eNewsletter No. 53 – February 2021

Dear ECF member

Welcome to the February edition of the newsletter. In this edition we feature an interview with GM Gawain Jones, along with an excellent piece from John Sargent, secretary of the London Chess League, on the minutiae of setting up a successful online league. We also feature a great read from Chris Beckett of Battersea Chess Club about online chess.

Hats off to Andrew Martin and his team for their great work in revising the copy and design of his two-book series An Introduction to Chess, first published in 2009 (more below) …

Our webmaster Andrew Walker makes a request below for updating club details following an attempt to tidy up the ECF clubs map. Your help would be greatly appreciated, especially with the surge in interest in chess. Surely all clubs are keen to attract new members.

We are pleased with the response to our Queen’s Gambit Scheme and our new GoMembership Scheme, both of which benefit new and existing members. See these links — https://www.englishchess.org.uk/ecf-launches-the-new-queens-gambit-scheme/ | https://www.englishchess.org.uk/new-gomembership-scheme-launch/

Finally, a few people have written to me asking about obituaries, which we stopped two months ago. As I said then, if anyone wants to send in an obituary about a chess player, arbiter or organiser, I will publish it. My email is manager.publicity@englishchess.org.uk, so if you would like to have an obituary published please do send it in.

Stay safe.

Mark Rivlin

Sheffield Steel
Mark Rivlin interviews GM Gawain Jones – here

Remastered! – IM Andrew Martin on the relaunch of An Introduction to Chess, which was first published in 2009.
We are delighted to launch these redesigned booklets, which can be downloaded as PDFs or read online in your browser, and are suitable for players graded under 1200 Elo. An excellent resource for coaches, adults and children, this second edition has benefited from a complete redesign. This has been a joint project between the ECF and St Catherine’s School in Bramley, which is a co-sponsor of the ECF National Schools Competitions and a strong advocate of chess for children.

Booklet One – https://issuu.com/stcatherinesbramley/docs/chess_booklet_1_-__newcomers?fr=sYzA4ZDU4NTM5NA
Booklet Two – https://issuu.com/stcatherinesbramley/docs/chess_booklet_2_-__improvers?fr=sZDYzYTU4NTM5NA

Andrew is a FIDE Senior Trainer and the new ECF Manager of Coaches.

Director of Home Chess Nigel Towers writes — ECF Online continues to grow along with the general increase in online chess activity. We now have more than 1,000 members in each of the ECF members clubs on Chess.com and Lichess.org, and about 3,000 members in total across the ECF Members Clubs, Junior Club and Women’s club. We also have over 4,000 additional club members in the chess.com Open Club. Participation is increasing for the regular ECF club events including many players who are new to competitive chess –


ECF Members club tournaments are all ECF online rated along with registered league, club and congress events including 15 or so local leagues as you can see from the Events list for January online rating –


The Chess.com Nations League is now in its second season with an ECF club team playing in Division 1 with fixtures against Romania and Poland (which we lost as last season), Pakistan (which we won) and USA (which we drew after a loss in the blitz segment followed by a fine comeback win in the Rapid) –


Online Events Calendar for 2021
We are now planning a schedule of ECF online events during the course of 2021 as shown at the link here – https://englishchessonline.org.uk/ecf-national-events/ecf-online-national-events-calendar-2021/. These include a number of ECF English Online Championships at different time controls, the ECF Online Blitz and Rapid Grand Prix which will start in March, a Summer Season of Online County Competitions, and of course the 2021 North v South Online match following the successful team event in 2020.

