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09/08/2021

ECF Award for Contribution to Online Chess

 

The ECF makes annual awards under various categories.  This year the categories under which awards were made were:

 

President’s Award for Services to Chess

Contribution to Accessible Chess

Contribution to Women’s Chess

Contribution to Online Chess

Contribution to Junior Chess

Club of the Year

Congress of the Year

 

At least two other categories under which such awards have been made in the past spring to mind; it could be that categories have been withdrawn, or that the nominees were not deemed good enough, or of course that there were no nominations!

Parliamentary Questions,

This might all seem rather boring, but for the fact that scrutiny of the list reveals that Oliver Brennan, of Rotherham Online, won the “Award for Contribution to Online Chess”; for which there is a trophy – presumably an individually bespoke one you keep.  Two citations were submitted recommending Oliver, one by Peter Catt, who, as a retired newspaper sports reporter, has some experience of writing by the ream, and the other by Daniel Sturman of Woodseats, which was short and sweet.

 

The webmaster did a few off-beat things while in the Civil Service, such as providing the detail for answers to two Parliamentary Questions.  He also acted as Divisional Honours Secretary, which involved the initial assessment of public nominations for UK Honours (OBE, MBE etc), and even wrote the final citation (when the SEO who should have done it got bolshie), which got past the SPADS at No. 10, and was on the list duly submitted HM.  (Does she ever turn down any nominations submitted to her?).  From that perspective, I can commend Peter Catt’s citation for Oliver, which is a very important first hurdle in such a process, to capture the interest of the adjudicator.

 

The following is Peter’s citation:

 

I would like to nominate Oliver Brennan, from Rotherham Chess Club, for the ECF Contribution to Online Chess Award.

 

When the country was hit by the Covid pandemic all OTB chess in South Yorkshire ground to a halt like the rest of Britain, in March last year.

 

Oliver, who is an IT specialist, immediately set up Rotherham Online using the Lichess platform to enable local players to continue to play the game.

 

He had modest ambitions and was hoping initially to attract about a dozen members.  But 39 players entered the first Championship in April - a six round tournament over six weeks with a 30mins+30secs increment per move time limit per game.  Competitors had a week to arrange their game for each round at a mutually agreed time and date.

 

Since then participation in the tournaments has snowballed.

 

Rotherham Online currently has over 80 members, and more than 150 players from all over the country (mostly Yorkshire) have taken part in Oliver's tournaments at various times.

 

In addition to the regular six rounds Championships, there have been evening blitz and rapid tournaments, a one day Congress and a recent 8-rounds Rapid tournament (15mins+10secs increment, one game per week) that attracted over 60 entries.  It was won by a very strong Malaysian student from Sheffield University, who had played the odd game in previous tournaments on his laptop while back home and travelling on a bus!

 

Several other strong players have taken part in the tournaments including Oskar Hackner, who has represented England in the World Youth championships, and top British blind player Chris Ross, from Northampton.

 

At the other end of the scale there have been players graded under 100 ECF, and divisional tournaments were introduced - Premier, Major, Intermediate and Minor - to cater for players of all abilities.

 

The age range of participants also varies from almost 80 to a promising 10-year-old.

 

It has also attracted players whose only previous experience has been online tournaments and some complete beginners to competitive chess.  Several of these have expressed a desire to play OTB league chess in future when things hopefully return to normal.

 

Many of the players, like myself, were fairly new to online chess and some had difficulty navigating the system to register for tournaments.  But Oliver has always been incredibly patient and helpful in assisting them to become more confident users of the system, which he has made many improvements to over time.

 

He also adapted the Slack workplace system to enable players to communicate with each other and arrange games.  This has proved invaluable for some, not just in chess terms, and enabled them to chat to each other during periods of isolation.

 

Players who have been ill and retired from OTB chess have also taken part and one mentioned to me recently that he had enjoyed watching some of the games as much as playing.

 

For all these reasons and more I would like to nominate Oliver for keeping the game alive for so many people during such a difficult time.  I believe he has completely fulfilled the award criteria in terms of developing the content and services for online players by making it easier for them to challenge and accept challenges for matches.

 

If you click on the link at the end of my submission you will see how participants can check on fixtures and results with up-to-date tables of all competitions.

 

There is a Fair Play pledge which players must sign up to before entering competitions and Oliver has a couple of helpers when it comes to settling disputes and ensuring any attempts at cheating are monitored and dealt with.

 

Oliver has also made it easy for other players to watch the games and has continually developed and improved the website.

 

Please check out this link: https://lichess.org/team/rotherham-online-championship.

 

Well done Oliver!

 

 

(See https://www.englishchess.org.uk/ecf-awards-2021-and-citations/ for the full list of award winners and citations.)