Year Book 2019-20 Contents
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YCA AGM 2020
As everyone will have worked out, the normal YCA AGM in June will not be possible due to Covid-19 lock-down restrictions. YCA President Jim Burnett has contacted other YCA officials and asked if they are willing to remain in post beyond June 2020, and all have agreed so to do, except where there are uncertainties regarding two county captaincies. As regards resumption, one way or another, of Yorkshire League activity, decisions/consultations are currently on hold, while developments regarding the Covid-19 epidemic unfold.
The following are the webmaster’s own views.
Resumption of Yorkshire League Activity
There was some initial enthusiasm in some quarters for plans to be drawn up to be ready for a speedy resumption of YCA League activity, in some form, as soon as possible, once this became permissible again. However, such ideas are essentially on hold while a “wait and see” approach is adopted to see how things develop.
How and when League activity can resume will be determined by two considerations, (1) legal permissibility and (2) pragmatic feasibility.
Initial lock-down restrictions precluded normal over-the-board chess on virtually every criterion involved. “Easing” of lock-down has already started, and is due to continue with open-air markets and car showrooms being able to open from 1st July, and numerous indoor “non-essential” shops being able to open from 15th July.
All this easing of lock-down is subject to continued limitations of which a critical one is “social distancing”. The easing carries significant risk of slowing or even reversing of the decline in rate of new infections and of Covid-related deaths. Increased disregard for social distancing is already evident on television as crowds flock to English seaside resorts, so a re-tightening of lock-down restrictions could easily arise.
The inherent problem with normal over-the-board chess is that it is played indoors, typically with perhaps 5 other players (ones opponent and the players on boards either side) being closer than the social-distancing minimum of 2 metres. There is also the problem of opponents touching the same pieces, so that capture of an opponent’s piece could well involve the “capture” of some of the opponent’s viruses.
This means that except in the highly unlikely event that over-the-board chess can develop the same sort of “Covid-security” measures as we encounter when in-store shopping for food, then normal chess cannot resume until social distancing requirements are eventually lifted, or a reliable and safe vaccine becomes widely available. Both the latter two possible alleviations are possibly a very long way off, and the vaccine may even not happen.
Relaxation of lock-down restrictions will take much longer for indoor activities involving proximity of large numbers of people. September 2020 seems remotely conceivable, but very highly unlikely, depending on the degree of risk the government is prepared to countenance. March 2021 may well be over-optimistic. Some viral epidemics follow an annual cycle, so getting to understand Covid-19’s behaviour will take more than a year.
Running a chess team at the best of times throws up problems from time to time.
Finding a venue can be a problem, and pubs and clubs previously used as chess venues may have gone out of business by the time normal chess can be resumed.
Social distancing may persist in connection with public transport, making travel difficult for those without their own car.
Private transport with a driver taking other team members to the match may be precluded by distancing considerations.
The potentially most significant problem, however, might prove to be individuals’ concerns regarding their personal safety. Team chess may be permissible, but many players may still feel unacceptably exposed. The following are comments made by members of a local league committee during e-mail discussions of the way forward as the new season looms. (The conclusion was, “Wait and see.”)
This suggests that the earlier you resume normal chess, the fewer players will initially re-engage. Premature resumption might even force some players into retirement from chess. Then again, if chess had to resume later but under different conditions, those same players might well abstain. Thus, when things resume, it may need to be very much starting from scratch, with less players and hence less teams, and possibly with little continuity from what went before as regards league structure and so on, and some clubs may disappear completely.
Possible League Scenarios
Originally it had been hoped that some suspended leagues around the country might resume in the summer, possibly with a delay to the start of 2020-21. That seems now to be improbable.
If 2020-21 could be started in the autumn or even as late as the New Year, then it might be appropriate to leave 2019-20 unfinished, and start 2020-21 essentially from the same starting positions as for 2019-20, subject to teams dropping out or new teams coming in.
There is, of course, the possibility that if a league competition for 2020-21 was launched in late 2020 or early 2021, and then that in turn might have to be suspended as Covid-19 returned!
Taking a pessimistic outlook, the best one can hope for might be leaving 2019-20 unfinished, cancelling 2020-21 completely, and aiming for a 2021 AGM followed by a “normal” 2021-22 season.
In the meantime, on-line chess will doubtless take off, but there is the subtle point that the present on-line team competitions are mainly based on existing over-the-board clubs, and if those clubs disappear in time, then so perhaps will most on-line team chess, leaving players competing on-line as individuals.
The potential impact of Covid-19 on adult team chess may prove to be of the same order of magnitude as the impact the now-proverbial teacher’s strike had on school team chess.
Congresses are of course subject to the same Covid-related restrictions as league chess. The next Yorkshire congress which one might hope could take place is the Bradford Congress scheduled for 18th to 20th September 2020. Will it happen? Other congress organisers will be keeping an eye on Bradford’s fortunes.
Thereafter the next major Yorkshire congress due is the Scarborough Congress due to run from 23rd to 25th October. The organisers are cautious, and the website pragmatically says, “At the current time we still hope to be able to run the Scarborough Congress. Obviously, this will depend on restrictions in place at the time so please do not enter yet.”
Up in the North East, the Northumbria Masters scheduled for 27th to 31st August 2020 has been rescheduled for 17th to 21st February 2021, which would clash with the Doncaster Congress, though that would probably not be seen in Doncaster as a problem.