ANNUAL REPORT 2004
For a relatively small, mainly voluntary organisation, I believe Chess Scotland achieves a great deal, mostly well. A few highlights:
The North Ayrshire project teaching teachers how to play chess and how to organise school chess clubs, brilliantly project managed by Dick Heathwood and with huge input from many people led by Alex McFarlane
The further development of our website, which I believe is world class. The grading facilities developed by Alex Bisset have lead the world – literally – with FIDE now picking up on some of the ideas. But the information available is stunning, superbly managed by Douglas Bryson.
The integrated development of membership, calendar and club information, now firmly under control and linked through to the website by George Anderson.
The Glorney and Faber Cup international youth tournaments run in Aberdeen by Peter Macnab, Douglas Griffin and Ross Brennan. We will now be concentrating on the stronger European Youth team Championships so this was the last time that Scotland will host these events. The team delivered a superb and fitting last event
Strong political links and television coverage continued [including importantly at the Glorney and Faber Cup] under Peter Macnab's enthusiastic and persistent approach. Closer political links offer scope to progress our key schools project
Games available quickly on the website from two key competitions – the Scottish Championships and Glorney/Faber Cup, thanks to many hours work from Alex McFarlane and Ross Brennan respectively.
We have also conducted a comprehensive review of our junior activity during the year and I would like to thank in particular Craig Pritchett for the extensive time and energy he committed to this. I also welcome the strengthened junior team which developed during the year – including Craig on the wider schools development project, Glynis Grant and Stephen O'Donnell on the home chess front and Donna Officer driving the youth squad and international junior aspects.
Of course there have been areas which have not gone as well. For many of these we are working to improve and more importantly have new volunteers who willingly give their time and expertise who will make than happen. We do not believe that splitting national junior organisation is a sensible way forward. We have been encouraged by the clear indications that any separate organisation would not compete with Chess Scotland with the potential confusion for schools and juniors which that might imply. But the best way is to work together.
We should also not fail to record our congratulations to some of our players. GM Jonathan Rowson became the first Scot for 58 years to win the British Championships, following on from his first places at the Hastings International in January and the Scottish Championships. WGM Keti Arakhamia Grant won the British Ladies Championship for the second successive year, and Joe Redpath won the first FIDE World Major, securing the FM title and an IM norm in the process.
L R McKenzie
One event that took a lot of time and effort to resolve was the loss of a cheque book. This was stolen when the bank posted out a book that was never received and was subsequently used to purchase various items, including a laptop computer, to a value of nearly £4000. After months of discussions between myself, the police, the bank and various debt collectors it was finally resolved at no cost to Chess Scotland.
On the more usual topics there were signs of increasing activity during the year with the league and club affiliations and congress grading income all showing increases. Additional income was also received from the fees for Chess Scotland for developing the Teacher Training Courses in North Ayrshire. The late publication of the magazine in the later part of the year, due to illness, did affect both magazine and subscription income but most of the fall in publication income is due to a drop in grading list income.
Our overall expenditure is somewhat less than expected although there are some areas showing significant increases. International expenditure, which was low last year, is at the more usual level. This fee is earmarked for further development of schools chess. The main areas of expenditure were the World Youth Championships, the Junior Tri-nations Tournament and the European Youth Championships.
Once again insurance costs are showing substantial increases and it would appear to be something we are going to have accept. I have also taken the opportunity to write off the outstanding balance, which was due from the Scottish Junior Chess Association. Their treasurer had hoped he would be obtaining the outstanding amount but this has not been possible and as it is now more than 3 years since the merger I thought this shouldn't be included in our accounts. The lower tournament expenditure is due to some events not taking place, the timing of some events and no notified expenses. The reduced administration costs are mainly due to lower printing, telephone and Internet costs.
Thanks to the efforts of Hugh Flockhart in obtaining financial backing for the Scottish Championships 2003 the event was a financial success. Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian supported both the Scottish and British Championships, which were held in Edinburgh last year. The Scottish attracted a larger attendance and it was possible to increase the prize fund despite the increases in running costs. A small surplus was added to the Congress Fund.
Once again I would like to thank, on behalf of Chess Scotland, all those who contributed to the funds and to the many who gave their time and effort voluntarily without making any claim for expenses they incurred.
The job of Home Director has proved again to be an extremely onerous one and it was for this reason that I was very glad when the review of activities was conducted and several volunteers were found to help with the workload. Their influence should be most visible in the course of the upcoming season and the variety of new events which will be held for juniors.
