What is the state today of Over the Board Chess, and the USCF?

Ziryab

lol

idoun
Ziryab wrote:

I coach youth chess and run youth tournaments in a state where USCF membership is not required. We have the largest annual state championship in the US. These tournaments are rated.

I thought USCF membership was required for all rated tournaments. Or do you mean there is a separate non-USCF rating system for that state championship?

Ziryab
idoun wrote:
Ziryab wrote:

I coach youth chess and run youth tournaments in a state where USCF membership is not required. We have the largest annual state championship in the US. These tournaments are rated.

I thought USCF membership was required for all rated tournaments. Or do you mean there is a separate non-USCF rating system for that state championship?

 

The Northwest Scholastic Rating System (NWSRS) is free, uses the same formula as the USCF, and rates events in Washington, Oregon, and a few in Idaho. It was developed for scholastic chess in Washington as the WSRS, later expanded to Oregon, and now also can be used for adult events.

The only drawback is that the USCF tournament director certification system does not credit the more than 100 tournaments I've directed that are WSRS and then NWSRS rated. My low-level USCF certification does not match my TD experience.

Ziryab

If the kids played fewer regular USCF events until they were stronger players, it might reduce the number of severely underrated kids. However, we still see kids with USCF ratings well below their skill here in Washington. 

Meadmaker

The USCF rules and procedures were invented during a time when people knew their neighbors.

 

Bear with me.  I have a point.

 

I remember as a wee lad in the early 1970s that me and some of the neighbor kids actually played chess sometimes.  Checkers was more common, but chess sometimes.  Some houses had chess boards out, and people would see them and decide to play some games.  People hanging out wherever it was that they hung out would play cards, checkers, and, less frequently,, chess.  It was part of the culture.  When a character played by Gene Wilder was asked what he liked to do, "Play Chess" was one of the two options, and it seemed perfectly natural.

 

Fast forward to 2019.  People don't "hang out" as much.  People don't go into their neighbors' homes and see a chess board.  Our lives are more scheduled.  Our kids don't get together and organize a baseball game, they join a league.  When they do get together, they play video games much more frequently than board games.  And, I might add, it isn't just kids.  Anyone under 50 years old probably played more computer games than chess or board games.  Certainly anyone under 45.

 

In ancient days, chess tournaments were for people who played casually with friends and neighbors, but maybe they read a book or two, and got to the point where they could beat all their friends and neighbors, and wanted some more serious competition.

 

Today, we don't play against friends and neighbors.  The kids play in a school club, or not at all.

 

Going forward, I think to sustain the game as part of our culture, we have to create opportunities to play that are a bit more "low commitment" than a tournament as it exists today.  I've focused on the cost of tournaments, but that's really only one of the entry barriers that prevent people from taking up chess as a hobby.  USCF has basically taken a stance that those sorts of things are for clubs, and that sounds reasonable, but I don't think it works out very well in this world where we don't know our neighbors.   I'll have to think a bit more about exactly what this would look like, either from the standpoint of a club president, a local tournament organizer, or a national organization, i.e. USCF, unless some other national organization comes along.

Ziryab

A group formed in my city called Spokane Sidewalk Games. The principal organizer was inspired by a sidewalk chess set in Pioneer Square, Seattle. They bought a large chess set, checkers set, connect four, and others. They set up these games in public areas throughout the city during the warm months. The games are monitored by youth from a local teen shelter, giving the kids work experience.

 

I don’t know that it has helped chess at all, but getting people to play games casually that are not video games has certainly increased a little. It’s an idea along the lines you are suggesting, Meadmaker.

Uncle_Bent
Meadmaker wrote:

Fast forward to 2019.  People don't "hang out" as much. 

I can't relate to what you're saying.  Do what many do.  Find one other person to play and go to a library and start playing in plain view.  Bring an extra set.  In time others who play chess will find you if you play at exactly the same time of the week, or even the same time of the month.  After a year, you will have at least 8-10 other who show up.

Now the problem is that a few of these casual players will want to get better.  They'll start recording their moves.   They'll get tired of playing those that want to take moves back or take an interminable amount of time to make one move in a lost position.  These players are more likely to join the USCF and play chess with rules and time limits and a rating system to help chart their progress, and they will stop coming to the library.

