Most leagues and protracted seasonal competitions for 2019-20 ground to a halt as a result of the Covid epidemic.
Some leagues were suspended in the hope of resumption and completion at a later date, while others were formally abandoned. That will leave gaps in lists of league winners, except at least in Sheffield, where the clubs agreed a calculated determination of the season’s winners on the basis of extrapolation of results of matches actually played, the calculated results proving not too controversial.
2020 Summer of On-Line Chess
The summer of 2020 saw a burgeoning of on-line chess at both team and individual level. Of course, not all players have any motivation to play on-line chess, so participation levels among existing chess-players has been low, though on the other hand a few “new” players have emerged.
March 2020 saw on-line chess for individuals being started, first at club level. A series of events started in Rotherham was expanded to the whole of the Sheffield & District Chess Association and then to the whole of Yorkshire.
April 2020 saw the launch of an on-line version of the 4 Nations Chess League (aka 4NCL), with 9 Yorkshire-based teams taking part, either under the White Rose flag or from clubs.
May 2020 saw Bradford & DCA launch on-line individual events running from 17/05/2020 to 07/06/2020, with 3 pools each of 7 players, all-play-all.
June 2020 saw the launch of on-line county chess. Unions’ 2019-2020 inter-county events had been largely unfinished, and over-the-board 2020 English Counties Championships were abandoned, so an on-line 2020 County Championship event was organised by the ECF, with Yorkshire managing to enter one team.
September 2020 saw an on-line “North versus South” match organised by the ECF (won by the North).
Although there was clearly no chance of normal indoor over-the-board league chess resuming for 2020-2021, Holmfirth club attempted a “pod chess” indoor league, and other clubs made attempts at holding meetings, but that was all rapidly nipped in the bud.
So, it was back to on-line chess.
August 2020 saw the start of the second on-line 4NCL team event.
2020 saw the Yorkshire Junior Chess Association successfully move its traditional “Grand Prix” events to the on-line format, which format may appeal more to juniors than to adults so that numbers of participants are not so heavily affected.
October 2020 saw the Hull & DCA launch an on-line team competition running from 27/10/2020 to 05/01/2020.
November 2020 saw an on-line U-18 inter-county competition run by the ECF, with Yorkshire entering a team.
November 2020 also saw the first (“pioneer”) Yorkshire on-line league event, which finished in January 2021.
December 2020 saw the first on-line British Championships, which ended in early January 2021 with some successes for Yorkshire players.
December 2020 saw Sheffield & DCA launch an on-line team league competition which ran from 03/12/2020 to 04/02/2021.
January 2021 saw start of the third on-line 4NCL team event.
March 2021 saw a new Yorkshire team event, the Farthing Cup, contested between four teams representing North, South, East and West Yorkshire respectively, played on line but with a view to possible transference in future to an over-the-board format.
March 2021 saw launch of Sheffield & DCA’s second (larger) on-line team league competition which ran from 11/03/2020 to 17/06/2021
April 2021 saw organised over-the-board-chess return in Sheffield, albeit outdoors, with 4-player events being played simultaneously at 2, 3 or 4 venues in the Kelham Island vicinity of Sheffield.
May 2021 saw the launch of the Bradford Chess Centre (in Ikley) with various mini-tournaments and events planned for June to August, including the Bradford & DCA’s Bob Burns summer event over five dates from 29/06/2021 to 17/08/2021.
May 2021 saw Harrogate Chess Club resume meetings, albeit informally, at Harrogate Cricket Club, with the aim of resuming at the usual venue, Apsley Grange, from 21st June, though that latter plan has obviously been delayed by the deferment of the last step of the governments “road map” to easing of restrictions.
23rd June 2021 saw the resumption of activity by York Junior Chess Club.
27th June 2021 saw Sheffield & DCA hold an outdoor Covid version of its annual “Hope Valley” 5-minute tournament. (This was an annual fun event run by Hope Valley Chess Club but open to all S&DCA players, the event being taken over by S&DCA when the said club ceased.)
Other chess clubs have doubtless resumed some form of low-level informal club activity, but gleaning detail from websites is not easy. Very little chess of any form appears to be occurring in Doncaster beyond individuals participating as individuals in externally organised on-line events. Calderdale, Huddersfield and Leeds are other areas from which no evidence of activity has been found, but that does not meet nothing has been happening in these places beyond individuals playing on-line chess in externally organised events.
Most clubs and associations are fumblingly thinking about how and when they might be able to resume over-the-board chess. Some clubs, and even the odd league, are likely to fold, not necessarily directly as a result of Covid, but due to Covid bringing to a head latent problems like finding somebody to carry on the work of increasingly tiring geriatrics.
The final step in easing Covid restrictions has now been delayed to 19th July 2021, and the government has confirmed this will not be moved to a sooner date, though equally there seems little chance of further delay.
There is government acknowledgement that this final step involves an element of accepting residual risk from Covid, and different members of the chess-playing community, and of society as a whole, may well respond differently according to age, background health considerations and so on, especially as the pandemic is continuing to evolve, still with lack of clarity as to its future course.