Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
What is the point of the Scottish Championship?
The Adult Selection Criteria thread prompted me to post thoughts about our premier tournament, the Scottish Championship.

I am a long-term supporter of the event - I started in the “Boys”, graduated to the “Open” and subsequently played in 23 “Championships”. I have seen the best and worst – having played in 27 and attended a further 2 –  of the last 34 years and believe it is worth having a debate on future direction. The Championship was run as a closed event (sometimes an all-play-all, sometimes a swiss for between 10 and 20 players) from well before I started competing until 2007. There were minimum entry requirements and the majority of the games were tough encounters as a consequence. In 2004 nearly all the main contenders played but after 3 years of more mixed entries across the wider event the organisers decided to reform. We’ve had 10 years, since 2008, when the Championship amalgamated with the Open to reflect on the format, what it has achieved and what it hasn’t.

State of play
The current format is an FIDE rated nine round International Open held in July with a small number of invited titled players to provide norm opportunities. The Open allows a wide spread of abilities to enter although there are side events as well. The Scottish Champion is the highest placed Scot within the Open with a performance tiebreak. Equipment used is generally good quality wooden sets and digital clocks with live transmission an increasing feature.  An experienced and committed team of arbiters mean that the event, once on-site, typically runs smoothly. Venues move from town to town around Scotland. For many years seaside towns were preferred although recently Edinburgh and Glasgow have featured heavily.

“What is the point of the Scottish Championship?” You might think the easy answer – and mine - would be “To determine the strongest Scottish player”. However, there are aspects of the current format that mean, whether intentionally or not, this is not how things are set up. Indeed I hope the thread will result in an articulation of current CS strategy and provoke debate on what it should be.

My perceptions
Using the three criteria of tournament attractiveness for top players I set out in the selection criteria thread i.e. a) Financial; b) Strength of Opposition and c) Achievements (titles etc):

A)      Financial – there are two aspects i.e. “conditions” for titled players (money and/or accommodation/travel) and prize fund. Pros/Semi-Pros have a living to make so need to work out their range of potential returns and consider the two in conjunction. Hence organisers shape strategy and the type of tournament with the spending choices they make.
In recent events, both the prize fund and conditions were set up in a way that favoured invited foreign players. CS effectively outsourced to pros from countries where the £ goes further and English pros with low expenses. As these pros were typically higher rated the expected return for Scots was low. In addition the prizes reserved for Scots only are a low 1st prize and nothing for 2nd! These factors have combined to take money out of the Scottish chess economy and disincentivise top Scots. At the same time I see little evidence that it has increased level of competition or achievement for Scottish players so I conclude the financial approach is flawed.
B)      Strength of Opposition – This is about assessing the likely profile of opposition, best expressed as average rating, and also if the best players are going to be there. Additionally In rough terms, IM norm seekers are looking for 2250+ and GM norm seekers are looking for 2400+.
Closed – a key advantage of a closed is average strength of opposition, known exactly for APA and within narrow parameters for small swisses, which is helpful to know and not just for norm seekers. In the closed format I normally expected to meet an average of 2250 – 2300 whether I was on form or not. This made these tournaments a challenge for all involved.
Open – Ambitious 2100+ players generally look for tournaments likely to give at least 2250+ opposition. A large field skewed towards lower rated players make this very unlikely. I have placed 2nd/2nd= in the race for the Scottish title in 4 of the last 5 Opens I played and my highest average opposition was just over 2100. Right down the tournament you see many mismatches and I’m unconvinced this leads to good competition and higher standards.
On my travels I have spoken with organisers of the world’s successful tournaments, not just the strongest. Each has the same approach to marketing their tournament - secure participation of key players a minimum of 9-12 months in advance and publicise it on the website. This gives a tournament its “buzz” and allows others to assess whether they it meets their needs, especially for norm seekers. Every year the CS noticeboard sees a number of requests for information about venue and invited players from aspiring players. Late notification meant events sometimes fell far short of what they could achieve.

C)      Achievements (titles etc) – Participants can only fight against those who enter. Winning the Scottish title means more when there is high representation of our highest rated players and they play each other. Experience of the new format shows that a random element for becoming Scottish champion was introduced with higher rated foreign players and the tiebreak. A successful strategy is to be in contention (not necessarily in the lead) going into the last two rounds and hope you get favourable pairings and play well. A number of favourites have stumbled in round 8 against a visitor and seen their chances disappear.

