Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Chess In Trafalgar Square

Sometimes, it seems, chess does get good publicity. Having just finished getting my final FIDE Arbiter norm at the Uxbridge Open, I decided to head down to Trafalgar Square on Monday to see the giant chess set that had been publicised on the English Chess Forum.

I ended up actually playing a game, as somebody had not shown up. The process was not entirely unlike that involved in playing a blind player: I made my move on the normal-sized board in front of me, and announced it at the same time. The piece in question was then moved on the giant board for the crowd to see.

My opponents were two young women who had recently learned the game, assisted by Ben Edgell. It wasn't the most challenging of games I've ever played, but it was interesting enough, and the commentary given by FM Michael White and CM Stewart Reuben while it was going on was excellent.

I had a great time, and we got an impressive number of spectators. Let's hope we can carry on attracting the public's attention with events of this nature.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Ben Edgell - ECF Publicity Officer

Those of you who are active in Westcountry chess may know the name of Ben Edgell of Sedgemoor, one of the leading lights of Somerset chess. A quick recap: he was Somerset Under-18 and Under-16 champion in 2003, has been a regular in the Somerset first team since our second match in the 2002-03 season, and went on to captain the county team from 2006-2009; this team won the WECU title in his third and final year in charge.

Well, today I got news of Ben's latest achievement: he has been appointed to the post of ECF Publicity Officer, a role tasked with bringing chess to the attention of the wider world. I wish him all the best in the role; it will not be easy, but it will no doubt be a challenge he will relish the task of rising to.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The value of negative publicity

There is an old saying that any publicity is good publicity. Whether this is true, I don't know, but it certainly gets tested semi-regularly by chess players. The latest such publicity-causing person is GM Vladislav Tkachiev, who got his name in the newspapers by turning up drunk to a game in the Kolkata Open, falling asleep, and eventually losing on time.

This has, like so many other notable chess stories, been picked up on by the good folk at the English Chess Forum, and there has subsequently been a lively debate on the subject.

What's quite clear is that Tkachiev's own personal reputation has not exactly been enhanced by this episode, and he's probably going to find it harder to get conditions to play in tournaments in the future. (Unless, that is, some organizer decides that a GM who may concede stupid points by falling asleep might be a good person to invite in the hope that he'll do this against a norm-seeker. It's possible.)

What's less clear is the effect on chess in general. Does the association of our game with alcohol help it or hurt it? Is it better for us to be the subject of no news stories, or ones that show our players in bad lights?

I don't know the answers to these questions. Perhaps you may.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


Welcome to my Westcountry Chess Blog, which will hopefully function as a successor to my long-since abandoned North Devon Chess Blog.

This blog will focus on chess in the entire WECU area; this consists of the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Anyone who has things to say about chess in any of those counties, feel free to contact me - I may include what you have to say, or even add you in as a contributor.