Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

National developments, strategies and ideas.
Paul McKeown
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Paul McKeown » Tue Oct 13, 2020 9:03 pm

What I would suggest is that the ECF should not attempt to do everything - it's budget is always stretched as it is. If existing organisations and/or events satisfactorily fulfil a requirement in the English chess world, then the ECF should avoid competing or stepping on toes. Indeed they should be publicly grateful for those organisers and organisations, advertise them, and provide them with appropriate help and consultancy where improvement is seen to be needed, and ask them what the ECF could do for them that it isn't currently doing. Only where a necessary event is failing badly in some apparently incurable manner should the ECF consider providing an alternative, or taking over.

Nick Grey
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Nick Grey » Tue Oct 13, 2020 9:36 pm

ECF should not attempt to do everything and use our funds to do so.

Barring state schools is wrong at primary level - we have GMs that came through the state system.

Concentrate on getting otb chess running and hope we are not pushed into tier 2/3.

Premises hire and insurance are significant increases.

Wadih Khoury
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Wadih Khoury » Tue Oct 13, 2020 10:15 pm

Paul McKeown wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 7:51 pm


Well, the winner of the UKCC at any age group is likely to be the very best of their year. It is a very serious tournament in the Giga and Terafinal stages, and as junior organiser, I take reports of success in these events more seriously than results in the equivalent British Championship age group, until U16 and U18. I also take results in the London Junior more seriously than the equivalent age group in the British Championship age group until U16.
I am not sure how you came to this conclusion: they attract roughly the same audience, and have broadly the same winners and top5 / top10. Winning any of those 3 is a sign that you are likely one of the best in your age group.

In the U8 to U12 categories, I don't think I've seen a winner not in the top 10 of his age group and who is not one of the usual suspects.
Whether boy or girl, the winners of the British in those age groups are often in the top 3 ECF or Fide of their category.

You are also comparing 2 standard events with a rapid one (for the last 2 years).

If I were to risk a ranking, it would be the following one, which seems shared by other parents:
  • The British: it is after all the official title of the land. The only one which has any sort of international recognition. Its main issue is that it requires often a costly week of lodging in a remote place and can miss out on some players.
  • the UKCC: even with the move to rapid, it holds a very dear place with the children, thanks to the 40 thousand reach it has, the massive cups (bigger is indeed better for kids!) and the money involved (they can be surprisingly greedy :lol: ). The current main issue is the move to rapid (which does however increase the entertainment value and the number of games played.
  • the LJCC: a hard qualification path, often the first serious tournament. It does tend to miss out on people further away from the M25. Incredibly hard as players give their best, but does often find itself the first tournament players skip as they grow older (I think the second part conflict with Hastings)

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Tue Oct 13, 2020 10:18 pm

"Since my son started chess, I have met a great community, from kids to very senior players, from organisers, coaches, taxi parents, volunteers. All positive and supportive, willing and wanting to help the sport (yes it's a sport, whatever the government's here believe) and encourage juniors to have fun and improve."

I am glad about that! There are a lot of people out there who do their best to encourage juniors to play. Sadly, "turf wars" break out - someone actually said to me in all seriousness (after a new junior club opened), "They're taking our juniors".

I still say that the Junior championships at the British Championships are the official event - and they are at least open to all-comers. I have heard reports that both EPSCA and UKCC have declined entries from some schools. Both those organizations may run events with stronger players of course. Jan Kodes won Wimbledon (tennis) in 1973 - it's not his fault that lots of top players didn't play that year.

I have spoken to parents in the West Country who say their children don't really have a chance to develop chess skills properly compared to the London area, due to the greater opportunities there. (Obviously though, anyone going to Millfield has fantastic opportunities!)

I don't think ECF should be running day-to-day competitions, due to lack of resources, but they should know what is going on, and make sure that everything is run properly, and that conflicts of interest are avoided.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Tue Oct 13, 2020 10:22 pm

Paul McKeown wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 7:46 pm
Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:29 pm
Doesn't the ECF already run the National Schools which they inherited from The Times when they ceased to sponsor it? They also run a junior team event that is effectively for schools only.
The ECF National Schools is an event for secondary schools, https://www.englishchess.org.uk/NSCC/. It is not an equivalent to anything that is run by EPSCA - English Primary Schools Chess Association.

There is an ECF U11 Schools Championship. See https://www.englishchess.org.uk/NSCC/u11-2019-20/.

The ECF U11 Schools championship is participated in mostly by a small number of grammar schools and private schools. It was established a few years ago as a "Me Too" by the ECF in opposition to the much larger and much more significant EPSCA National Primary Schools Chess Championship at U11.
Thank you for the clarification. I would say that I don't think the National Schools excludes primary schools, or at least it didn't in the Times era - I know because I played against a couple of primary schools in the 1990s. However that was then and at a time when there was more chess in schools generally.

