Attracting New Players

Is the royal game as popular now as it was say 20 years ago?

This seems at first sight an easy question to answer, in one way it is and in other ways it isn't. In recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in numbers joining clubs and attending tournaments.

Chess has to compete with computer games and a plethora of other sports/games. So its surprising that today, there are probably more people playing chess than at any time in history, visit Playchess.com no matter what time of day, there will be a few thousand players online. Add other numerous chess-servers into the pot and it equals a huge figure.

The rise and rise of the internet has been a boon for chess, but has its popularity robbed us of many would be over-the-board players? Based on conversations I've had with a few people recently, I think it has. Why should past or potential OTB players bother pitching up to the chess club? The convenience of playing on the net beside a warm fire in January must outweigh the drive/walk through the ice and snow?

For me 'the net' has three major drawbacks...

  1. Cheating - As in players using computers.

  2. No social side - The anonymity it offers seems to attract many anti-social types. (More than usual anyway!)

  3. Time Controls - Ridiculously short time limits, its impossible to play ones best chess playing blitz or 1 minute games!

What are the advantages of the Internet?

  1. Convenience - No matter what time of day you're guaranteed a game, its perfect for testing openings and honing your tactical skills. I can't see any other positives...

How can we tempt potential players into the fold? How can we attract new blood? What can 'the chess club' offer?

What are the advantages of attending a club?

  1. The social side - In our club, 'the crack' is superb, we discuss many varied and sometimes surprising topics. We have a bloody good laugh! It has to be the main reason for all players to join a club.

  2. Competition - You can't beat the feeling of that face to face battle scenario, slamming the pieces down on the board, whacking the clock, delivering checkmate, its the ONLY way to play the game in my opinion.

  3. Learning - The beginner and intermediate players will benefit from the better players through their experience and knowledge, they can also offer guidance and advice.

  4. Camaraderie - That comes from being part of a team, with the banter etc.

  5. Friendship - Over the years you become really good friends, not only within your club, but among the whole chess community, and surprisingly with your opponents, something that will never happen online.

Lets assume the budding chess player has mustered up the courage, took the plunge, and decided to attend that most mysterious of places, the modern chess club.

He/she has probably contacted the club secretary, captain, treasurer or webmaster and arranged a rendezvous, what happens to the new recruit? Ignored for the first half an hour, plays a few games, gets mercilessly pummelled by the club patzer, who in the process probably doesn't say two words of encouragement or even just two words!

in lies another problem, chess for some unknown (or is it?) reason attracts an abnormally high percentage of 'social retards' some might say weird, peculiar, strange, unconventional eccentrics.

I've said it before, that some of the best chess players I know are incapable of forming a coherent sentence, and as for holding a full blown conversation? FORGET IT! Its therefore hardly surprising that the 'chess rookie' after this forgettable experience is never seen again.

The whole idea of us (Peterlee CC) having a website was/is to attract new members, four months into our internet foray and we've had 2 enquiries, which for our club is fantastic. Only one turned up, what happened to this guy? Well, for starters he had played before, mainly on the net and was a reasonable standard.

Now then, we're not the ignoring types at Peterlee, we welcomed him with open arms, he played everyone, he even won a few games too, we were our usual selves, we swore a lot, we drank a lot and ended up pissed as per usual, a good time was had by all. It was late when he left, he was all smiles promising to return next week, and in all honesty I fully expected him to do so, as he seemed to have such a good time.

Next week came and went, but our 'newbie' was nowhere to be seen? We came to the conclusion that we were over-friendly, maybe too 'in your face' As the local chess fraternity can testify to we are a fairly loud bunch but, very friendly! I think you need a strong character and constitution to fit in at Peterlee! You're damned if you're friendly, you're damned if you're not!

What do other clubs do to attract and KEEP new members?

Any decent ideas send them to peterleechessclub@gmail.com