Here are some examples of excellent initiatives and ideas from different chess clubs across the country. These were initially shared in response to the ECF clubs survey, with additional details provided for publication.
If you would like to share details of your club’s experience and any initiatives or ideas that you think would be helpful, then please email a summary to email@example.com; alternatively please complete the form here — https://britchess.wufoo.com/forms/chess-club-initiatives/
Abbots Bromley Chess Club
Yes, running a ‘ChessFest’ featuring a star player. See this thread – https://www.ecforum.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=11934
Ashtead Chess Club
Regular blitz , lightning and rapidplay events
As a club, Ashtead have three teams in the Surrey League, an internal club championship (slow time limit), a rapidplay championship (two games per evening, over four evenings in the season), an annual lightning event (10 seconds a move) and an annual five minute tournament.
Aylsham Chess Club
Use of publicity to attract new players who have played chess during lockdowns and/or been motivated by The Queen’s Gambit
The EDP (Eastern Daily Press) has been very supportive to Aylsham Chess Club (ACC), Norfolk County Chess Association (NCCA) and chess in general over the last year or so. Below are links to four articles, which have generated significant interest in new and returning chess players, although very much skewed towards male players!
Checkmate! How a married Norwich couple met over the chessboard –
Delight as chess club resumes ‘over the board’ play –
‘Absolutely perfect’ – Norfolk chess champ on The Queen’s Gambit –
Meet the chess players coping with coronavirus –
Canada Water Chess Club
It is a community club, open to all, with no membership fee. This is possible because we are not in any leagues, pay no fees, and until now have had free accommodation in the library. We started in 2008 with a council grant to pay for our 6 clocks and 12 sets.
Chelmsford Chess Club
Being willing to embrace online chess alongside physical chess. Local league matches could be a mix of both for example.
Both local adult leagues have come up with a plan after consulting clubs for a flexible league structure allowing for variable board numbers. One has just kicked off, one will in a few weeks. Senior school club chess is back using physical pieces (we did this in junior schools before). It will move forward as a mix of online competitions and (for now) internal over the board chess. We use www.lichess.org like the majority of schools.
Chessington Chess Club
We think having free membership this year has been key in allowing us to welcome a much wider range of audience that we otherwise would have – particularly of players of all ability and background. We may be the only club in Surrey offering this. Furthermore, we have been proactively looking to get more women, children and young people interested in joining.
To date we have had more women join our team, and even more fantastic, at our recent blitz tournament last Wednesday, we had a great turn out with female winners, which adds emphasis that more should be done to allow women to participate and showcase their (perhaps unrealised) strengths in the game. We recently launched our junior chess clubs on Mondays, and we have so far, with no advertising, had eight children join on our first day, three girls and five boys. I think the key here is to not just attract children but having the right dialogues with parents to make them understand the merits of chess and have appreciation for it. This can be quite tricky when they have been brought up to think chess is boring or not helpful. So for me, that’s where a lot of focus should be as well. We charge £5.00 a session, but currently that is used to cover venue hiring costs, and whatever is left is to claw back the expenses on our equipment. We don’t pay ourselves for the teaching or time.
In terms of inclusivity is where I think we have succeeded the most. Our club has opened the doors to all players from walks of life, from members who have been strong players all their lives, to inexperienced players willing to give it a go. We’ve even had members who have sought out our club as an outlet/haven to escape from their daily stresses in their busy lives – from doctors, musiciansand college students to first-time parents. Elsewhere, we have members who are on the spectrum and have found our club a friendly environment to be themselves in.
Our success to date is down to three things, I think –
1) our unwavering efforts, enthusiasm and passion to help put chess on the map and grow our club. Every day we set out on working on an initiative to get closer to our goal
2) the guidance and support our peers at Epsom Chess club have provided us
3) Our chess teacher, IM Michael Basman, who is a fellow Chessington resident and has given us huge amount of support, showing us the ropes to make our club a success.
Crowthorne Chess Club
We have started meeting weekly in a cafe/pub for casual (literally coffeehouse) chess. This has proved surprisingly popular, mostly with working people who are on video calls all day and cannot face a club social.
People have been happy to come along for social chess, which we’ve been running since June on a separate night to our club Zoom sessions. We will be starting our usual chess club nights again very soon, with inter-club county matches, and will probably drop the Zoom calls, although they have been popular. We may keep the café meetings running for a little time while we assess which format works best for everyone.
Epsom Chess Club
Having a regularly-updated Twitter page, Facebook group and website really helps boost membership.
Kings Lynn Chess Club
I have advertised our club in local papers and the library, getting as much publicity as possible.