Personally I think inter schools chess is a bit of an anachronism in 2020. It has a place but shouldn't be the flagship event when many juniors will be excluded due to their school not having a chess club.

Returning to the main topic, Paul's original post refers to the EPSCA schools event being `hived off` to a `consortium of Alex Holowczak and Sarah Longson`. I can't see any suggestion that Alex has acted in an ECF capacity here and if there has been a failure of due process within the EPSCA then that is an internal matter for them.

I do occasionally feel that the ECF can't win; if they try to bring more prestige events in house they are accused of a takeover and if they leave it to others people complain that they are irrelevant.
Controller - Yorkshire League
Chairman - Harrogate Chess Club
All views expressed entirely my own

Joseph Conlon
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Joseph Conlon » Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:33 pm

Interesting about the comparison of different junior events; to my eyes the British is always the British, particularly at younger age groups (maybe up to U12) as at older age groups the strongest players start entering the Major Open or main Championship. To my mind the UKCC has a bit of a gimmicky format (and is rapidplay!); while the LJCC is a proper standardplay tournament with a significant number of rounds - nowadays one of the few real opportunities for a serious standard play junior tournament.

Of course, the truly prestigious events are the World and European juniors.

Its also interesting what's not mentioned - which to someone of my generation are the various junior squad events. These used to be some of the strongest junior events in the country and its a shame they don't run any more (or at least now are a shadow of what they were) - not just the squad championships itself with British Championships qualifying places at the top end, but other events like the Smith&Williamson Masters ranging from norm opportunities at the top to the all-play-all events which were 9 round standard play all-play-alls. Retrospectively, they were more serious and solid events than the UKCC is, which is diluted by the megafinal and gigafinal system and has a long tail of relatively weaker players. The junior squad also organised supervised trips to strong FIDE-rated Opens like the Isle of Man, Guernsey, etc which were both good chess experiences and fun - when you're 12/13 a week abroad with friends away from your parents is very much life-developing.

This also ties to what may be alluded to above in "or someone runs a team event and players say they are playing for England (when they are not)." I'm not sure what this refers to, but one possibility is the EPSCA England U11 Team, which has been around much longer than the ECF has. In my opinion saying that playing for this is not playing for England is a bit uncharitable; when this team played Scotland U11 or Wales U11, who else were its members playing for?

Returning to chess as a parent, another area that changed strikingly was international selection; where rather than sending one player to the Worlds and one to the Europeans, who with a good tournament may be competitive for a medal, the new normal was sending lots of players, basically none of whom were competitive for a medal. Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:56 pm

Joseph Conlon wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:33 pm
Returning to chess as a parent, another area that changed strikingly was international selection; where rather than sending one player to the Worlds and one to the Europeans, who with a good tournament may be competitive for a medal
With a handful of exceptions, the production line of world standard young players packed up at least twenty years ago probably longer. The collapse of the Soviet Union introduced a lot more potential winners even on a one player per country basis.

Non-UK organisers discovered the delights of selling off-season hotel accommodation at peak season prices. Once that becomes the model, the more players the better.

Matt Bridgeman
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Matt Bridgeman » Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:08 am

It’s not all doom and gloom, as there have been the odd recent exceptional performance, such as Jessica Mellor winning gold in the European Schools Championship a couple of years ago. Shreyas Royal too is probably still competitive in his age group at world events. And England have an excellent record in the Glorney and associated Cup competitions.
In regards to parental confusion with national teams, probably the worst offender is National Chess Junior Squad. Although it has moved in recent times, the link to NCJS used to be quite prominent on the ECF junior site, and basically just looked like it was the England junior team page to new comers.
Last edited by Matt Bridgeman on Wed Oct 14, 2020 7:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

Ian Thompson
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Ian Thompson » Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:24 am

Joseph Conlon wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:33 pm
This also ties to what may be alluded to above in "or someone runs a team event and players say they are playing for England (when they are not)." I'm not sure what this refers to, but one possibility is the EPSCA England U11 Team, which has been around much longer than the ECF has. In my opinion saying that playing for this is not playing for England is a bit uncharitable; when this team played Scotland U11 or Wales U11, who else were its members playing for?
I think many people would say that to play for England you and the team have to be selected by the ECF because it's recognised at the governing body for chess in England by FIDE, not by some privately run organisation (unless the ECF has delegated the job of selecting players and teams to it).

Would anyone say that someone playing for this organisation, if it ever organises anything, had represented Great Britain? If not, what's the difference between the two?