Over the previous season Chess Scotland held its usual variety of events. The flagship event was the Scottish Congress held at Hamilton in July which attracted a very strong entry and seemed to act as springboard for Scottish success at the British the following month. The innovation here was in having so much coverage on the internet within an hour of play finishing most nights. It is possible, with the agreement of an identified potential sponsor, that live games could be broadcast next year! We have the technology all that's to be confirmed is the finance.
The Boys' and Girls' Championship was held in Aberdeen this year. Unfortunately, moving the date forward by a week to avoid Hawick plus the distance from the central belt meant that the entry was lower than anticipated.
The most popular events on the calendar continue to be those aimed at the less experienced players such as the P5 and under, the P6/7 and the Secondary One day events.
During the year a review of events has been carried out and certain new events will be added whilst the format of other events will change.
Grading and Website
The Windows grading program developed by Alex Bisset of Aberdeen completed its second full year of operation. The program is being continually improved as users report back errors or request amendments. Alex has commented: “Almost all who used the program last year appreciated that it was a work in progress and not an off the shelf program.”
Among the many developments this year was a facility to automatically generate a web page report of every event processed for grading. The Check List option on the Grading menu at the front of the Chess Scotland website includes these web reports. The significance of this improvement is that this a report of the actual data on the grading computer and not a manually produced report made at the time of the event ie any amendments will be incorporated into the new “live” report.
Alex reports on possible future projects: “Some of the new features to be added in the 2005 version include the ability to print pairing cards (already present in version 4.0.0) and place cards for players, and perhaps wall charts. I also plan to continue to improve the ability of area graders to add and edit player details, and to allow CS Members to enter their own results in external events via the website.
The most ambitious addition of all is the possibility of producing a semi-automated swiss pairing system. The idea would be to create a wizard that suggested pairings based on the Scottish Swiss Pairing Rules and allowed the organiser to drag and drop pairing cards around on screen. Once they were happy with the draw it would automatically record the draw in the grading program ready for the results to be entered. This would strike a balance between people who want an automatic method and those who like doing draws manually. Or course it would not stop anyone doing a fully manual draw and entering the pairings manually. It would be there as a tool to be used by those that wished some assistance. So as you can see some ambitious plans.
Not all will happen in the 2005 season, however I hope to progress with most of them so that the grading program becomes a genuinely useful tool for area graders and tournament organisers alike.”
Once again Chess Scotland is indebted to Alex for his time and skill in developing the new system.
The online grade lookup facility and the Noticeboard are two popular key features. We now pay an annual charge of about £60 for the Noticeboard, the charge required to stop inappropriate advertising.
I mentioned in the report last year that I do not have sufficient time to develop the website fully. However it is possible to “farm out” certain areas of the site to permit updating by individuals other than the webmaster. For example the membership page, club page and calendar are now controlled directly by George Anderson. George creates the content and uploads to the site at the time of his choosing. Similarly Alex McFarlane updated the result pages during the Scottish Championships by controlling a page to which he could upload. John Glendinning has been creating most of the content for the schools, youth squad and international pages and I have been uploading.
The Noticeboard benefits from David Gillespie's moderation and Alex Bisset labour saving web reports have all assisted the website.
The webmaster task is too wide to be allocated to one individual and further delegation is the way to maximise the potential of the site.
Calculating membership is not an exact science. If at any time the number of members is calculated an allowance has to be made for members who have not yet renewed their membership and who may be up to three months behind in their payment. We optimistically assume that they will renew, the result an optimistic number.
The following numbers are calculated using current data but calculating the membership at the end of the fiscal year the 30 April. This means that there is no estimate or hope that members will renew. We know who did and who didn't.
The year on year numbers are 30 April 2004 Membership 582 and at 30 April 2003 559. An increase of 23 members.
The gain is mostly in the growth of Family Membership.
Our major membership is in Full Members. This year 188 last year190 a loss of two.
The details are that we recruited 28 new members but a total of 26 didn't renew. This should show a gain in full membership but allowance must be made for members who switched to Basic Membership. Membership change is not tracked. Basic members are down by 3. There were 27 new members but again 33 members didn't renew. A loss of 6.
Membership and Grading
The membership database now links with the grading database. As the links are not in real time new members are sometimes disappointed that as soon as they join they cannot access their grading but have to wait until manual updates are made.
Calendar & Club information
Both these Web items are now generated from the Membership database making editing and updating easier. The challenge now is to get all the events for the coming year listed in the Calendar.