I played chess before Fischer became World Champion.  In 1972, chess clubs suddenly sprang up in just about every town library within my area.  Those chess clubs that became USCF affiliates and began rated play were far more likely to survive after Fischer went into hiding.  All the casual clubs were gone by the mid 1970s.

Meadmaker

@Uncle_Bent, I'm not sure I understand your point.  It seems to fit very well with what I was saying.  Here's a distillation of my point.

 

People start in Chess by learning the moves, and shoving pieces around but not really playing Chess in a meaningful way.  Then they go to regular casual play.  Then they go to USCF style formal tournament play, with clocks and scoresheets and all that.

 

Today, there's no real outlet for the "casual" play.  In my day I would say the majority of kids, though certainly not all, at least got to "move the pieces".  Then, there were opportunities for casual play either with friends and neighbors or casual clubs.  Today, fewer parents teach their kids the basic moves, and almost no one plays Chess with friends and neighbors.  What that means is that the only on ramp to Chess for most people  is via a school club.

 

I think there needs to be a bit more of an "introductory" level, because no one is going to go from "knows how to move the pieces" to "playing in a tournament with a scoresheet" in one leap, and if that leap also happens to cost fifty bucks, there's no chance in heck of anyone making that jump.

 

Chess.com, though, does provide a bit of a gentle introduction for some people, and serves as that on-ramp to competitive Chess.

 

 

ghost_of_pushwood

I knew it would lead to the harder stuff!

Meadmaker

I want to provide gateway games.

 

Uncle_Bent
Meadmaker wrote:

Today, there's no real outlet for the "casual" play. 

 

Once again, I disagree.  There are plenty of outlets for "casual" play.  Just go play with a friend at a library at a scheduled time.  Or find a table in a park on a warm day.  Or go to MacArthur Park in LA, Dupont Circle in Wash DC, or Washington Sq in NYC, or in front of Au Bon Pain in Cambridge MA.

Few of these venues existed 50 years ago.  Today, they are possible, in part because of Bobby Fischer becoming World Champion (which was aided strongly by the USCF), 

ghost_of_pushwood
Meadmaker wrote:

I want to provide gateway games.

 

happy.png

ghost_of_pushwood

You forget to mention those guys who play at the bus station!

Meadmaker
Uncle_Bent wrote:
Meadmaker wrote:

Today, there's no real outlet for the "casual" play. 

 

Once again, I disagree.  There are plenty of outlets for "casual" play.  Just go play with a friend at a library at a scheduled time.  Or find a table in a park on a warm day.  Or go to MacArthur Park in LA, Dupont Circle in Wash DC, or Washington Sq in NYC, or in front of Au Bon Pain in Cambridge MA.

Few of these venues existed 50 years ago.  Today, they are possible, in part because of Bobby Fischer becoming World Champion (which was aided strongly by the USCF), 

None of my friends play Chess.   (ETA:  And, actually, that was kind of the point of my last couple of posts.)

 

Actually, tonight I went to a club, and was reminded why Chess clubs are just ok.  The quality of the chess doesn't bother me.  I'm under 1000 myself, so that's not an issue.  However, I did the typical club experience.  I walked in, carrying a chess set.  (The usual tourney set in the bag) The president of the club noticed me, said "Welcome!"  and went back to his game.  I waited 15 minutes or so.  Finally someone figured out that I probably wanted to play Chess, so he invited me to play.  He wasn't a USCF player.  I'm guessing if he had been he would be rated right around 1400 or so, which means I was no match for him.  I felt a bit rushed.  He seemed a bit impatient with my thinking.

 

I'll be going back.  It's just fine for my tastes, but I prefer tournaments.  And what's the difference, you ask?  At a tournament, when you show up, someone tells you who to play, and what time control to use.  It gets rid of some of that awkwardness.

Uncle_Bent
Meadmaker wrote:

Actually, tonight I went to a club, and was reminded why Chess clubs are just ok.  

I've been involved in the development and administration of 3 different clubs.  A good chess club requires a lot of work and organization.  It has to keep attracting new members or else it will inevitabl die out.  And it has to attract higher rated players as well as lower-rated players.  After all, no one wants to be the best player in a club, without a challenge.  And no one wants to be worst player in the club for more than a month or so.