ECF Online Grand Prix
As part of this programme, the ECF is pleased to announce the ECF Online Blitz Grand Prix and ECF Online Rapid Grand Prix for 2021. These will take the place of the ECF Over the Board Grand Prix for 2021 and will consist of a series of monthly Swiss tournaments in the English Blitz and Rapid Grand Prix clubs on Lichess.org. The events will run monthly from March to November 2021 and will be held at 2:00pm on the first Sunday of each month (for the Blitz Tournaments) and the third Sunday of each month (for the Rapid Tournaments). We will be publishing a leaderboard which will be updated monthly, with prizes for the winners in eight categories at the end of each series including Open, Women’s, Senior, Junior, U2000 U1700, U1400, and U1100. You will need to be an ECF member or supporter to enter either or both Grand Prix (Blitz or Rapid). Entry is then £5.00 per event within a Grand Prix, or £25.00 for a season ticket for all nine events. Prizes will be based on points at the end of the season calculated on the player’s highest six results across all events. Please see the Grand Prix webpage – https://www.englishchess.org.uk/2021-online-grand-prix-series/ – and links to enter either tournament –

Online Blitz Grand Prix – https://britchess.wufoo.com/forms/m1v3u7150fp0cqo/
Rapid Grand Prix – https://britchess.wufoo.com/forms/mn0wucv0iq3nkv/

British Championships 2021
We are currently looking at options for the British and British Online for 2021 and expect the online event to become a regular fixture with timing to be agreed. Given current circumstances it seems highly unlikely that we will be able to run an OTB British in Torquay this August, and we are looking at carrying the venue booking forward to 2022. We will confirm the postponement/deferral in the next couple of weeks.
Assuming there is no OTB British event at the same scale this year we are organizing a British Online 2021 in August as indicated on the schedule. This will either be a completely online event along the lines of the Christmas 2020 event, or possibly a hybrid with the qualifiers/initial stages online and finals or playoffs OTB as circumstances allow.

New Players
As well as the elite events we are also looking at how we can support new players who are looking to take up the game following the Queen’s Gambit Netflix series. As part of the Queen’s Gambit initiative we continue to develop the New to Chess page here – https://www.englishchess.org.uk/new-to-chess/ – and would welcome input from members on what additional content we should include.
We will also be introducing rating limited events in the members clubs on Chess.com and Lichess.org and some online coaching sessions targeted at new players.

4NCL Congress
The 5th 4NCL Online Congress takes place 19th-21st February 2021 and includes a new Improvers section for social and casual players and who may be worried about getting ‘beaten up’ in the higher sections. Details here – http://www.4ncl.co.uk/fide/online/arrangements_5.htm

Alternate Director of Women’s Chess Agnieszka Milewska writes — We are inviting women and girls to join our official English Chess Federation (ECF) women’s team on Lichess.org. This excellent forum led by Jovanka Houska and Lawrence Cooper has an impressive 256 members and is growing fast. The squad is open to women and girls of all abilities. More here – www.englishchessonline.org.uk/england-womens-team/. We host an arena tournament every day between 6.00 and 7.00pm, apart from the days when we have team matches (Thursdays, Sundays and occasionally on Mondays). Please view the ECF’s Online Fair Play Policy here (as of May 2020) – www.englishchessonline.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/ECF-Online-Fair-Play-and-ACv2_1.pdf – and the ECF Child Protection Policy Statement here – www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ECF-Safeguarding-Policy-6.0-2.pdf.
Remember to include your real name and ECF membership number when you apply to join the team!

Location: England; Team name: England Women

We also have some important extra tournaments coming up — Battle of 58 teams and 15 leaders, monthly Nations Cup on 13th February – https://lichess.org/tournament/KuK5Iz1E – and don’t miss our International Crazy Chess Day on 20th February! More details on all our events here – https://lichess.org/team/england-women

ECF Academy
Alex Longson writes — The theme for January was Attacking the King, and IM Brandon Clarke led a masterclass on middlegame attacking themes in our month- end session. GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan led a talk on artificial intelligence in chess, based on their popular book Game Changer. The monthly quiz was won by Ed Jackson (the theme was Wijk aan Zee) and the top three finishers in the blitz were Stanley Badacsonyi, Theo Khoury and Aron Saunders. Students were set weekly assignments and completed their month end online assessment.
GMs Danny Gormally and Keith Arkell held masterclasses on Attacking Chess and Rook Endgames respectively.
February’s theme is Positional Chess, with the stronger students studying some of 6th World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik’s strategic masterpieces. A taster of some of the material can be found here – Positional Chess – Examples • lichess.org. We also have GM Glenn Flear running a workshop on Pawn Endgames, GM Danny King running a workshop on surviving difficult endgames, and GM Micky Adams holding a talk on his rise through the ranks as a junior.

