCF and the player concerned has not explicitly asked for it not to be shown. Currently about a third of the players in the book have a date of birth given.
     If congress organisers get the Date of Birth for all their competitors, and all league secretaries get the Date of Birth of their league players, then the problem of duplicates can be considerably reduced. Similarly players should provide Date of Birth and grading code when they enter tournaments or leagues, especially if they change area.
Neville Belinfante
rjh: I haven't seen the printed version. In the master list on CD, about 22% of players have "age" shown. In the printed book the figure ought to be just over 16%, unless they've changed the rules about what goes in. That, or my computer's counted wrong. Must find someone who's got a copy.

From Roger de Coverly
Responding to Leonard Barden's point [below] on numbers of juniors participating in international events. I've seen part of the googol of email debate on this. A salient point to my mind is that it costs in excess of one thousand pounds for each additional participant. There can be only 3 sources of funding for this:-
     (1) the existing sponsorship -- but I'd presume this only covers one player per event.
     (2) the BCF game fee. Pigs might fly but I cannot see the representatives of the "ordinary" club and congress player wearing this.
     (3) Personal sponsorship of the individual player by parents, family or whoever.
     It's a bit radical and money orientated but (3) might actually be a winner. The idea is that the BCF auction additional places to the highest bidder. There would have to be a minimum bid and some sort of minimum playing standard. This put a market value on this form of chess education. Personally I would have thought a season's worth of NCL participation would work out more valuable and at lower cost but let the market (chess parents) decide.

Responding to the webmaster's comment on (family) BCF direct membership. The benefits are the same as "ordinary" membership ( BCF diary, Chess Moves, Year Book, discounted grading list etc.) but there's multiple game fee exemption and multiple detail grading reports.
Roger de Coverly
PS My cd of grades hasn't turned up yet - 18th September but then I ordered through the SCCU.

From Leonard Barden
Dear Richard,
If Neil Clifton [see below] thinks that one player per event (and no medals) is so splendid, I suggest he visits the European Youth Championships website1 which provides the numbers sent by other leading chess nations (who did win medals).
Leonard Barden
1 rjh: It's but I'm damned if I can find my way around it. Must be me. Others have found this information there.

From Neil Clifton
Dear Richard
There has been a lot of discussion about the BCF junior selection policy recently, ever since the days of Brian Jones as Junior Director. The new director, Peter Turner, has in my opinion done a splendid job so far, with no less than FIVE girls, as well as five boys, going to both the European Youth in Greece and the World Junior in Spain.
     Your readers may be interested to read a copy of the Junior Selection policy, and this is available on my website at http://www/
Best wishes
Neil Clifton
[rjh: Expect it's there, but I couldn't find it just now. It's also at Some people complain that we send no MORE than five. The document (March 1999) envisages the possibility of sending more than one player per sex per age group.]

From Roger de Coverly
To the SCCU Webmaster
(for publication or comment at least)
Thanks for the pointer to the new grades for direct members on the BCF web site.
     It does seem that the new software has been alarmingly jinxed. Whilst it's an excellent idea to publish on the BCF site, it would have been an even better idea to notice the numerous family members where the direct membership number covers more than person. For example I'm there but Monica (Vann) isn't. Equally there's only one Hunt, one Houska, one Norman etc. Two Howells but one of them is David.
     Roger de Coverly
[rjh: I have no idea how family membership works. Expect the rules are published somewhere. Anyone know where?]

Earlier material (lots of it) is in the 1998-9 Archive.

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