The policies agreed at the 2003 AGM are being implemented. The necessary documents have been registered with the Central Registered Body in Scotland and disclosures are now being obtained in respect of relevant CS people. The disclosure process is voluntary and always takes place with the agreement of the people concerned. CS is very fortunate in having Steve Mannion (Snr) carrying out the role of lead signatory and generally controlling the disclosure process thus ensuring it will be carried out in a thorough and discreet manner.
CS intends to review its child protection procedures and policies in the light of experience and taking account of any future changes in legislation. No changes are being proposed at this time.
Preliminary investigations have been conducted into the question of whether CS should consider obtaining the protection of limited liability. The pros and cons have not been identified in sufficient detail to support any recommendation at this stage but it is suggested that the issue should be pursued to resolution. This whole area is closely linked to the questions surrounding the extent and cost of CS's insurance cover.
North Ayrshire initiative
CS is working with NA to provide ongoing support for the excellent work carried out by teachers in encouraging chess in NA schools. The individual elements of the overall scheme have been extensively reported on the CS website.
Ideally, CS would wish to extend this initiative to other local authorities. Craig Pritchett is addressing the question of resource constraints.
The Arbiters' Committee met in March. They discussed various matters of interest to arbiters and reviewed the list of qualified arbiters in the light of 'activity questionnaires' completed by arbiters. Two arbiters who have completed the qualification process were awarded the Arbiter title. Unfortunately, the proportion of those who pass the exam but do not complete the practical part of the qualification remains disappointingly high. The rules for the Richardson/Spens Cups were again considered and some modification of the contentious ‘bona fide' rule will be made.
Proposals sent out by FIDE for consideration as possible modifications of the Laws were considered by the Arbiters' Committee and our comments were forwarded to FIDE. It has to be said that, broadly speaking, we were not impressed by the quality of most of the proposals. The Laws will be revised at the FIDE Congress in the autumn and should come into effect in mid 2005. A revised Rules Book will be prepared to fit with that date.
A course for the training of prospective arbiters will be held, possibly in the autumn, if sufficient numbers show interest. Anyone interested should contact me.
Objectives - to improve our contacts with the Scottish Executive in order to facilitate and progress such ideas as a national chess coach and ultimately to obtain more funding by encouraging a better understanding by the Executive of the activities of Chess Scotland
Glorney and Faber Cups
Our responsibility this year to hold the above events in Scotland was also used as a focus for marketing Chess Scotland activities
I set up a small Committee in Aberdeen last Autumn to work on the organisation of the Glorney Faber activities and to prepare an action plan
We also set up a popular web site for the event.
During the past year I initiated meetings and prepared considerable background material for our local MSP, our MP, the University, BBC TV and radio plus Grampian TV, the local paper and Aberdeen City Council officials.
I tried to sell Chess Scotland and the importance of raising the visibility of chess and in particular youth chess using the Glorney Faber as a working example.
As a result we had a highly successful meeting with First Minister Jack McConnell and various meetings with Deputy Minister of Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Lewis Macdonald MSP who was delegated by the FM to open the Glorney Faber event on his behalf.
Louise Macnab and Christopher Macdonald the 2 Scottish captains met and were photographed with the FM. The pics were in the Daily Telegraph, the Press and Journal and possibly elsewhere.
There was a big report on the actual event in the Pand J and the Herald based upon reports I had prepared for the media.
I was interviewed on BBC radio while Louise was interviewed on both Grampian and BBC TV.
Louise's theme was to demonstrate that chess can be fun for young people. The better you become the more opportunity you have to travel and meet other young people.
Glorney Faber and the marketing for the year - perceived achievements
Marketing - the way forward…..
I believe that the marketing function should be abolished as a separate function for the time being.
We now have an established conduit with senior politicians who are more aware of what Chess Scotland is doing as a result of our immediate past work on marketing.
The need now is to exploit the good will and contacts and to lobby in a constructive manner the agreed specific priorities of CS as approved by the President and Directors. It is recommended that the lobbying process should be agreed and activated as soon as practicable.
The year was dominated by the organisation of the Glorney and Faber Cup youth tournaments in Aberdeen, as covered in depth in the report. Scotland's boys' team performed very well, especially considering its top two boards were not available for selection, and the girls' team also performed creditably, though perhaps a bit below their expected position.
At adult level, Scotland took part in a strong four nation competition organised in Barcelona and again performed well.
Scotland again participated in a range of junior competitions, which have been reported on the Chess Scotland website.
The website has also been enhanced by a specific page dedicated to international events and accessible directly from the home page. The international page also provides access to a list of events in 2004 and 2005, helping people plan their potential future participation [and helping juniors' parents choose their holiday plans!].
During the year Donna Officer became more involved with the junior side of activity and I would like to express my particular thanks to her for all her work.