I am proud to put forward Halesowen Chess Club for consideration for Club of Year 2016-17.
Halesowen is part of the ‘Black Country’ in the West Midlands, located west of Birmingham, and part of Worcestershire. Halesowen Chess club was formed in 1974 and now competes in four different leagues, fielding 15 teams in the season just finished. We meet on Tuesday and (during the League season) Thursday. Much more detail can be found on our website, www.halesowenchessclub.org.uk
The three main factors that have prompted our submission for the ECF Club of the Year award are:
· Culture: First and foremost we are an all-inclusive club whose primary focus is playing and enjoying chess - regardless of gender, age or experience
· Juniors: We actively encourage and support juniors, both at the club and elsewhere. The club is aware of safety and welfare issue and has appointed a Child Protection Officer
· Results: The club has had an exceptionally successful year. In addition, members have performed well in representative matches for county and country and also in individual competitions.
We are a friendly and welcoming club. Despite having a very small catchment area, many of our members travel from much further afield to be a part of our chess family. We exist first and foremost to play chess with friends. We are competitive but winning trophies, when that happens, is just an added bonus. We play for the enjoyment of the game rather than to win at any cost. We are flexible with opposing clubs and regularly agree to rearrange matches at short notices. Claiming victories by default is not our way. In the season just finished, 21 of our 135 league matches were subject to rearrangement, of which only four of the matches were at our request. We agreed to postpone an already delayed match at 24 hour’s notice even though a win by default would decide the division title in our favour.
We hate defaulting games, it’s rude to the opposition in our view. The great attitude at the club means we’re rarely in this position as someone will always step up to fill a seat. Of the 670 Winter League games in 2016-2017, we only defaulted one game (26 were defaulted against us).
We’re not just about league chess. On our main club night there will always be friendly games in progress. We all get involved, especially in the summer when we run fun events such as: pairs competition; chess variants evening; a tandem-simultaneous; and lightning tournaments. In the past we’ve also held ‘demo-board’ nights, run by some of the stronger players.
Most important of all, the membership cares about how the club is run. The club’s AGM is well attended, with the most recent one attracting over half of the membership. And amongst all the reports of success (see below) the biggest applause was reserved for an announcement by one of our members in his early 30’s, who we’ve known for over 10 years, that he will become a father later this year. It’s just that sort of club
There are currently 40 members of the club with ages from under 10 to over 80. Six are juniors. To promote games available for juniors we earmarked two of the teams we entered in local leagues as ‘just for kids’, only filling boards with other members due to unavailability or to assist with transportation of our junior members to away matches. Juniors played 80% of the games in these teams and an eighth of all club games in the season just completed.
We’ve had an incredibly successful season. We fielded teams in the Birmingham (4 teams), Wolverhampton (4), Worcester County (3) and Dudley (grading limited) (4) Leagues. We won the League titles in all three Open leagues, the first time this feat has been achieved by any club. The Birmingham first division was widely acknowledged as being as strong as it has ever been, so a particularly pleasing season to win. The Wolverhampton League was won with a 100% score, the first such score for over 50 years. We also won Birmingham Division 5, Wolverhampton division 3, Worcester County Division 2 and Dudley Division 2 (7 division titles in total).
Club members have had successful seasons outside of the club. Keith Arkell was part of the World over 50 team championships, helping England to win two bronze medals, as well as many successes on the weekend chess circuit. Finlay Bowcott-Terry (11) and his brother Silas (9) have both contributed to the club and to the county junior teams. Finlay has also debuted with distinction in the County first team, the JNCL and the 4NCL. Silas was the joint County U-9 champion. We were all delighted that soon to be 80-year-old Windsor Peck won a Birmingham rapid-play grading section in February. Nick Arkell has continued his successful return to chess after almost 30 years away by qualifying for the British Championship.