Coronavirus Update – Completing the 2019/20 Season – Feedback Received

Chess League advice and information

Martin Simons would like to thank all those who have responded to the coronavirus consultation and updates.


Comments received in response to the 30th August update

Paul Errington, Bournemouth, 31/8/20
Bournemouth Chess Club have started to meet up on Wednesday evenings for friendly games of chess at the Winton Liberal Club from 7.30pm.
Other Dorset chess players are very welcome to attend but they will need to pay a £1 vistors fee to the Winton Liberal Club as a guest. Please contact Paul Errington in advance (Tel: 01202 527736) if you are planning to come along (just in case an evening session is cancelled).
There will be some safety measures in place such as playing across two tables (to maintain a good social distance) and all pieces need to be wiped before and after each evening session. Players are welcome to wear masks and/or gloves but this is not compulsory.

Mike Davidson, Wimborne, 31/8/20
Thanks for this update . Your conclusions mirror ours, i.e. a reluctance to play on line  and over the board. This week we are trying to get back over the board. Firstly at British Legion in Wimborne where we have had a friendly Friday. We start this Friday, although several of us have had a Friday lunch there over the last few weeks. We are happy that the Legion has taken adequate precautions against the virus. Already they have doubled the tables, i.e. side by side so that there is 2metres between players. We have also suggested each player plays on his own board, so touch only his pieces and like wise his opponent. I think we shall about 6/8 there this coming Friday.

Our main evening venue is Merley Community centre and we have discussions with their Chairman about how we can start our regular Wednesday evenings.    My committee are meeting their Chairman this coming Wednesday to review. One suggestion from Ian Clark is that he is prepared to play a simultaneous  display to encourage members back .In the meantime we will consider the same circumstances as we are doing at the BL,  i.e. double tables each player  and playing on his own  board and set. I think at Merley we will have to do sanitising the tables and chairs etc

I will keep you informed on how this goes.

Comments received in response to the 1st July consultation document

Roy Egginton, Bournemouth, 2/8/20
Option D-2 just try to finish the 2019/20 season, abandon the 2020/21 season and hope to ready to start the 2021/22 season as normal.

Steve Peirson, Perbeck, 12/7/20
I’ve had feedback from half a dozen Purbeck players and there is no appetite for playing OTB chess before Christmas – probably because our demographic is on the old side even for a chess club. Playing with some combination of screens, masks and sanitiser is a non-starter – we play chess for enjoyment and that wouldn’t be very enjoyable. Although some of our players are playing online, some of that is 1 day / move and Purbeck would struggle to field a side in an online league. I think the uncertainty over when matches will restart means we should aim to draw a line under the 2019-20 season and aim to start afresh when it is safe to do so (although we did have 1 vote for option D2). We had 1 vote for option B (perhaps because he’s captain of the team that is currently top of Dorset division 3! Although, to be fair to him, he did suggest that the top 2 teams should share the title). I don’t know how division 2 would be resolved where the 2nd placed team have a game in hand on the top team. Because of issues such as this, I’m personally leaning towards option A.

Barry Jolly, New Milton, 9/7/20
New Milton Chess Club members have all had the opportunity of contribution to this collective response. We have a total of 13 members who play in BDCL, six of whom are 70+ and seven under 60s some of whom have health concerns.
We are unable to play at our venue – New Milton Conservative Club – at present. Although the Club is now open and our return will be welcomed, current government guidelines for pubs and clubs preclude the playing of any games including board games. This will of course apply to all other BDCL venues until lifted.
We remain unclear about the question of handling chess sets and clocks: Is it safe to handle pieces in a one against one situation, or should we be looking at wearing lightweight disposable gloves and/or using sterilising wipes between games?
We foresee some considerable difficulty in getting all 13 of our league players – who play across three teams in the league – to return in sufficient numbers to make a conclusion of the current season within a realistic timescale possible. (Even then, the reserve places model would need to be suspended, which would be undesirable.) We therefore would opt for Option B – i.e. declaring the season complete on the basis of current positions. We do not think there would be any reasonable complaint to this method of determining the champions of each division with associated promotion. Relegation would be more problematic, but, in practice, these would probably be resolved by a little give and take by clubs anyway.

