|Clubs need the filling!|
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Chess Clubs are a Broken Cookie
Some people think it is the casual chess player that is the backbone of every chess club. But by definition, they are not the steady, hard core players. They are – for whatever reason – part time players. They enjoy the game but it is just another activity – like going to a movie or playing cribbage at the kitchen table. And sometimes other life issues fill their time – going to school, playing other sports, doing other hobbies, raising kids, working and paying the mortgage, etc.
This “club backbone” is as sturdy as over-cooked spaghetti. They fade in and out with the seasons, the fads, the weather, their attitudes, their emotions and their life trials. Chess often takes a back seat to other things in life. This is not a bad thing of course - it is just the way it is.
Some think it is the serious chess player is the backbone of a chess club. One that will fully commit time and effort to play chess, get to chess venues, play in chess tournaments, and shows up in numbers when there is something at stake - and drives the profit in chess. He will shell out money for tournament entry – which is the highest profit generator for most chess clubs.
But serious chess players do not congregate at chess clubs as a rule. They are busy honing their skills privately – on line, in study or working with trusted players of equal or greater strength. When these serious chess players emerge from their training cocoons – they are battle tested - and ready for some “serious” chess.
Serious players are not going to trek to a chess club “for fun” to push wood with beginners or the coffee-house player who just want to play a “friendly” game with chit chat and banter. Their chess time is too valuable - and they leave their study caves to hunt victims - and win tournaments. It is not to make friends necessarily. They know that if they want to play “casually” they can play from their computers at home 24 / 7.
Also, when these strong players do make an occasional visit to the chess club, they often scare away a few casual players - that never knew what hit them (see attitudes-emotions in paragraph 2)! And then the serious player doesn’t return either, since he had no serious challengers. A double hit to the Club.
Never the twain shall meet – but we have discovered that when they do - it’s not good either.
How do you merge the two amicably?
My opinion is that a Chess Club needs to grow an established roster of “hybrid” players – in numbers of which enough will show every week - as to attract the casual player who decides he wants a chess night out and knows he can find a game “at the club”.
These “hybrids” must have the chess skill to be a teacher and a mentor to new and weaker players, yet be able to “intercept the shark” at the door and give him a decent game should they make an appearance. This club hybrid player need the acumen put their chess night and egos aside and sometimes, sacrifices their chess evening for the good of the club.
Free chess, free parking, free lessons, a good location, great lighting, tables and chairs, a friendly atmosphere and maybe even a free chess set or coffee will attract the casual player. LCCC has all of this.
Tournaments and club leagues will attract serious players for those events. We have a no-fee league, and are working on possibly holding tournaments. But tournaments don’t build up chess club numbers. They attract sharks.
Maybe it is just a numbers game. How do you attract enough hybrid club players (the cookie filling) to keep the other two parts together and run it all? How do you attract such a large number of players from which you can cull hybrids from the masses?
By Mike Nikitin, President of the Livingston County Chess Club