No Change

So I went along to the Thames Valley League AGM for the first time for some years. As I’m currently captaining a team in the league I thought I ought to be there.

Still very much the same people who’ve been attending for the past 40 years or so. No change there. And, of course, no discussion of the real problems facing the league.

There was much discussion on adjudications. Yes, adjudications. If you live on Planet Sensible you’d be more likely to find Elvis playing chess with the Loch Ness Monster than a league which still has adjudications. But there you go. That’s where we are. Over the past few years there have been maybe 5 or 6, but last season nothing happened. There were three games with no result recorded. It transpired that one was an adjournment which the two players hadn’t got round to playing off, but the other two were indeed adjudications, one from one of my team’s matches, which the league secretary, due to a combination of health problems and pressure of work, hadn’t sent off to the adjudication secretary. Fortunately they didn’t affect league winners, promotion or relegation. These days, of course, most games which would in the past have gone for adjudication will have their results agreed followed by consultation with Stockfish or Houdini, but there will always be a few which are genuinely unclear. You might ask yourself why the league has an adjudication secretary at all, given that there are so few adjudications, but he’s been in the post for several decades and no one wants to upset him by telling him his services are no longer needed. You might also wonder, as one or two did at the meeting, why the positions for adjudication could not be sent directly to the adjudication secretary, but, until a few years ago, he didn’t have access to email and no one had thought to change the rules once he entered the current century.

There has been some talk in the ECF in recent years about not grading games decided by adjudication, and it’s even been proposed that events which allow adjudication shouldn’t be graded. Extreme, maybe, but my view is that adjudication, at least outside primary school chess clubs, should have no place in the modern game. My view also is that adjournments are fine for consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes, but shouldn’t be forced on anyone. If the league wants to be attractive to stronger players, and to attract new players, playing to a finish in one session should be the default option. Yes, it doesn’t suit all older players. It certainly doesn’t suit me. Although I’ll always agree to finishing in one session, I inevitably panic in the quickplay finish, and, if I’m anything less than a queen ahead I’m likely to run short of time, blunder and lose. It’s a price I’m prepared to pay for the survival of the league.

The good news from the evening was that my Chess Improver posts have more readers than I thought. My Surbiton friends had read my recent piece on Keith Arkell’s visit to their neighbourhood. More surprisingly, I discovered that the league Chairman had read the column from several months ago in which I annotated my win against his King’s Gambit. Perhaps, then, I should use this column to make some proposals. If you’d like to support me or make alternative proposals please get in touch.

We agree the time control at the start of the game. At present the order of precedence is:
1. Slow time limit with adjournment or adjudication of unfinished games
2. Faster time limit with intermediate time control
3. Faster time limit with no intermediate time control

I’d propose instead the following order of precedence:
1. Faster time limit with intermediate time control
2. Faster time limit with no intermediate time control
3. Slow time limit with adjournment of unfinished games (no adjudication)

Personally, I’d prefer 1 and 2 the other way round, but I know I’m in a minority on that one. If you play in the Thames Valley League, or even if you don’t, what do you think?

Richard James

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About Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard is currently the Curriculum Consultant for Chess in Schools and Communities ( as well as teaching chess in local schools and doing private tuition. He has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966 and currently has an ECF grade of 177.