ECF Statement on Covid-19
Following the government announcement on January 5, 2021, it will not be possible to run OTB clubs, competitions or congresses, or to take part in organised OTB chess. This will be the case for the duration of the new lockdown, and maybe longer depending on HM Government guidance. The ECF will continue to offer a range of online competitions following on from the British Online Chess Championships in December and early January. We continue to keep HM Government announcements under review and will keep you posted via the ECF website.

Club culture
ECF webmaster Andrew Walker writes — In late January I attempted a mass email to the contact emails for all the clubs on the ECF website club map here – https://englishchessonline.org.uk/english-club-finder-map/. Unfortunately I had a staggering number of failures, most of which have no contact telephone numbers or other essential information. Please could you send or amend your club details to bring them up to date via the handy online form here – https://britchess.wufoo.eu/forms/w1i1j1we007tesu/

Proof, if proof be needed
The webmaster is looking for stout yeomen and yeowomen to help in proofreading the upcoming ECF Yearbook 2021. The book is in progress at the moment, and can be sent to you as PDF files, which as you’ll know in Adobe Acrobat Reader can be annotated and returned to the webmaster. However, you won’t be asked to tackle the whole 200+ pages – the book can and will be sent in manageable sections to interested parties. A strict deadline will be set in the emails to those who respond. Contact Andrew on andrew@englishchess.org.uk

Remote control
Chris Beckett loves the world of online chess – https://medium.com/@chris_beckett/pawn-addiction-helps-me-beat-the-lockdown-blues-37b294f02636

Learning to Learn
Barry Hymer, Emeritus Professor of Psychology in Education, University of Cumbria, writes: On Saturday 20 February, myself and GM Peter Wells are running two sessions that will be of interest to members – especially those with school-aged children. We will be speaking about the contribution chess can make to children’s learning-to-learn skills, and this session will be followed by a simultaneous exhibition which Peter will lead for 25 young participants. Full details here – https://virtualplusfestival.org/

London Calling
John Sargent writes on how to set up an online chess league – here

Director of Junior Chess Alex Holowczak writes — The English Online Schools Championships 2021 – https://www.englishchess.org.uk/Juniors/online-under-19-under-11-schools-championships-2021/ – will take place on 13th March (Under 19) and 20th March (Under 11). Ongoing Online Chess England Juniors is here – https://lichess.org/team/england-juniors – and all junior ECF members are welcome. We have fortnightly events on Thursday at 6.00pm, which are weekly once the Junior 4NCL Online finishes; plus some ad hoc events. There are three sets of team battles being organised –

– Inter-County Team Battles on the first Monday of every month.
– Inter-County Team Battles for girls, on the third Monday of every month – this is a new event, the first of which is on 15th February.
– Inter-School Team Battles for secondary school children, held fortnightly – the next one is on 12th February – https://lichess.org/tournament/vCUZobz0

Contact Alex Holowczak if you would like your county to enter the county events at alexholowczak@gmail.com. Contact Neill Cooper if you would like your secondary school to enter the school events at nsc@cplusc.co.uk

