Junior chess in my area seems to be thriving, it’s the adult chess that seems to be suffering.
In league chess, the situation with individual clubs varies enormously. Some have dwindling numbers of players, struggle to field players during the season, and end up reducing their teams. Other clubs are thriving and go from strength to strength. I’m proud to say that my own club, Surbiton, is fortunate to be one of the relatively few successful ones. Every year we seem to be fielding stronger and stronger teams. We have four teams, and our first team is usually competing for the top spot in the Division 1 of the leagues we participate in – Surrey and Thames Valley. In addition, our second team has been promoted in the past couple of seasons to play in Division 2 of both the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues. And, for the first time, our second team will be promoted to Division 1 of the Thames Valley next season, so we will have two teams in Division 1. This is the result of somehow being able to attract new members each year and to a growing number of juniors coming up through the ranks.
In tournament chess, declining prize funds and higher entry fees have seen attendance at some local amateur events dropping. This is I guess because of a lack of sponsorship and other sources of funding dry up. On the other hand, we see amateur events organised by e2e4 and 4NCL being very successful. At the 37th Surrey Chess Congress there was a Junior Championships and an Easter Open Rapidplay. The organisers and volunteers that make these events happen did a great job, although it was sad in my view to see the Easter Open Rapidplay could only attract 20 participants, given that this was once one of the most prestigious weekend Opens in England’s tournament calendar. Thankfully, the Surrey Junior Championships was a relative success. It featured seven sections: under 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13, and there were over 150 participants. Go here for the results of the U12/13s and U11s. This bodes well for Surrey’s future as one of England’s leading chess counties.