We offer half-price membership to juniors and give coaching lessons. We meet in a nice social club where people can have a drink if they want, we play in the Norfolk league so competitive chess is available, and we are a friendly club.
Lincoln Chess Club
Having a chess column in the local paper
Liverpool Chess Club
We have introduced a welcome person, who does not play on the club night, whose role it is to really welcome new arrivals, get them introduced to OTB games with hopefully six different people, so they can dock with the club. This has been a real success with great feedback.
Northwich Chess Juniors
Northwich Chess Juniors launched on October 16th following the reopening of their parent club, Northwich Chess Club, which was forced to remain shut during the global pandemic. Over 20 children are in attendance every week – all of whom are of different ages, from diverse backgrounds and at various playing abilities such as complete beginner or intermediate level.
Richard Betts, Northwich Chess Juniors club organiser, said, “The new junior chess club is proving a great success! Children from age 6 to 13 have been having great fun playing the game while also solving problems. At the beginner level, children have been learning the pawn game and the value of pieces. On the other hand, we have children just now starting to use chess clocks for blitz games; one of them even beat an instructor!
Northwich-based marketing agency Cheshire Cat Marketing created the Northwich Chess Juniors branding and website to help raise awareness for bringing in new members while also simultaneously running the Facebook page completely free of charge. By refreshing their branding and website, combined with promoting on social media, we’ve been able to more than double the expected volume of children before they even opened! It’s been really rewarding to help them get the attention they deserve through their marketing.”
Northwich Chess Juniors club sessions are held at Victoria Road Primary School in Northwich, Cheshire, every Saturday morning from 9.30am until 11:00am for children of all levels. Northwich Chess Club sessions are held at The Gladstone Club in Northwich, Cheshire, every Monday evening from 7:30pm for adults of all levels.
Skegness Chess Club
Social media advertising is definitely the way to go about increasing membership.
Skegness also has a Google Business Website which is totally free to set up and can be seen here – https://skegness-chess-club.business.site/ . We have had several people find us from this website, which can also be updated using the Google Business App from a mobile phone. Our Facebook Group Page can be seen here – https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/633223426840966/ . These days I share the Skegness Chess Club Group in other local Groups with an eye-catching slogan, one I have found very effective – ‘Enjoy a game of chess? You need to visit …’ with the Group link below. With my business I have done a lot of paid-for advertising with Google and have seen how a small change in wording can have a big effect on the effectiveness of the advert. I have tried to use this knowledge when using social media to advertise the chess club. I have found it best to keep it simple, use attention grabbing designs/photos/headlines and advertise chess as the exciting, stimulating game that it is. I’ve often thought that the game has had a slightly stuffy image and I’ve tried to portray it in a more exciting and colourful light.
Stanmore Chess Club (new)
We play social chess and offer coaching for beginners and those who want to improve their game. We offer an oportunity to make new chess friends with short demos, instruction and checking of understanding. We are very excited to have moved to Stanmore Library, 8 Stanmore Hill, Stanmore, Harrow, HA7 3BQ as of Tuesday 9th November (and each Tuesday thereafter) from 2.30 – 4.45pm.
Current attendees range in age from 4yrs to 70yrs and include people in business, at school and retired. We promote the skills of logic, reading, numeracy, creativity, language, problem solving and Chess etiquette i.e. we play quietly to help concentration.
Harrow Library services are very pleased to host us and they are looking to utilise the Borough Council website to promote our Chess club in a COVID safe environment.
Stroud Chess Club
Links to a chess coach online. Our Lichess weekly arenas.
Now we’ve started meeting face-to-face again our weekly Lichess arenas are still going strong. We’ve got several new members turning up to our physical club nights having taken chess up at our Lichess arenas.
As regards the online chess coaching – we had a strong (around 2250-2300) player from Croatia/Serbia living in the area before lockdown. He’d given lessons to some of our juniors while he was here, and when he returned to Serbia he started up his own chess coaching businesss (ROYAL). As well as some of our juniors, several of the older players took up his offer of coaching at a discount price, and some of us are continuing long term (I’m around 2200 over the board and feel I’ve benefited a lot over the last few months from working with him. One of our juniors has improved dramatically from around 1400 to around 2200 already and another has reached 1800-1900.
Overall I think our approach of embracing the technology and trying to keep a wide range of skill levels interested has worked incredibly well for us.
Wotton Hall Chess Club
We have an active WhatsApp club group, which keeps the membership together.
York Chess Club
We have set up a junior contact list and junior team called Chessnuts in the evening league. We have Sacha Brozel coming to York University and he will run the junior club. Due to a legacy, junior chess initiatives will continue.