An article published this weekend in the Guardian newspaper examines the current state of chess in England, with a particularly harsh light being shone onto the English Chess Federation. The journalist Stephen Moss, a keen player, has spoken to many of those involved in the game, at club and grandmaster level, and identified problems which are unlikely to be restricted to England. Top of the list of concerns is the continual inability of the Federation to raise sufficient money to support top players and to develop juniors. It seems that those involved in the administration of the game are prone to squabbling amongst themselves to the detriment of pursuing strategic objectives. In spite of this, we should note that England acquitted themselves reasonably well at the European Team Championship in Iceland which finished today. They came 10th after tie-break compared to a ranking of 5th. In days gone by this would have ben a cause for concern, but today this outcome can be regarded as something of a relief.
Much of the article content is familiar to chess insiders. However, it will probably be surprising to the general public that the ECF Council ousted the Chief Executive and Marketing Director, replacing them with empty chairs, ducking the challenge of how chess is going to make a positive impact in the media and win support from government and funders. A myopia afflicts those who run the game: organising the next event takes precedence over deciding what type of events should be organised.
One of the issues the article highlights is that there is a flipside to the brilliant problem-solving mind for which chess players are famous. Problem solvers can also be problem creators. Single-minded determination can get you a long way in chess but beware losing contact with the real world.
Stephen Moss will be hosting a debate on Making Chess More Friendly on Saturday 5th December 2015.
Top photo: John Robertson at 4NCL Birmingham