Anyone who has traveled by road between Sydney and Canberra has passed by the body of water known as Lake George. Although sometimes when you drive past, the lake isn't there at all. Lake George is one of the worlds "disappearing" lakes, one that alternates between full and empty. Why Lake George does this isn't known as yet, and most theories are either simplistic or unconvincing.
In the Canberra chess scene we have a similar phenomenon. Over the last 20 years Canberra has had 3 or 4 senior clubs in operation. At various times some clubs do well, while others do badly. Which clubs these are change over time, sometimes without clear reasons why. Over the last 5 or so years Belconnen Chess Club has been the largest club in Canberra, mainly fueled by a large number of juniors. 40 to 50 player events were common at the club, up until this year that is. This year has seen a marked decline in numbers with fields half the size of previous years. In part this can be attributed to the loss of experienced club organisers, but I'm not convinced this is the entire reason. Usually a (non-acrimonious) change in organisers doesn't drive people out of a club, although it may mean a club fails to attract new members. And from talking to players who still play at the club, nothing has happened to make the club a less attractive place to play.
In years past this might be explained by players moving to other clubs but again this doesn't seem to be happening. The Canberra Chess Club is in an almost terminal decline, while the ANU Chess Club is attracting new members from other areas. And while Tuggeranong chess club has had a good turn out over the past 18 months, its numbers are starting to slide as well.
So what is the cause? Is it that clubs can't expect players to keep turning up, and they need to continually "urge" members to come back next week? Is it that members are simply taking a "short" break, which then extends into a "long" break? Or is it an avalanche effect where the decline in numbers becomes a disincentive for remaining members to stay?
Opinions and comment on this question are most welcome.