eNewsletter No. 50 – November 2020

Dear ECF Member

Welcome to the November edition of the eNewsletter. In this edition we have exciting news of another ECF online initiative, a bumper Christmas online tournament for all levels and clock preferences. We also feature an interview with GM Keith Arkell and a review of The Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix mini-series of the Walter Tevis classic that has been a huge online hit. Our Chief Executive, Mike Truran, describes it as ‘outstanding.’

New appointments from the ECF AGM in October are listed below. Our new Director of Home Chess, Nigel Towers, and his keyboard warriors are keeping us busy with a raft of online tournaments and team games … and the new Director of Membership Rob Willmoth sets out his strategy. 

With the new full lockdown announced, the chance of returning to over the board chess by April 2021 is looking remote. However, Joseph Conlon keeps the OTB light shining with excellent pieces on setting up and running OTB events, including one he organised in October. As Joseph himself says, these are his personal views and not the ‘official’ line of any body.

Membership renewals are running at around 50 per cent so we are dependent on members who have not renewed, to do so. We understand that this is a difficult time but every renewed subscription will help to ensure the ECF is able to keep ratings, online chess and eventually OTB running smoothly.

I am always happy to receive submissions from members on any chess-related theme. Our chess problems expert Christopher Jones provides his usual monthly conundrum along with an excellent piece on the lure of problems.

Stay safe – Mark Rivlin

Caplin British Online Chess Championships
Here’s some festive cheer for Christmas and New Year. The ECF is running the Caplin British Online Chess Championships 2020/2021 from 18th December 2020 to 3rd January 2021 on the Chess.com platform. We are very grateful for the generous support of Caplin Systems, a London based software company serving banks around the world with desktop and mobile financial trading technology. This sponsorship extends their involvement in chess, which started with their support of the Hastings International Congress last year. This is very much appreciated and has allowed us to provide significantly enhanced Junior and Women’s events.
There will be separate Championships for Open, Women’s, Junior, Senior and Rating Limited player categories. The format is based on one week of qualifying events, followed by a week of finals for each Championship. Each Championship will consist of a number of events at different time controls. Details here – https://www.englishchess.org.uk/british-chess-online-championships/

The Interview
Tim Wall interviews GM Keith Arkell here

New Director of Home Chess Nigel Towers reports — I am very pleased to be taking on the role of Director of Home Chess following the October AGM. I believe there is a lot to do with some immediate targets to continue the development of ECF online chess at National and International level, help to establish the new four-digit rating system, provide support for a return to OTB chess when it is safe to do so and generally broaden the ECF’s level of engagement and remit in supporting English chess at all levels. ECF online is proving to be increasingly popular and continues to develop with six regular ECF members club events on Chess.com and lichess running each week.

We also had a number of international events during the month on Lichess including –

  • Four team battles on successive weekends in the ‘Hasta La Victoria’ Europe vs Americas series which is now a regular fixture at 9pm on Saturdays organised by the Venezuelan federation.
  • A Friendly 1v1 Halloween international at 3 | 0 team battle fixture against the Finnish Federation on Saturday 31 October which I am pleased to say we won convincingly by 500-279 points. We were joined by GM John Nunn who achieved the top score in the tournament with some relentless chess. GM Matthew Sadler and IM Natasha Regan provided their usual excellent commentary which you can follow on their Gamechanger channel here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsK2I2cD4rU
  • The November Nations Cup on Lichess where we qualified for the final where we again came up against very strong opposition and will have to wait until next month to bring the Cup back home.

ECF Online Club memberships have continued to increase with more than 1,050 players in the Chess.com Members Club and almost 850 in the Lichess English Chess Players Club. The October list was issued during the month with around 4,200 players with online ratings from ECF club and affiliated events. We’ve also seen a big increase in the number of affiliated online leagues and clubs which are now ECF online rated. You can also find details of how to join the clubs, together with upcoming national and international events on the ECF Online website

We also have well supported Junior and England Women’s Clubs at the links here – https://lichess.org/team/england-juniors– and here – https://lichess.org/team/england-women

Caplin British Online Chess Championships
I am very happy to say that the ECF will be running the first British Online Championship 2020/2021 over the Christmas holiday period. The Championships will take place over 2 weeks from 18th December 2020 to 3rd January 2021 on the Chess.com platform with further details elsewhere in the Newsletter. We are hoping the Caplin British Online Chess Championships will provide members with an opportunity to play in a competitive national event over the holiday period and we are looking forward to this being part of a wider series of online events over Christmas and New Year.

Player Ratings and Titles
The new four-digit National rating system is now up and running and producing rating updates on a daily basis and official monthly ratings at the start of each month. We will be amending the ECF Master Points system and National Title qualifications to be based on four-digit ratings rather than three-digit grades together with performance across the monthly lists.
As the new rating system beds in we are also looking at extending the eligibility periods for having an ECF rating by 12 months to avoid players dropping off the lists – this will be in place until there is a return to OTB play.

