Year Book 2019-20 Contents
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The tighter “social gathering” restrictions, which become law starting on Monday 14/09/2020, effectively preclude most organised over-the-board chess, though there is a chink of light in the blackout.
The key point is that “social gatherings”, whether indoor or outdoor, will from 14/09/2020 be limited by law to a maximum of 6 people, subject to various specific exemptions. For government directions, including the exemptions, see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do,
. . . and “No”, organised chess is not within scope of the phrase “organised indoor and outdoor sports” in the list of exemptions from the maximum of 6 people. That phrase encompasses only physical sports, and, as we have long known, chess is not recognised by government as a “sport”.
Whilst the ECF has not at the time of writing passed any comment on its website, the English Bridge Union has already published its assessment of the parallel problem in the bridge world, with essentially the same conclusions as drawn here.
Club nights are effectively ended unless attendance is capped at 6 members per night, and seem feasible only in public venues such as pubs, social clubs and community centres. Of course, all the required risk assessment and risk mitigation would still be needed, which would probably put off most already overworked organisers. An idea which some enterprising organisers might consider is Chess in the Park, in socially distanced non-intermingling groups of six, playing outdoors, with masks and gloves. Maybe not.
Holmfirth opened up a short while ago, but got closed down by the local Kirklees tightened restrictions. Harrogate opened up, but has now had to close down again after just one club night. Sheffield Nomads opened up, and has yet to advertise it will be closing down, so maybe they are going for the six-at-most option, which may well be all they were achieving anyway.
Congresses are precluded by the new restrictions. Most late summer and autumn congresses’ organisers had the sense to cancel long ago, and now those who could not or would not read the signs will be following suite.
Locally, the Northumberland Congress and Harrogate Congress, planned for late September and late October respectively, will presumably be advertised as cancelled in due course.
Team competitions organised by local associations, as well as those of the YCA, were already on hold, albeit subject to ongoing review. Under the new restrictions, most seasonal organised team chess which would be starting up around now will not be possible, unless teams are limited to three players. Three-player teams would mean the maximum of 6 people could be complied with, though there could be no non-playing captains. This means the envisaged Holmfirth “pod chess” mini-league presumably could still take place, once the area emerges from locally tightened restrictions in Kirklees.
A possible variation on 3-a-side team chess, to permit six-player teams, would be to have 3 boards played at one venue and 3 boards played at another one, so potentially adding a new meaning to the phrase “home and away” used in many sets of rules. Again, the same preparation as would be necessary for a 6-member club night would be needed.
On-line chess seems set to rule the organised chess scene for some time yet.