All of this requires structure and...hate to tell you... dues.  Even if a club pays no rent,it has to have the financial ability to pay rent, because, site-availability is at the whim of the landlord.  A stable Chess Club cannot be like Blanche Dubois and "Always rely upon the kindness of strangers."

And to attract top players, you have to offer USCF rated chess, and to get the masters/experts, you have to have some kind of prizes to make it worth their time.  And if you don't have masters/experts, then soon the A-Class players will fade away, and then B-class, etc.

That's just the nature of it all.

Prometheus_Fuschs
Colby-Covington escribió:

USCF > FIDE

That really sums it up.

USCF players regularly wipe the floor with FIDE rated 200-300 points above them.

Even if that's true, that'd just imply a relative elo inflation from FIDE not any sort of skill advantage. 

Meadmaker
Uncle_Bent wrote:
Meadmaker wrote:

Actually, tonight I went to a club, and was reminded why Chess clubs are just ok.  

I've been involved in the development and administration of 3 different clubs.  A good chess club requires a lot of work and organization.  It has to keep attracting new members or else it will inevitabl die out.  And it has to attract higher rated players as well as lower-rated players.  After all, no one wants to be the best player in a club, without a challenge.  And no one wants to be worst player in the club for more than a month or so.

All of this requires structure and...hate to tell you... dues.  Even if a club pays no rent,it has to have the financial ability to pay rent, because, site-availability is at the whim of the landlord.  A stable Chess Club cannot be like Blanche Dubois and "Always rely upon the kindness of strangers."

And to attract top players, you have to offer USCF rated chess, and to get the masters/experts, you have to have some kind of prizes to make it worth their time.  And if you don't have masters/experts, then soon the A-Class players will fade away, and then B-class, etc.

That's just the nature of it all.

The bolded part was something that took me a long time to catch on to.

 

Once again, it's foreign to me, probably because of my lifetime spent in the SCA.  In the SCA, if you are a good enough fighter, you will be made a knight.  And what happens when you are a knight?  You are obligated to travel about the kingdom attending certain important events, and teaching other fighters how to fight.  This is all at your own expense, of course, and there's never a cash prize.   It's just what we do.  The idea of "making it worthwhile" to do your hobby just seemed weird to me.

 

The world of Chess seems far less community oriented than the other large scale hobbies I've been part of.   In the SCA, the reward of greatness is that obligation is put upon you to instruct the less experience of just plain not as good.  In the world of Chess, the reward of greatness is cash prizes and perhaps the recognition necessary to give paid lessons.

 

Of course, there are other rewards in the SCA.  Your real reward, the thing that motivates people, is the prestige.  Becoming a knight is a big deal, and people make much fuss over you for it.

 

I spent some time thinking about how to bring some of that to the Chess world.  I gave a series of tournaments, and I did a few little things.  I provided the boards and pieces.  Everyone got vinyl and plastic, except "board 1", where the top games were being played.  I put out my walnut and maple set for board 1.  I gave free admission to anyone with a category 1 title or above, not because of the price, which was only five dollars anyway, but just to give them a "perk".

Some people commented how cool they thought those little touches were.  However, it wasn't enough.  Ultimately, that series of tournaments followed exactly the pattern you described for clubs.  It started well.  People appreciated the low price play and a couple of things I was doing, but as time went on, the shrinkage from both ends that you described was exactly what I observed.  For the high end, it wasn't worth their time, but worse.  In rated play, the nature of Elo ratings is that the highest player can gain very few rating points, but if he has a bad day, he can lose a lot.  Without the incentive of the cash, the risk/reward equation just didn't work out.  At the bottom end,they just didn't  like to lose all the time, so there was shrinkage from both ends.

When I think about how to change the Chess world, I put a lot of emphasis on downplaying business/professional aspects, and promoting "community" aspects, but that is not easy.   There's a deeply ingrained culture to deal with.

 

For what it's worth, though, it is possible to sustain a club. That club I went to had a full room at the community center.  I would guess there were about 25 players, and they said they had been meeting there for 25 years.  They don't do USCF rated play, and they gave out their annual prize for their ladder tournament that night, and that prize was 25 dollars.  Dues for the year, which are not required are 15 dollars.

autobunny

Elsewhere

https://www.chess.com/forum/view/community/i-discovered-an-easy-way-to-win-at-chess-tournaments