(This is a follow up to my March post "Why do we play chess?")
Having decided to play chess, the next logical step is to find someone to play chess against. Initially this may be a family member, a work colleague, or someone else who you are already in contact with who can play chess. While this is often a convenient arrangement in the short term, it often doesn't stand the test of time.
In my case my regular opponent was my father, until I began to beat him, at which point he decided that Backgammon was much more interesting. (To be fair to my father, he had already won the ACT Backgammon Championship a few years before he began to lose to me at chess).
Therefore there is a requirement to find other opponents. In the olden days (ie before 1985), the most obvious place was the local chess club, if one existed. In fact, it was about the only place you could find opponents, unless you took up correspondence chess. However, the development of chess computers, and then the growth of online chess, meant that you didn't need to go to a chess club to find useful opponents. This also had other benefits as well, in that you could play anonymously, protecting your fragile ego if you lost.
On the other hand, by not playing at a chess club you lose the social aspect of face to face chess. And by a rather circuitous route I've reached my answer to my initial question.
The main reason we have chess clubs today (as opposed to the past) is to provide a social environment for chess players. Having said that however, my belief is that a lot of chess clubs are failing to provide this. And consequently their numbers are starting to drop off.
While I'll continue this commentary at some point in the future, I'll suggest for now that for a club to increase it's numbers, it needs to revisit what demand it is trying to fill, and to see if that demand still exists.