Return to Play
The first of the new four-digit rating lists released at the beginning of October saw a tentative return to over the board chess with player results rated from 15 pod / socially distanced events played during August and September. Having said that the latest lockdown announced at the weekend has meant that OTB club and league competitions are back on hold again and it seems likely this will continue for a while.
I am hoping that the expanded programme of ECF online events including internationals, the Junior Counties Online Championships and the Caplin British Online Chess Championships, will help people to continue with competitive chess during the lockdown and while OTB chess remains difficult.
We now have a working group looking at return to play protocols, guidance and sharing of good practice and I hope to be able to share more on this as things develop.

New Director of Membership Rob Willmoth reports — Member numbers are down compared with the same time last year. We urge players to renew their memberships to help the ECF get through this difficult time. On a positive front, I am looking at incentives to make the membership more attractive and in fact worth more than the membership itself. Currently we are looking at bringing on board a tuition agency offering all subjects with a discount and also numerous well known high-street brands. On the chess side we will be engaging with all chess-related companies and also looking for discounts for our members. So on my watch I hope it will be very difficult for a member to say, ‘I don’t get anything worthwhile for my membership’.
I am excited by this challenge in these difficult times. If we manage in the long term to increase revenue via membership and incentives we can look towards providing a better service for adult and junior chess going forward.  There is an enormous amount to be done; with your help we should go a long way towards achieving our goals.
I am based in London. I am keen for people from the Midlands and the North of England to provide any details of potential store/sports discounts that may be relevant to your area that I may not be aware of. Click here for Rob’s Powerpoint membership presentation …

The ECF AGM took place online on Saturday 17 October. We welcome and congratulate the ECF officers below. The only contested position was Director of Home Chess with two excellent candidates, Nigel Towers and Tim Wall. Nigel won the vote and takes up the position with immediate effect. We wish to express our gratitude to our excellent office staff Andrew Walker and Gary Willson, along with Michael Farthing who chaired the five-hour proceedings and ensured everyone was given an opportunity to speak.

Simply the Beth
Mark Rivlin reviews the Netflix mini-series The Queen’s Gambit here

FIDE Online World Cadets and Youth Championships
We are participating in this event, and there will be a report in the December edition of the newsletter. More here – https://fide.com/news/785

SCCU eight-board event
Mark Murrell writes – The Southern Counties Chess Union has launched an 8 board team event on Lichess.org for its County and Non-County member organisations, covering a catchment area for chess players interested in slower chess online (G60/15) from the Isle of Wight to the Chilterns and eastwards through London to the Essex, Kent and Sussex coasts. Controller Mark Murrell continues to utilise alternative formats in county chess, with two average team rated sections (2050 and 1675) intended to include a wide as possible range of playing abilities, with multiple teams permitted in each section.  The competition will be played over 5 rounds either side of the British Online Chess Championships in the traditional county slot of 2.00pm on Saturdays 28th November, 5th December and 9th,16th & 23rd January.
Details can be found on the SCCU website including details of who to contact if you are interested in playing in the event.  Information, pairings and results are also hosted in the SCCU ECF LMS.  Look out for updates next week.  Team entries close at midnight on Saturday 21 November.

ChessTech Online Conference
This online two-day conference takes place on 5th-6th December. Stay tuned for new research on cheating and its various impacts on chess. Meet pioneers of chess software. Get to know the developers of the next generation of chess apps. Some of them will feature in our stories during the coming weeks. More here – https://www.chesstech.org/2020/chess-and-technology-online/

Sharks bite hard
Well done to UK Team Tiger Sharks from Hammersmith for winning the Worldwise Online 2020 Championships against top-level competition – here

Disabled Olympiad – volunteers wanted!
From 21st to 30th November at 3pm CET. In particular FIDE are looking for assistants for blind players. No specific experience is needed. Any willing volunteers should contact Nikos Kalesis at nikoskalesis@gmail.com

October online ratings here – https://englishchessonline.org.uk/monthly-rating/

Covid update
More on the second lockdown here – https://www.englishchess.org.uk/new-government-guidelines-covid-19/

Putting on an OTB event
Joseph Conlon provides excellent advice on setting up and running an OTB event, as well as a positive outcome for a junior tournament in October.  As Joseph himself says, these are his personal views and not the ‘official’ line of any body — Over the Board Thoughts | Cheney U11 Tournament

CSC ProBiz
No London Chess Classic this year but the popular fundraiser for Chess in Schools and Communities is going ahead online. More here

Solving Problems
Christopher Jones on his favourite pastime – here

The November Problemhere

Tweet of the Month

Google displaying a significant spike on a TV series about chess. How cool is that?

Book review
Gary Lane looks at the 2021 international chess calendar –

CHESS Magazine
This month’s taster is here

To purchase and/or subscribe, click here

Don Smedley RIP
Christopher Jones writes – I should pass on to you the sad news of the death on 12th October of Don Smedley. One mundane reason is that on the ECF website and in yearbooks he’s included in the list of FIDE title holders, having been awarded the FM title for chess composition.
His is a great loss to the chess problem world: a former President of the British Chess Problem Society, and a thoroughly charming person. When I began my interest in helpmates he was the editor of the helpmates section of the British Chess Problem Society magazine and I found him immensely helpful and encouraging.