The format as outlined above means that many top Scots and norm seekers didn’t even come to the start line. Ostensibly foreign invited players are there to provide norms by attracting players between 2050 and 2400. As mentioned above the average rating of opposition is very important.  If the right profile - a solid base of norm chasing players as a reasonable proportion of the total entry - isn’t achieved and too often it wasn’t then norms become statistically unlikely and this suggests a poor use of finances.

The future
I’d like to congratulate the Dundee 150 Committee for showing what is possible by running a strong closed event in Scotland. It was well organised on many different levels with Jean quick to highlight the teamwork and different skill sets that contributed to such a successful event. Key points are that it is possible to market and find money for chess in Scotland but this requires quite a different skill set to day to day running.

Alex has run the Scottish, almost singlehandedly at times, for a long period and he does many things extremely well. He plays to his strengths (not fundraising and marketing) so the strategy for the Championship is less defined and more pragmatic.

I’m fully aware that CS is facing challenging financial times which makes defining a strategy more pressing. As noted on the selection criteria thread I believe that a pyramid structure is required if chess in Scotland is to flourish. As part of that, I would like to see a strategy for the Championship that has determining the strongest Scottish player at its core, ensures high level of participation of top Scottish players and focuses its funding on Scottish players.
There is not much that I disagree with in Jonathan's post.

I would be happy to see a 10 player All-play-all for the Championship and a strong Open tournament underneath it allowing title norm possibilities.   Ideally one or two of the places could go to players in the Grand Prix encouraging greater participation in Scottish Congresses.  This, of course would involve a significantly greater financial outlay than the current system.

About 2 years ago Ian Brownlee and I met with a professional fund-raiser to try to raise sponsorship.  That person subsequently had several meetings with the Board.  The end result is obvious.

Within the last few weeks Ian and I met with another professional fundraiser.  This person effectively rejected the invitation on the grounds that it would require too much work for too little reward to find a sponsor.

Almost all of the chess sponsorship I have been aware of has been as the result of a chess connection.  On two occasions this has been an historical association with chess by the company involved in another four cases it has been a high ranking official in the company who has been a former chess player.

I am more than happy to meet with anyone who thinks they can source finance for the Scottish.
It's a pity the all-play-all and Scottish championship were held concurrently. This happened in 1984 too. This prevented e.g. Andrew Greet becoming Scottish Champion and Player of the Year.
Good to know that the current Scottish champion and player of the year will be hopefully selected and trained for the Glorney next year by Andrew Muir.
Robin, Murad is too highly graded to be trained by me. However I can help with the rest of the squad. What he needs is to go and play in World & European Juniors and turn up on board 1 next summer armed with that experience and beat the English.

What makes you think that the top Scottish juniors like Murad will wish to play in the Glorney? After all, it's no more than a secondary event now. The real pinnacle events are the World Youth, Euroyouth and Under 16 Olympiad.

Yes, unfortunately top Scottish juniors have not played in the Glorney recently but cost must be a factor. Playing at home is much cheaper than abroad especially with the current lack of funding. Also if we compare with football, it's always a big occasion to play home internationals.

We also can win, with only 6 teams playing. We have much less chance when playing the whole of Europe or the whole world.

Murad has a few records/victories he may wish to add to e.g. Richardson Cup, Scottish Champion, Team Lightning, Player of the Year etc and the Glorney would be a nice addition.
On the contrary Andrew, it's much cheaper playing abroad at say the Euroyouth if you are a strong player and receive the funded place from the organiser.

"After all, it's no more than a secondary event now"
Maybe you should tell this to all those Juniors picked to represent Scotland for these events - really puts the privilege of selection into your perspective.

"The real pinnacle events are the World Youth, Euroyouth and Under 16 Olympiad."

Euro Youth: 4 - 15 September, Romania
World Youth: 16 - 26 September, Uruguay

Euro Youth: 19 - 30 August, Latvia
World Youth: 24 Oct. - 5 November, Greece
U16 Olympiad: 24 Nov - 3 December, Turkey

That's a lot of education being missed out at such a critical time in these juniors lives.

Bear in mind the wee thing called expenses and travelling as well, not just for these Juniors but the accompanying parent(s) as well.
First of all, we didn't send an official delegation to the Euroyouth 2017 despite having twelve fully funded places from the organisers and the events details and regulations being published on the Fide and ECU website a year in advance.

I have been to the World Youth, Euroyouth and Under 16 Olympiad. Schools have no issues whatsoever in giving children time off as long as they are representing their country at one of these pinnacle events, especially at younger age groups.

It can often be much cheaper to get a budget airline return to a continental pinnacle event than travel in a bus or train to a UK event. The difference is that at the pinnacle events overseas full board is provided.

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)