Junior Selection Policy October 2021
Previous policies have tended to emphasise various points, which we no longer think are appropriate –
Junior ratings are always a bit volatile, and this was factored in to old selection policies. However, after a 16-month break in OTB chess there are problems –
- Some children have been extremely active online during the pandemic and some have not; it is not clear whether inactive players are still keen to play chess.
- Juniors tend to improve with time, and so their ratings would too. The old rating thresholds, which increased with age, would need to be adjusted if we were maintaining this as a route.
- There are now three additional ECF ratings available for online chess. It is not yet clear how reliable or suitable these are for use in a selection policy, because they are so new to the ECF’s rating offerings.
Prestigious junior tournaments
These haven’t happened for 16 months, and it isn’t yet clear which ones will run, so to give them a qualifying route to represent England is difficult to predict.
A Change of Emphasis
The previous Selection Policies have emphasised tournament performance in one way or another, especially in junior chess. While this is obviously hugely important, the pandemic has awoken us to a number of ways in which children can play chess and remain active at it:
- Online chess via England Juniors, English Chess Players, or other clubs – even other competitions like team battles, 4NCL Online and Junior 4NCL Online. The Selection Panel is now actively monitoring online games of English juniors. Even though online ratings are normally treated with a pinch of salt, the number of games played is a good barometer of activity. (Note: Clearly there is a preference to see players with lots of online Classical and Rapid games, rather than Ultrabullet!)
- The opportunities to play chess in England on a weekend pre-pandemic were vast – if you wanted to play a tournament somewhere in England on any given weekend, you could always find one even if it meant travelling. This is true for all abilities; be it young juniors starting out, or weekend tournaments and occasional week-long Open tournaments at the older age groups. Where some areas of England had less opportunity to play than others, the online opportunities have now filled that gap.
In short, junior chess players in England have plenty of opportunities to play chess; any gaps in the provision have to some extent been covered by online chess. The opportunity to play FIDE-rated over-the-board chess in England is comparable with other countries in Europe. It was improving before the pandemic, and we are keen to see how it continues to improve post-pandemic.
In contrast, an area where we believe we are behind other parts of the world in junior chess is with training and education. The ECF, working with the Chess Trust, made steps to improve this before the pandemic, and we are keen to see these steps grow further.
With the inability to use ratings or recent tournaments as selection routes, we think now is a good time to implement a change of emphasis in the Selection Policy.
The objective of the Selection Policy is to enable England’s leading juniors to develop into players of the calibre to represent the senior England team, in Olympiads and European Team Championships. The players would at least maintain, or ideally improve upon, the standard of the teams representing England at the moment.
This will be measured using the following indicators –
- Improved performance in international junior tournaments (including medals won)
- Increasing the average rating of the top players in each age group
- Increasing the number of title norms achieved
Types of Tournament
The precise events for which players are due to be selected is unclear. There is a proliferation of new online activity, and a rethink of what OTB activity is offered in light of the pandemic. What is clear is that events are largely divided into two categories:
1. Individual Tournaments
These come in two styles –
(a) Limited Entry: There is a cap on the number of players who can play in each age group
(b) Unlimited Entry: There is no cap on the number of players who can play in each age group, but some players receive better financial conditions
2. Team Tournaments
These are the equivalent of “Limited Entry” in that teams have a fixed size.
Team Tournaments & Limited Entry Individual Tournaments
These players will be selected by the England Junior Selectors.
There are three types of player selected –
|1||England Squad||Any player in the England Development Pathway||England Junior Selectors|
|2||England Squad||Any player in the England Development Pathway||N/A|
|3||Unofficial Player||Any ECF member||N/A|
These players are selected by the England Junior Selectors. This is only available at tournaments where the organisers offer “invited player” status, which is bestowed upon one player per country per age group and sex. Invited players typically benefit from receiving free accommodation. All other tournament-related charges are levied at cost, or as near to it as possible after conversion from exchange rates. Third-party administrators may levy an administration fee.
Any player in the ECF Development Pathway is permitted to enter. All tournament-related charges are levied at cost, or as near to it as possible after conversion from exchange rates. Third-party administrators may levy an administration fee.
Any ECF member outside the Development Pathway will be entitled to play. However, they will not be regarded as members of “the England squad”. All tournament-related charges are levied at cost, or as near to it as possible after conversion from exchange rates. There will be an additional English Chess Federation administration fee which will be determined on a tournament-to-tournament basis. Third-party administrators may levy an administration fee.
The England Junior Selectors
The Selectors will typically consider the following when making their selections –
- Progress with learning in training sessions
- Activity in tournaments (OTB and online)
- Quality of games played
- Productivity of time spent on games (i.e. a preference for longer time controls)
The Selectors are currently –
- GM John Emms (Accelerator Coach)
- Alex Holowczak (ex-officio, ECF Director of Junior Chess and Education)
- IM Adam Hunt (Accelerator Coach)
- WFM Sarah Longson (ECF Academy Organiser)
- IM Malcolm Pein (ex-officio, ECF Director of International Chess)
- GM Peter Wells (Immediately previous Accelerator Coach)