Ian Clark, Wimborne, 8/7/20
The availability of venues will be first to consider. The wimborne venue at Merley Social club will be closed to at least September so if and when opens will have to see what conditions there are from the Merley Club to chess club opening.
When we can open the advice at moment from ECF would be extremely restrictive and would not be conducive to playing a good social game of chess. I do not think anyone would want to play with a mask on and all the cleaning of pieces and equipment. Unless can go back more or less with perhaps some minor changes I would not want to play. When we can get the right conditions and clubs can reopen will be interesting to see how many club players return. Will be best to have a month or two of internal club evenings to see where we all are with numbers before we can consider deciding on 19/20 season and how or not is completed and the issues with promotion and relegation.
I cannot see the possibility of a 20/21 season unless we are able to start in say January or February and perhaps may just have cup matches based on average grades etc.

Mark Potter, Dorchester, 6/7/20
First of all thanks for all the work that has gone into this. My thoughts are that most players are keen to play because they like the game rather than to win trophies. Therefore I would favour simply putting 2019/20 to bed and start 2020/21 as soon as we can play. A combination of Option B and C might serve for awarding Championships et al. for 2019/2020. If the standard position was to make awards on the current league standings and if any team captain felt that was unjust he could appeal (with a brief indication of the perceived problem) to a committee of 3 (say) wise men who were entirely independent of the clubs involved. They could consider all circumstances with regard to standings and remaining fixtures and reach a decision (which could involve a play off if necessary) which would be binding on all parties. I think this would work well for Dorset League but with promotion/relegation I am not well enough informed to have a view on Bournemouth League. Otherwise I assume that as the dust settles ECF will issue guidance which will cover us if we follow it to the letter as regards OTB fixtures. As a personal preference I should not like to fixtures played online if there is any viable alternative.

Mike Davidson, Wimborne, 5/7/20
The Wimborne Chess Club members have been circulated. Currently 3 / 4 have responded and the general consensus so far is that we all think Option C (to appoint a panel to determine 2019/20 league winners etc in an equitable way) is probably best. If I get any more responses I will let you know.

Michael Litchfield, Southbourne, 5/7/20
The Government has sanctioned the re-start of football (in which physical contact is an integral part of the game), horseracing (where jockeys are all bunched together for long parts of a race), and many other sports. With chess, there is no need for any physical contact with other participants. What is required is a simple structure that is easy for everyone to follow.
No player is going to be forced to play. But it is essential that the opportunity to play is there as soon as possible. It’s all a question of breaking the ice. I guarantee once one match is played, the whole thing will re-start under its own momentum. It’s like falling off a horse: the longer you take getting back in the saddle, the harder the prospect of riding again becomes.
I believe the focus should be positive – how we can get the season re-booted as fast as possible, with precautions in place, of course. Players who do not feel comfortable with a re-start can wait until they see how it’s working and should not be pressured into playing.

Tony Pritchard, Poole, 4/7/20
Due to the logistical problems of playing OTB I suggest that it would be better to end the 2019/20 season now so there’s one less matter to consider – keep it simple. Few divisions will be contentious in terms of declaring a winner. Award trophies on this basis but delay promotion/relegation decisions until Clubs have a better idea of members wishing to play next season and under what conditions.
Press ahead with facilitating an online platform for 2020/21 (so that everything is in place for online matches/seasons in case the virus causes problems on an ongoing basis over several years) but aim for OTB matches if at all possible. Perhaps the 2020/21 season should be regarded as experimental until we see where we are; be prepared for that season to be put on hold/abandoned if circumstances dictate.
Best wishes to all.

Eric Sachs, Poole (Chairman), 3/7/20
I/we prefer option B as I believe it will be difficult to complete games with the same players as they were pre-lockdown. The committee/panel could come up with a pro-rata basis for allocating points to the end of the season. We may even have difficulty in returning to the same venues as the virus continues i.e British Legion/Liberal Clubs/Sports club that are still closed at the time of writing.
I do not think its likely for club(s) to have the same team/s available or complete online games.. I think its good to draw a line under the existing season and have have the AGM when it is safe and possible and see when/we are at to start a possible 20/21 season even in a reduced number of games capacity.
If you carry on the season to completion, the teams could be very different and then it does not represent players/teams that have played 4/5th s of the season.
This is obviously an uncertain period but at the time of writing it seems unlikely any firm plans can be made for normal OTB chess.
In respect of online chess.
We are active at Poole now and could possible field 3 teams of say 4 players in an online regular league if that is the common wish. I could encourage some of our Juniors to form a sort of online/Bacchus league, say at least 1 team initially.
However we do now online chess is not for all so you would need to bear this in mind if you decided to form a temporary online league programme with matches until OTB chess is safe and possible.
All the best

