Perhaps someone at Hastings could do us all a favour and write a chess book called Secrets of Chess Club Organisation. In the long run, this would be vastly more useful than 100 books on how to play the Sicilian Defence. Without legions of volunteers and helpers, competition chess would simply disappear. As someone who has played a part in trying to run a chess club (looking back I don't think I was very good at it), I know that it is damnably difficult to keep a club running for 5 or 10 years, let alone 125. Of course, there are other splendidly-run clubs elsewhere in Britain as well as Hastings but I don't [think] there are as many of them as we need and I know for a fact that clubs can die for want of a bit of common sense in their organisation. Now that our cadre of professional players is dwindling down to a handful, it may be time for a 'back to basics' campaign so that we can attempt to rebuild British chess from the bottom up.
Read the whole post here.
Closer to home, the issue of chess clubs was recently taken up by Shaun Press who likened the evaporation of player numbers in chess clubs to that of Lake George. Mr Press also asked a simple question: "So what is the cause?"
Look, I can' speak for others but let me give you guys my own experience.
I was once a member of two clubs - first with the Canterbury Bulldogs, then, much later with the Fairfield RSL CC. I finished my association with both clubs for various reasons and here I list them with a little explanation.
Lack of time. Clubs meet on weeknights, just when I either need to do some R&R or need to get home and work all over again! No atmosphere. When I think of chess clubs I'm thinking about some joint like Hastings or Marshall. But the ones I've been associated with are nowhere like those foreign joints. Weekly meets at Canterbury, for instance, was in a drab little room right next to an auditorium. Distance. While Canterbury was just down the road from me, Fairfield was a further long way away. Fairfield's advantage was that they met on Saturdays and definitely had better atmosphere. We used to play in the table tennis area and next door was the billiards room. So there was plenty of human traffic and the overall feel of the place was a bit more friendly. What really killed off my Fairfield link, however, was the old and familiar politics. Back in the day the club even subsidised my tournament entry fees. Plus I distinctly recall being provided a bit of pocket money for grade matches. Due to some complicated internal politics, all that ended and I said, kaput!
Finally, I'm really the type who's just afraid of commitment. The idea of having to schedule some regular time with a chess club is a huge weight on my mind. I hate it. I just want to be able to do my thing anytime I want without commitment. What's wrong with that? A de facto arrangement is more my taste. And that's exactly what I have today with some mates. There's a whole bunch of guys who meet every weekday, in the food hall, underneath St Andrew's Cathedral at Town Hall, in Sydney. I go there after work but I have the luxury knowing that I don't need to commit or, worse, make some major decision in the annual AGM, battle in some political shit-fight, or whatever. Like the ideal relationship, we're all very flexible too. On Friday evenings we pack up and move our humble little "club" to the second floor of the Spanish Club. There we have a whole dance floor to ourselves, have a few drinks, and do what we love - play chess late into the night! It's great.
Whatever are the reasons for the demise of chess clubs I have to say that I care very little for them. As long as I'm still getting what I want, play chess, whenever I want - are all that count. I don't need a chess club for those wants.
But what I do need is a competent state and national body that can organise the formal events - be they tournaments, fund raising, seeking sponsorships, government recognition, and so on. Questions around these are more critical, I think.