Paul McKeown
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Paul McKeown » Wed Oct 14, 2020 1:55 am

Kevin Thurlow wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 10:18 pm
I have heard reports that both EPSCA and UKCC have declined entries from some schools.
EPSCA may have declined entries from some schools, I couldn't say. Capacity is limited by the number of zonal tournaments held by organisers around the country; if this is the case, there is always a potential solution in offering to run your own zonal event. Capacity is very strictly limited at the one day semi-final held at Bristol; if a team has qualified for the semi-finals and it wishes to play at Bristol, it needs to apply at the earliest opportunity. The two two-day semi-finals at Camber Sands and Rhyl can accommodate a large number of teams.

As for the UKCC declining entries from schools, that strikes me as a little unlikely. The more schools participate, the better the event is financed. It doesn't cost the organisers much (postage, a box of child-friendly trophies and a little administration), as they don't personally hold the schools stages or have to pay someone to run them. There are limitations on places, of course, in the later stages, from any Last Chance Saloons, Mega-finals and onwards. However, these places are awarded to individuals rather than institutions. There is a facility for schools to bulk upload all of its qualifiers to a Megafinal. Perhaps that occasionally might lead to an event being filled before all the qualifiers from a school have been accepted. I can't think that that happens often.

Paul McKeown
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Paul McKeown » Wed Oct 14, 2020 2:11 am

Wadih Khoury wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 10:15 pm

I am not sure how you came to this conclusion
I won't dispute your argument. It is at root a matter of perception, or perhaps of taste, and as others have been using Latin tags, this might be best filed under de gustibus non disputandum est.

I will note only that I encourage children to participate in all events for which they are qualified, regardless of which organisation is running them.

Paul McKeown
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Paul McKeown » Wed Oct 14, 2020 2:22 am

Nick Grey wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 9:36 pm
Barring state schools is wrong at primary level
None of the organisations mentioned in this thread discriminate between state and independent schools.

My remarks concerning the ECF NSCC U11 concerned only who participated by choice in the competition.

There are actually tournaments aimed solely at independent schools, such as the IAPS (Independent Association of Primary Schools) Chess Championship. The ECF may occasionally report their results on its website, in its newsletters or in its yearbook, but only as items of interest.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Oct 14, 2020 10:34 am

Matt Bridgeman wrote:
Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:08 am
In regards to parental confusion with national teams, probably the worst offender is National Chess Junior Squad. Although it has moved in recent times, the link to NCJS used to be quite prominent on the ECF junior site, and basically just looked like it was the England junior team page to new comers.
Was it descended from "the BCF Junior squad"? From about the mid 1970s onwards perhaps for the next twenty years and more, it used to be a common sight at major tournaments for there to be a squad of juniors complete with manager and coach.

Joseph Conlon
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Joseph Conlon » Wed Oct 14, 2020 11:54 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:56 pm
With a handful of exceptions, the production line of world standard young players packed up at least twenty years ago probably longer. The collapse of the Soviet Union introduced a lot more potential winners even on a one player per country basis.
Roger de Coverly wrote:
Wed Oct 14, 2020 10:34 am
Matt Bridgeman wrote:
Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:08 am
In regards to parental confusion with national teams, probably the worst offender is National Chess Junior Squad. Although it has moved in recent times, the link to NCJS used to be quite prominent on the ECF junior site, and basically just looked like it was the England junior team page to new comers.
Was it descended from "the BCF Junior squad"? From about the mid 1970s onwards perhaps for the next twenty years and more, it used to be a common sight at major tournaments for there to be a squad of juniors complete with manager and coach.
I think it is the same as the BCF Junior Squad, or at least the continuous evolution of it, given the people involved. I hadn't realised it went back as far as the mid 70's. Maybe these two points are then related; it is easily defensible that over the years the integrated contribution of the junior squad to the development of young players has been (much) greater than that of the ECF - which isn't a criticism of the ECF, there's no reason everything should sit under the direct control of the ECF.
Ian Thompson wrote:
Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:24 am
I think many people would say that to play for England you and the team have to be selected by the ECF because it's recognised at the governing body for chess in England by FIDE, not by some privately run organisation (unless the ECF has delegated the job of selecting players and teams to it).


This logic also says that Short never played Kasparov for the world championship, though. With EPSCA, its been going for 50 years and is the de facto organiser of county junior chess at primary school level (which gives it an institutional legitimacy that Team GB doesn't have). If it ain't broke....

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Future of EPSCA Schools Competition

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:20 pm

Joseph Conlon wrote:
Wed Oct 14, 2020 11:54 am
I hadn't realised it went back as far as the mid 70's.
My first memory of them was at the Lambeth (LARA) weekend Open of Autumn 1975. A squad of Juniors somewhat randomised the tournament, leaving Tony Miles and Murray Chandler well down the finishing order. I believe they had Basman as a coach and he was prompting them to play his idea of an early .. Bc5 in Open Sicilians with .. e6

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