Colin Wilson, Wimborne, 3/7/20
Such is the time lag and ongoing uncertainty that I think it would be difficult to complete this season’s fixtures in a practical or satisfactory way. My view is that all matches outstanding in both the B & D and Dorset Leagues should be considered as drawn; this would determine promotion, relegation and champions of the respective divisions.
In reality, when the time is eventually right for a fresh start, the leagues will probably have to be restructured to take account of the fact that there may be fewer teams initially. This could be done through discussion with all clubs. Promotion and relegation is not a factor in the Dorset League divisions. Rather as happens in the Dorset League, in the B & D clubs could make a sensible pitch in respect of divisional placement for their teams; clubs know their own playing strength and most players prefer to be playing at the right level. Promotion and relegation issues of this season’s B & D need only be a deciding factor where cordial agreement cannot be reached.
I suspect it may be difficult to recommence over the board chess in a structured manner until the 2021-22 season. There may need to be an innovative and distinct online set up for the forthcoming season. It is encouraging that a number of clubs and many players are already supporting the terrific efforts currently being made to keep chess in our area alive in this format.

Peter Anderson, Ringwood, 3/7/20
My preference is for a very cautious version of option D-2. In most of the leagues there is still plenty to play for at both ends of the table and neither freezing the tables nor using a “pools panel “ to decide relegation or promotion seems satisfactory.
I and plenty of other people are sceptical about the effectiveness of mitigation (e.g. two sets, two clocks, sitting diagonally etc) when you are sitting in the same room as other people for 3 hours breathing the same air, so I suspect if we try to reconvene too soon the turn out of players will be poor. Starting and having to stop again because of a second wave also seems unsatisfactory.
So my choice would be to aim to restart the 19/20 season in around April or May 2021 and finish it off. Scrub the 20/21 season. Start the 21/22 season in October 2021 as normal. If we can fit in some extra team events during the summer of 2021 then that would be great but I don’t think they should result in promotion and relegation. Perhaps a couple of jamborees or knockout tournaments would be good.
The best alternative to D-2 seems to be E, or either by internet as originally described or telephone.

Mike Jay, Ringwood, 3/7/20
Thanks for providing such comprehensive notes and also this form and chance to comment!
Given the current virus situation etc, my view is to find a way, through committee, of concluding the 19/20 season and deciding winners, relegation and possible play-offs. And then, when it is safe to do so, start the 20/21 season afresh – e.g. perhaps as late as early ’21 with a single round.
Through risk assessment we need establish what may be needed to make otb chess as safe as possible for the earliest return. E.g. all options should be considered like limits on numbers in room, wearing masks, not sitting directly opposite your opponent, no handshakes, screens, members only , negative tests etc.
Finally, if, as seems likely, otb chess cannot resume in the foreseeable future, to plan for Dorset teams to enter graded on-line league competitions from mid Sept to create interest and keep alive the concept of competitive team chess.

Michael Litchfield, Southbourne, 2/7/20
Some observations on completing the season:
In normal OTB play, opponents are easily 1 metre apart in ordinary circumstances.
If schools can manage, it should be easy for chess clubs to run sensibly within a safe framework.
Players handling pieces and clocks shouldn’t pose a problem as long as faces aren’t touched during play and hands are washed immediately games are concluded.
I see from today’s PM briefing, all furlough is going to be fazed out as quickly as possible. In other words, the message is to get back to normal ASAP. Another point made was that it was unhealthy for us to continue the way we are. The fear factor is out of all proportion. Not a single death related to Covid-19 recorded in Dorset during last 16 days. Only a trickle of infections. More danger currently to the elderly in Dorset from flu and the common cold.
The only problem I can see is with juniors who might be less inclined to follow guidelines, etc.

Peter Wilcock, Wimborne, 2/7/20
I once played in a match many years ago as a schoolboy where it was impossible to travel because of thick fog. The match was played with players meeting at their respective clubs and the games were played with the moves being relayed over a phone link by one extra member of each team. Whilst this is not ideal it may be a solution for clubs that only have a couple of matches to complete. Social distancing would be much easier to control and it might be acceptable to players and teams who do not wish to play their remaining matches over the internet.
Whilst playing over the phone may seem very outdated in present times it may suit some members, and would provide a continuance of team spirit which I feel is so important in chess. I remember the match I played in was great fun even if we came off second best against a very strong team from Liverpool.
Regards to all.

