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Posted on behalf of Paul MacDonald....

When I look at the map of where Scottish chess clubs are situated I am sometimes underwhelmed by the lack of established clubs outside of the central belt. North of Oban is a chess desert, as is the whole area North of Inverness on the other coast. Argyll and Bute has no prescence other than Oban. The difficulty in establishing clubs in these areas is that much of the impetus tends to hang on one individual. Take the example of Lewis a few years back, where a tournament even attracted a GM match between Short and Agdestein. A fledgling club collapsed when the main organiser left to take up a job in England and not much happened on the island in a chess sense, until Colin McNab gave a simul there this summer. In my own experience, I had a small club going at Sleat in Skye in 2003-04, where we once had 16 people turn up to play. Once again the impetus wasn't maintained once I left to take a job back on the mainland.

As someone who spent a lot of his childhood in a remote West Highland community I realise how difficult it is for local communities to kickstart activities and when a community council approaches me for help in getting a chess-related event going then I'll do my best to help them and hopefully help chess in Scotland.

My work with a Gaelic-language organisation has put me in touch with the local community council in Dunoon, a few of whose members have made me aware of the existence of a chess club in its infancy. Currently boasting 10 members (4 of whom are juniors...all absolute beginners.) they meet in a private house once a week, mainly for off the cuff matches and an informal 'club championship'.

They have however become aware of the success of the annual Congress in Oban, which although well over an hour away is seen as a local town, To cut a long story short, I've been asked to help make a chess congress in Dunoon happen. The venue would almost certainly be the Burgh Hall, a 10 minute walk from the Pier and right in the midst of the shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels, The Burgh Hall is a lovely, striking Victorian building with a huge hall probably easily capable of hosting 25-30 boards. Because local contacts are well in the loop with the Hall administrators and the town are keen to have this venue used more often I'm certain that we would get a fantastic deal on a weekend hire.

Opinions please?


My first experience of playing chess at a competitive level in a club and at a congress was at the inaugural Isle of Lewis congress back in ’95. Since then I have played for a few Scottish clubs and attended congresses in Scotland, England and in the Netherlands. No matter what the location people can make it happen to organise a major event and you really have no idea of how it will pan out for the people attending for the very first time.
I cannot remember the exact circumstances but that first event in Stornoway clashed with the Scottish at Hawick that year so I remember there being grumblings about ‘how dare they organise such an event’ that might be more popular than the Scottish in Hawick. In the end the event was very successful for the hundreds that turned up in Stornoway. With certain I did not feel I was out on a limb attending the Stornoway club in the few years it ran, chess is chess no matter where it is played.
If you want to organise an event… go ahead with or without the help people will be able to give. The enthusiasm you bring is much admired and should be encouraged to help bring more chess to more people and in areas that have not seen such an event.
Ian Morris Wrote:I cannot remember the exact circumstances but that first event in Stornoway clashed with the Scottish at Hawick that year so I remember there being grumblings about ‘how dare they organise such an event’ that might be more popular than the Scottish in Hawick.

Since I controlled at both these events I very much doubt if they clashed Big Grin Indeed the organisers were in touch with Chess Scotland (or the SCA as it then was) from very early in its plans. David Wallace and I were flown back to Glasgow so that we could get to the British on time.

On the main point, given the apparent strength of the local players then a one day allegro might be a more appropriate event to stage in the first instance. It prevents new players being put off by having a 'huge' gap between rounds.
Doesn't Alan Reid MP and former Scottish Olympiad player live in Dunoon? I'm sure he'd be keen to discuss any possible event there.

And the 1995 Hawick and Lewis events made sure that they didn't clash ... I and others played in both.

I emailed Alan at his Westminster office some time ago regarding possible congresses in Rothesay and Dunoon but received no reply. I may give it another go but Mike Russell who is at the top of Paul's boss ladder has expressed an interest and wants Paul to give him regular updates. I will leave it up to Paul to decide if Alan is worth another try.

re communication with Mr Reid; i'm certain that Alan will never remember me but I remember him, when I last asked him a chess related question and 20 years later am still waiting for an answer. Good luck in your quest in enlisting Mr Reid's help. Sad