Setting up a chess blog 12 months ago, it was difficult to know how successful we would be. Myself and my co-editor Mike Harris have talked long and hard about providing a blog that can be enjoyed by all chess players world wide whilst still covering the regional elements of chess in the South West of England.
Looking back on the last year we have published a remarkable 93 articles covering all manner of topics and local authors including:
- Tournament reports across the South West
- Game of the month and league reviews
- Exciting game reports from the league
- Quirky and dubious opening recommendations
- A monthly problems column (thank you Christopher Jones!)
- Historical pieces on past players, clubs and editions of the Bristol Chess Times (thank you John Richards)
- Book reviews
- Items for sale
Its fair to say that some topics are more popular than others but I wanted to extend a massive thank you for the feedback and encouragement we have received. Looking ahead into year two it is clear where we can continue to improve to provide the chess players of the South West (and beyond) with an entertaining and engaging online magazine.
Helping the Bristol & District Chess League
One of the primary objectives of the Bristol Chess Times is to help the Bristol & District Chess League grow and encourage new members. Lets look at some key statistics over the last 12 months:
- 17,298 views on the Bristol Chess Times
- 9,280 unique visitors
- 93 articles
- 12 different authors
- 735 visits to the “Find a club” page
The final statistic for the “Find a club” page is key as we want more and more prospective players in Bristol to find chess clubs and get in touch. On the “Find a club” page we have links (and phone numbers) to all 16 clubs in the league. Of the 735 visits to this page i’ve broken out how many prospects clicked through to each individual club (please note that despite my protestations not every club in the Bristol & District chess league has a website in the year 2018…):
- North Bristol – 60
- Clifton – 55
- Cabot – 51
- Downend & Fishponds – 44
- Horfield & Redland – 44
- Hanham – 31
- South Bristol – 28
- Bristol University – 20
- Bath University – 7
Whilst its difficult to tell how many of these prospects actually joined the clubs they contacted (please do get in touch if your club has had players join as a result of the Bristol Chess Times) its encouraging to see these kinds of numbers, especially as the online visibility of the Bristol Chess Times will only continue to grow and grow in the upcoming years.
Given that most chess clubs vary in size from 5 to 40 players, the kind of numbers seen above are really encouraging as the addition of only 5 new players to a club can make a real difference.
Which leads us to the next logical question…
Did the league grow in the 2017/18 season?
Working closely with Jerry Humphreys of Downend & Fishponds chess club we have identified a two key metrics that we will be tracking for the health of the league moving forward:
- Total number of players in the league
- Total number of players who played at least 5 games
I am in the process of working with Match Secretary Dave Tipper to identify these metrics from past years but the data is still a little patchy. However we are able to compare the data from the year before the relaunched Bristol Chess Times and last season.
Total number of players in the league
- 2016/17 – 329 players
- 2017/18 – 337 players
An increase of 2.4%.
Total number of players who played at least 5 games
- 2016/17 – 254 players (77% of the league)
- 2017/18 – 260 players (77% of the league)
An increase of 2.4%.
So lets not get too carried away but its fair to say the league stabilised in the last year. Its also difficult to attribute all of that effect to just the Bristol Chess Times as several other clubs (hats off to the noisy neighbours North Bristol Chess Club) have done sterling efforts in their own self promotion.
However, I also feel its really important to acknowledge how important slowing and stabilising the decline of over the board league chess is. Historical data from 1998 to 2006 shows that the number of league players over that time declined from 467 to 320. In the last 12 years the league size would appear to have remained relatively stable. Therefore any upward trend, no matter how small, can be seen as a positive step forward.
Looking ahead into the next 12 months, we can expect to see the online visibility of the Bristol Chess Times increase as articles are indexed correctly by major search engines and more and more chess players share our articles (hint hint).
ECF Website of the Year 2018 Nomination
One final highlight of our first 12 months in business is the recent nomination for ECF Website of the Year 2018. Whilst we were unfortunate not to win due to not being “ordinary” enough (see the committee statement here) my thanks goes out to all those who recognised our efforts and nominated us.
Looking ahead with the Bristol Chess Times
So its been a hell of a year and one that has truly laid the foundations for success in the years to come. At the risk of banging a tired drum, the clubs in the league who have supported and engaged in digital promotion have really benefitted. North Bristol Chess Club have had a cracking season of growth whilst my own club, Horfield & Redland, have launched a new website and its members have been very active in the Bristol Chess Times. At the AGM last September we had a list of 23 members but by May 2018 we now have 33 players representing us. A remarkable growth in membership of 43%!
League Chess in 2018 is alive and well in the South West of England and across the UK. Too often I hear the cry and lament from players about the decline of league chess. But the efforts and ambitions of a small group of individuals and the statistics from the last 12 months indicate that by embracing modern digital tools we can not only halt the decline, but stand ready and primed for success in the future.
Until next time.
Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.