Nigel, Purry Southbourne, 2/7/20
My feeling would be to abandon the present season and to start a new season in October with all clubs and teams in the positions they started in October 2019. There would still be a problem regarding which clubs and players will be available then!

Mike Tew, Highcliffe, 2/7/20
A combination of option C and B. Most of the Leagues, except Bacchus and DL2 have more or less clear cut winners and a committee could easily decide on the winners and teams to relegate/promote. Where there is contention then a play off could be arranged at venues which are suitable. This would then conclude the current 2019/20 season. The problem moving forward is on suitability of venues, car sharing, age demographic etc. Even when Covid 19 recedes it is possible (rather than probable) that a significant number of our colleagues may not wish to play OTB therefore as a League we should be exploring alternative options such as a temporary modification of the BDCL Rules such as divisonal rating caps instead of nominated team players – this would allow more team selection flexibility – “super venues” to host matches i.e those that have more space for OTB this which would improve the perception that we are doing all we can to create a safe environment + some of the measures that we already see in retail which are easy enough to do. Without some positive measures we may see a reduction in teams submitted to the leagues. It would be a shame to see such an active League curtailed and even worse if we lose some very promising up an coming young players, there seems to be plenty of enthusiasm to make a success of next season.

Christopher Lane, Southbourne, 2/7/20
Hopefully a new season could be envisaged eventually. As to this season, it is hard to believe that we could complete all fixtures

Ron Salinger, Highcliffe, 2/7/20
I suggest option C to complete this years season, i.e the expert panel combined with the existing league positions. I think it will be hard enough to complete next years without the residue hanging on into the autumn.

Roy Egginton, Bournemouth, 2/7/20
I would choose option D-1 with elements of options B/C! So decide season 19/20 on current tables, but as the teams should have played an equal number of matches in each division to be fair, only play outstanding matches to achieve this where the result will have a bearing on promotion/relegation, not many matches. If this is completed by Christmas, proceed with a shortened five match 20/21 season in January. If not, continue to to play the whole of 19/20 season to April as normal and scrap the 20/21 season. If return to OTB play is long delayed it may be that it would take until April to decide the season on current tables as described above.
As to play, each player brings their own set/board which only they touch and sits diagonally opposite their opponent at least 1m apart. Two sanitised clocks are placed back to back between them with one face facing each player. Player makes move, calls it (similar to playing a sight impaired player) and presses their button on both clocks simultaneously.
Hope the above helps with your decision making!

Andrew Manson, Highcliffe, 2/7/20
I believe it is best to write off this season, and plan well/ look forward to conditions being safe to restart a new season. League leading teams at time of lockdown should be designated champions, but with no team relegated or promoted.
I personally cannot see the conditions being suitable for face to face play before end September at the very earliest, and then only if COVID incidence continues to decline.
Given that Chess tends to have a significantly older demographic and therefore a higher “at risk” group we should err on the side of caution.
When face to face chess resumes we should consider the following precautions – which are low cost but helpful preventative measures:
The wearing of gloves – e.g. the white cotton type that snooker refs use and that can be laundered.
A perspex screen between the players at a suitable height of the type used in retail outlets.
Sanitiser available at venues.
Venues to be in a dedicated well ventilated room with no other activities taking place (this is the case for most but not all of our clubs).
We may also need to travel separately to away matches rather than 4 in a car.
If the sets, clocks and screens are put away for at least 72 hrs between matches they should not need to be cleaned (as per rules for retail outlets returned goods). If less than that between matches they may need cleaning.

Malcolm Day, Ringwood, 2/7/20
To me, the simplest solution is option A, and then, when we can be sure of the way forward, prepare to return to OTB play, and decide how we can salvage anything of the 2020/21 season. This way there is some certainty, whereas option D, while very flexible, could see us still trying to finish the 2019/20 seasonin 12 months time! Is it that important?
Thanks for all your hard work on our behalf – it is appreciated.

Paul Brackner, Dorchester, 1/7/20
I would vote now to abandon the present 2019/20 season, to leave the decks clear to resume the next season on whatever basis we can agree upon when the time is appropriate.

Richard Ursell, Highcliffe, 1/7/20
A straw poll of Highcliffe players suggests that they are in no hurry to return. Most thinking January might be the soonest depending on how the virus progresses. Completing the league program seems problematic. Personally I feel that the B and DCL leagues seem to be pretty much decided, and i don’t believe anybody would seriously challenge the top teams being awarded the titles. But am open to alternative views. I know Bruce feels they should be completed even if it meant fielding weaker teams.

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