Wednesday 14 December 2016

Wisdom of the ageing

On thing that I have noticed on my various trips to the UK is that the average age of the players is significantly older than in Australian events. The generation that began playing as part of the "Fischer boom" is well represented, as is the next wave of players who followed the "English Chess Explosion" of the late 1970's and 80's. What is less prevalent is the hordes of primary aged children we do get in Australian events, with most junior players at the LCC being teenagers.
That is not to say there isn't a strong primary school chess scene in the UK, as there were large numbers of school groups visiting the London Chess Classic, but they were there as spectators, not as players.
Conventional wisdom might be that the lack of active primary players might be detrimental to the future of UK chess, but the numbers indicate that this might not be the case. Where the UK chess scene has it over Australia is in retaining active players. While Australia has a large junior pool, keeping them active beyond their late teens is the challenge. As a personal example, I began playing tournaments as a 16 year old, but in any event I play (or run), there would be very few players with careers as long as mine (35 years). On the other hand, I suspect a much larger percentage of UK players have been playing for that long, a figure that I would place as high as 50%
That is not to say that chess in the UK is just for oldies. But certainly they have succeeded in both developing new players,but more importantly, turning them into life long supporters of the game , something that Australia has been less good at doing.


Anonymous said...

In the UK, organisations like CSC are good at getting under 11s playing chess. What happens is that they almost all give up once they are 12 to 14. As this has been a problem for getting on for twenty years, there's a serious shortage of older teenagers and young adults, where "young" means under 40.

There are unlikely to be many school age juniors taking part in the FIDE Open, as it is still term time. There were many in the Weekend events though.

Had this event been taking place in 1976 rather than 2016, most of the players would have been under 30. Equally they would have been many of the same players as are taking part in 2016.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the problem is just simple burnout or other activities become more important. Chess is a lot of work and stress, especially if you want to be good. That commitment wears on people, and after a while they need a break. And having stopped, there's a good change they don't come back.