Counties Chess

Papers for 2010 Annual Meeting

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Page published June 2010

MCCU CEO's Report 2009-10

Julie Johnson

I don’t feel I can avoid some cross-over into ECF matters despite there being a separate report as the situation does and will have an impact on chess in the Midlands. I had hoped to be able to report that the Chess for Schools project had moved forward significantly and thus the MCCU had been able to look at what the Midlands counties could jointly do in response. Whilst Holloid declare themselves still to be committed to the project, actual production of sets has been limited, due it seems to personnel and machinery being required for expanding production of goods that actually generate income for the business. Frustrating though this may be, it would be hardly realistic to expect a business to forego profit to produce goods for donation. What is less clear is whether and when capacity will be found to further the project significantly. As a result people generally feel unwilling to commit to planning. In addition public spending cuts will undoubtedly impact on what schools will do, even if they actually receive sets, and will also impact on potential grants to further chess from local authorities and the like. The other issue is that the existing MoU between the ECF and Holloid is about to expire. Some would like the ECF to ditch its association with the project, but as the dept that provides a grant to the ECF chess are keen supporters of it, others feel this may be counterproductive. However, given the recent cut in the grant & the distinct likelihood of it being further cut, if not withdrawn, this may not be as significant a consideration.

Any prospect of a “commercially” supported system of distributing chess sets that are produced seems to have fallen by the wayside, with sets being collected and distributed by volunteers, but no clear system that I can see of establishing whether sets are available and how to secure some to collect. Is there a role for the MCCU is trying to get something set up relating to the Midlands? Do we wait for evidence of significant production before looking at this? Is everyone so pessimistic that they feel it would be a waste of effort?

The current general squeeze on finances will no doubt impact on some chess clubs and possibly counties and congresses. Whilst the MCCU as a body is not likely to be significantly affected, there will undoubtedly be venues that will increase hire costs because of falling revenues in other areas. What I would stress is that there are often more possible alternative venues than you might think & even in these difficult financial times chess is not an expensive activity compared to many others.

It has also been frustrating that a number of factors have prevented the MCCU running some events that it had hoped to. Health issues relating to some of our officers have not helped. In some cases the viability of an event has been in question. Whilst the MCCU does have some funds, we still need to be careful about how we use them. This is one of the reasons I have included an agenda item on the subject of what counties actually want the MCCU to run. In other cases the health of organisers and/or venue problems, have intervened. I hope that later discussion will help to determine in which direction counties wish us to go.

On a slightly more positive note, the county team event has held up in terms of overall numbers of teams, and there are prospects for ECF titles coming to the Midlands. I would also like to congratulate Bushbury chess club on their performance at National Club level, in both 2008/9 and 2009/10 they have fielded three teams and reached two finals. My own club Syston was somewhat embarrassed to find themselves in the prize money of the National Club Rapidplay, as it was held at their own venue. I would dearly like to see the Midlands better represented in the National Club events, but one of the problems seems to be that clubs are struggling to find enough players who can commit to being available. Some county teams with smaller pools of potential players have struggled in that respect and others were wary about the number of events they entered for fear of finding themselves stretched.

I am sad to note the loss of one of our well known players Otto Hardy, I am sure many of you will know him from county team matches and congresses, and some will have made use of his chess writings. A few county captains and congress organisers may have also had to deal with concerned calls as to whether the battered briefcase he carried around, and regularly forgot to pick up when he went home, had been found at the venue. I am aware that other Midland players, of whom I had less knowledge, will have passed away during the year and will have no doubt left an empty hole in their clubs and counties. Such losses highlight the fact that none of us is immortal and that it is important that chess organisations do not simply rely on small number of individuals to undertake the admin tasks, and do encourage new players.