BCET Awards
John Wickham writes — We are inviting nominations for the BCET Awards 2021. 2020 was a difficult year for playing traditional over the board chess and we are aware that many junior clubs and schools found ways to adapt, including playing online. In your citation/submission we would encourage you to detail how you have continued to play chess over 2020 and 2021.
The award is an engraved board, set of wooden pieces and a digital clock. This is a valuable award and it acts as encouragement and incentive to the schools or junior clubs. This link – https://www.ecfresource.co.uk/ecf-awards/#bcet – lists the schools/clubs that have received the award in the past. Pplease note that a school/club can apply again for an award if the last award was not recent and where a further award is justified. The item below is from the ECF website, suitably adjusted to reflect a revised closing date for nominations —
With funds provided by the generosity of the late Sir George Thomas (now administered by The Chess Trust) the British Chess Educational Trust annually makes awards to schools and junior chess clubs, which have shown outstanding achievements or enthusiasm in chess. Commencing 1982, inscribed chess boards have been substituted for shields. Recommendations for awards should be forwarded by 31.5.21 (via the appropriate Union if in England, or via the national organisations for Scotland or Wales) to John Wickham, 55 Shakespeare Way, Taverham, Norwich, NR8 6SL Email: j.r.wickham@btinternet

Chess behind bars
Carl Portman was one of the guest speakers at Judit Polgar’s Global Chess Festival 2020. He spoke about  his book Chess Behind Bars and chess in prisons in general – especially the benefits of the game and its profound influence on prisoners. He did of course mention the ECF and received positive feedback about the presentation, including from the FIDE Office and President Arkady Dvorkovich himself. From an ECF perspective Carl wants to use this opportunity to say that whilst it has been impossible to get into prisons this year because of the Covid Pandemic he still writes a chess column in his own capacity for the prison newspaper Inside Time and continues to exchange chess correspondence with prisoners across the UK and occasionally further afield. As soon as conditions allow, he will be happy to be back behind bars again!

Book Review
Gary Lane reviews The Reti: Move by Move by Sam Collins –

A touch of Levitty
Mark Rivlin reviews Contemplating Comedy by GM Jonathan Levitt (The Conrad Press)
Heard the one about the GM that has written a book about comedy? I could understand how analysing one of my patzer games would be the cue for much hilarity among titled players. But really, a GM who played in the England team that beat the mighty Russians 6-4 in 1990 compiling and analysing jokes. You can’t be serious.
GM Levitt has produced a tactical masterpiece, and it’s no miniature. Written over the current pandemic and running at over three hundred pages, this is a read that will have you laughing, contemplating and feeling better about yourself as you cope with these unprecedented times.
Levitt has a fascinating past and present. Following a degree in Mathematics from the University of Oxford he achieved his GM title in 1991 and went down the chess coaching and writing route but after contracting an arthritic condition at the age of 40, he reinvented himself as a cricket gambler from which he has made a living over the past 18 years.
His first writing foray off the chessboard, Contemplating Comedy is a fast-paced collection and analysis of one line-gags and their philosophical and psychological impact on life. Having done around 150 gigs on the open-mic circuit with my puns and one-liners (I have yet to be paid, but I’ve been offered big money to stop) I opened the book with some insider knowledge and closed it with a treasure trove of food for thought.
From the pandemic to atheism and religion, from punishment and motivation to risk management and insults, Levitt’s curation of some of the world’s best comics’ material and their power to influence gets to the very core of what makes us tick and sick. This is the perfect read for lifting spirits (in the literal and metaphorical sense) and given the money I have saved on merriment and mirth while at home with the trouble and strife, this is the best tenner I have spent since going to watch Luciano Pavarotti. Contemplating Comedy is available from Chess.co.uk and other online suppliers.

Problem Corner
Christopher Jones with another intriguing problem – here

University Challenge
First FIDE World University Online Championships announced! More here – https://www.fide.com/news/929

Chess under Covid
GM John Nunn has penned a fascinating piece for Chessbase here – https://en.chessbase.com/post/chess-under-covid

Relax and Chillwell
Following Jovanak Houska’s banter chess match against Premier league Crystal Palace defender Martin Kelly – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kqIohlo6RU – Chelsea left back Ben Chilwell waxes lyrical about chess here – https://www.englishchess.org.uk/ben-chilwell-gets-the-chess-bug/

Tweet of the Month
Magnus Carlsen shows the mark of a great champion after his defeat to Andrey Esipenko in the Tata Steel Masters.

Chess Magazine
This month’s taster is here

To purchase and/or subscribe, click here

Patrick Ribbands and Alan Watts – here