Celebrating one year of the Bristol Chess Times

The 20th July is International Chess Day!  It is also dangerously close (a matter of days) to the first anniversary of the relaunched Bristol Chess Times.  Happy Birthday to us!  I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the last year and everything we have achieved and learned as well as looking ahead to the future.

 

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A shot from the inaugural Bristol Chess Times Invitational Tournament held in May 2018

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%!

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Thanks for everyones support!

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.


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Jon Fisher

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.

 

 

 

Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay – 29th April 2018

Hungry for more chess as the season end draws near? Or looking to get into chess in a more relaxed setting?

Look no further than Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay this Sunday! Six rounds of rapidplay chess guaranteed and an opportunity to meet chess enthusiasts, play, spectate, and hone your skills.

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Have a read of our review of the last event back in October for a flavour of the event. Chipping Sodbury has been somewhat resurrected as a biannual event and has been made ECF and FIDE rated for those of you who want to push your ratings. This time there is also a guarantee of £100 first prize in the Open section – and so far there are not many entries!

I have played this many times and have enjoyed the trip down to Chipping Sodbury. The venue is easy to find and is perfect for chess; if the weather is good the courtyard outside the playing halls makes for great blitz sessions at lunch and a chance to chat in the sun and regroup for the next three rounds. Homemade food is also on offer and is becoming a mainstay of the event.

It’s great to support events in smaller towns as most of the chess calendar takes place within large cities, so if your Sunday could use fresh challenge then why not come along? The entry form can be found here – or just email the organiser and show up!


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Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

From the Front Line: Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay Oct 17

It was a beautifully sunny Autumn day in Chipping Sodbury town, full of chess players old and young. Organiser John Stubbs drummed up a lot of interest outside of the league and from juniors – many of whom played blitz and bullet chess all throughout lunch!

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Courtyard Kibitzing in the Autumn sunshine

There was even an exhibition challenge where juniors would square off against top seed Attila Reznak. Nobody managed to topple him but it clearly tired him out!

3_game prep

Different approaches to mental preparation. Recalling theory, or a headache from too much blitz?!

Back to the tournament – there were three sections according to grade boundaries, with junior and/or grading prizes for all. All sections were a swiss format, 6 rounds, with 20-minute games plus an increment per move.

4_no smoking

No smoking – but plenty of fire on the board in the minor section

We start with the minor which was destroyed by the juniors – three of them tying for first!

5_youth vs experience

Youth vs experience. Toby was too quick for his opponent in this game, winning on time

6_Minor winners

The winners of the minor section – John Skeen, Yuvraj Kumar and Toby Kan

On to the major section, which also featured many new players in amongst the tournament veterans, and was hotly contested as one would expect. The juniors were the stars once again – clearly not fazed by playing all day – or by facing their coaches across the board!

7_Major Dave

Dave still clearly in opening theory! He was outfoxed this time though

There were no outcries of tournament fixing as Oli Stubbs took down the major undefeated – very well deserved and no doubt a future threat to the open section.

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Oli playing right to the bitter end against Adrian Champion. Oli won the major section convincingly with 5 / 6

The open featured more newcomers, with three clear top seeds plus many eager challengers.

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Games get underway in the Open section

One of these challengers played yours truly in the first round…

10_mike vs remi

*may not be the exact position* After a long pressing game I had 20 seconds left and missed the simple block Rf6; first spotting a prettier (but much worse) move Rd1?! Which looks like it works, save for Rd5! which Remi spotted – and thereon went on to win the tournament. Oh how it could have been!

As for me, I went on to get 0.5 out of 3 and was contemplating an even worse score than my previous two rapidplays, but I was saved by a bye and then by actually playing decent moves to creep up to 3.5/6 – enough for joint third and the grading prize! (The exciting final game against Lewis can be found here, featuring three exchange sacrifices). By contrast, Remi hadn’t played a rapid tournament for decades – so it was doubly impressive that he took down the top seeds and quickly took control of the event. He actually won with a round to spare as his progressive score would have won a tie-break situation.

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Remi coolly converts against Mike from a pawn ahead to win the tournament.

It was a day for newcomers as well as juniors – as new Downend star Attila shared third place with Adam (and myself) and Chris Smith – who also recently returned to the game.

Chess doesn’t stop after the handshake – plenty of different perspectives on the game were discussed after the dust had settled.

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Post-mortem between two top players from Downend. Lewis (right) finished 2nd in the tournament with 4/6.

All in all a splendid return of Chipping Sodbury – many thanks once again to arbiter Geoff Gammon, and organiser John Stubbs. The next one is set for April 2018 – and could even be FIDE rated! We will keep you posted.

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Oli graciously accepting his prize!


mikecircle

Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay – 28th October 2017

With the season well underway, it is always a refreshing break to play some shorter rapid games, take on new opponents from outside of the league, and have fun kibitzing between rounds. The Chipping Sodbury rapidplay is a one-day event in traditional Swiss format (each round you play opponents on similar scores to you) with 3 grading sections (Open, U155 and U125 ecf grade).

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Graham Mill-Wilson received much praise for running so many Bristol tournaments over many years, and recently moved away from Bristol, leaving everyone wondering what would happen to the Bristol tournament scene. (Read Graham’s fitting report from his last ever ‘CS Rap’ here).

Thankfully Downend’s John Stubbs has volunteered to take this one on – and there are some welcome plans for the future:

  • Firstly, the event will be catered for the first time! I think it’s fair to say that Chipping Sodbury is a quaint and charming town, but lacks the breadth of lunch options Bristolians may be accustomed to – or that a chess player needs to refuel after 3 intense rounds of rapidplay. There will be homemade sandwiches, cakes, and other snacks, as well as tea and coffee available.
  • Secondly, following the league’s footsteps, the timing will include increments. 20 minutes for the whole game, plus 5 seconds per move – in an effort to avoid ‘time scrambles’. No doubt this may cause a bit of a headache for arbiter Geoff Gammon when that awkward 100+ move game arises, encroaching on the next round.
  • Thirdly, there is a £100 top prize guaranteed in the open section, without any change to the other prizes (runners up, grading, and junior).

These 3 changes should make a big difference in participation – it is great to see more new players, including many juniors, entering tournaments and should ensure their continued presence on the calendar. The plan is that the rapidplay can be run consistently twice a year (as it was until a few years back) and will be FIDE rated pretty soon (n.b. on this October edition, it is ECF rated only).

For those partaking – points also count towards the Bristol Grand Prix (we should really explain what the Bristol Grand Prix is at some point – editors note) of which the current standings will be available on the day.

I will be official photographer for the day – as well as playing in the open section. I expect the competition to be very tough, and given that my rapid rating qualifies me for the major as well I will not be one of the favourites… possibly even the bottom seed! Nevertheless let’s hope for good weather and great games in all 3 sections.

You can find the download the entry form, or contact John (07876 326935 / email jcdstubbs@yahoo.co.uk) for any queries.

See you there!


mikecircle

Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.