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11/07/2021

updated 12/07/2021

YCA AGM and Yorkshire League Restart

 

Arrangements for the new playing season usually start for many of us with the YCA AGM and arrangements for the new season’s Yorkshire League.  Many of us then have to wait a couple of months for the local league AGM and arrangements for the new season of the local league.  Thus it is that YCA Competition’s Controller Andrew Zigmond feels the need to do something about the (OTB) Yorkshire League of 2021-22, so kicking off the process.

 

Clubs in the Yorkshire league have been contacted by the YCA Competitions Controller regarding the possible restart of the over-the-board Yorkshire league.  The idea of any kind of YCA AGM has been put on hold for the moment by YCA President Jim Burnett, so some sort of YCA Executive meeting to discuss the subject was being considered.

 

At the present point in the development of attempts to ease Covid mitigation measures, and in view of the predictable developments in levels of infection and so on, this comes too early for many people.

 

It may be that chess at local-league level needs to fumble its way to “normality”, or the “new normality”, first, and that only then will it be feasible for the traditional Yorkshire league to follow.  Perhaps some sort of transitional format of Yorkshire over-the-board league season is needed.

 

A few members of the Executive, in responding to the idea of a meeting, took the opportunity to express views on how the YCA might proceed, for which see lower down the page.

 

Meanwhile, it rather looked as though there was not much enthusiasm for a face-to-face Executive meeting, and some felt it would not help, so the idea was rapidly knocked on the head, and Competitions Controller, Andrew Zigmond, is now looking at sending out an e-mail, shortly, to attempt launching a “normal as possible” Yorkshire League 2021-22 which is perhaps nearest to option B below, though very much will be determined by what teams ultimately enter, and there is likely to be a significant element of decision-making on the hoof.

 

So, clubs’ Yorkshire league contacts will probably soon receive an e-mail to set the ball rolling, though one feels that organisationally the “ball” may be more like a cube with rounded corners.

 

 

Below are the ideas expressed in responses to the proposal of an Executive meeting, first from the webmaster (Steve Mann) and then from the first team captain (Peter Ackley).  Whilst their circulation has now been superseded by the decision not to attempt to have a meeting, their content may be of interest.

 

All,

 

As things stand at the moment, I personally would not attend a face-to-face meeting or chess event in the foreseeable future.  I have a pre-Covid commitment to attend a wedding in August, and my other half has booked a one-day coach to Whitby a few days later, but they are exceptions to general principles.  I would be happier if I could get out of those activities!

 

In many ways a Zoom (or similar) meeting would be better than a face-to-face one, though that would need someone able to organise it – not currently part of my repertoire, though I have considered looking into it.  Some parties would be technologically ruled out of a Zoom meeting, while others would not attend a face-to-face one, and some would/could not engage in either.  You cannot win on that one.

 

The supplied summary of outcomes of the consultation is simply what we knew beforehand, which to me merely underlines the fact that in ever-changing circumstances it is far too soon to realistically expect people to come up with answers.

 

The handling of the epidemic is, we all must know, a simple clash between economic and health considerations.  It is in the nature of human society across most of the world’s population that money-based economic activity is necessary for survival, and that is why England is trying to emerge from restrictions which shackle the economy.

 

Intended changes in the law are simply shifting to preserving the economy, though the timing is being questioned.  As to Covid mitigation, people are effectively being told they may risk contracting Covid (and risk passing it on to others), placing arguably premature reliance on the benefits of vaccination.  Thus activities hitherto precluded by legislation will in effect be legal between consenting adults.

 

Those who through work confront Covid and the need for its mitigation (which does not mean prevention) are obviously more inured to high levels of contact with other people, and are probably in less-at-risk groups.  Of the others, many are not dependent on chess for their wellbeing, and so will not be taking up the government’s invitation to worsen the Covid pandemic in the near future.

 

With infection rates already rising again, even before they are further exacerbated by the next (”final” – for the time being) stage of easing of restrictions, it is now more difficult than ever to forecast what will happen, and so it is hardly a good point at which to make hard decisions regarding how the YCA should proceed.

 

We could attempt to launch a business-as-usual standard Yorkshire league season, but the structure would quite probably crumple under the uncertainties.  Unknown numbers of participating teams are obviously one problem.  There might be - - - . You could have - - - .  Then again, - - - . 

 

One approach (A) to organising a standard type of league programme would be to proceed relatively as normal, determining the league structure according to entries received by a closing date (and promotion acceptances/refusals where appropriate), perhaps building-in provision for late entries and late withdrawals.

 

Another approach (B) to organising a standard type of league programme would be to elicit from clubs what teams they currently intend to enter, and any they merely might enter (and promotion acceptances/refusals where appropriate), then to determine the league structure including both the intended and might-be entries received by the closing date.  Again, provision for totally out-of-the-blue late entries would be something to consider, though some such provision is already there in that some might-be nominations would fail to materialise and so create vacancies for the out-of-the-blue late entries to fill.

 

A more tailored approach (C) would be some kind of imaginatively structured transitional over-the-board team event for 2021-22, which had built-in provision to allow for the problems which are likely to hamper the organisation of a standard league programme, even providing for mid-season entries.  I have formulated no ideas on the nature of this approach.

 

Approaches A and B would take the final league tables for 2018-19 as their starting point for 2021-22.  If approach C were adopted, then a standard 2022-23 would probably take the final league tables for 2018-19 as its starting point.  On the other hand, in any of these cases a total rehash of the league structure might be necessary for 2022-23.

 

There are, seemingly, many players who are eager to engage once again in whatever form of over-the-board chess is allowed.  There are also many players, especially perhaps those from a more-scientific background, who are more sceptical as to the wisdom of jumping over a wall when there is no way of first checking what is on the other side.  Some players have declared their intention to “wait and see”.

 

Accepting that there exists the first-mentioned category of player, and that the law will probably permit some sort of “normal” OTB Yorkshire league event in 2021-22, allowing players to risk their own lives, and of course the lives of others, then the approach I see as most likely to work effectively is B, unless a viable approach C can be devised.

 

Currently we do not know what, if any, legal requirements or advice may come with the next (“final”) step in the easing process, scheduled now for 19th July 2021, but it is evident there is strong pressure for Covid-mitigation measures to be adopted, if only voluntarily, and for organisations and businesses to possibly impose their own such measures on customers and the like.

 

Thus questions arise such as whether the YCA should rule that players (and others such as spectators under the jurisdiction of YCA CMs) should wear face masks at matches.  The YCA could also rule that clubs must ensure that hand sanitisation at matches is provided for.  That makes it desirable that provision be made beforehand for dealing with breaches of these rules.  An alternative is to give advice or recommendations that such mitigations be adopted, but that wishy-washy approach opens up scope for arguments and disputes landing in the e-mail box of the Competitions Controller.  “If he’s not wearing a mask then I’m not playing,” and so on.

 

Such possible conditions imposed on the conduct of matches would best be determined before clubs are invited to nominate teams for 2021-22.  Of course, introduction of such rules for the Yorkshire League as such would be contrary to the Constitution and League Rules, which is just one reason why any OTB YCA team competition in 2021-22 would arguably best not be billed as the standard Yorkshire League as such.  Separate transitional arrangements would not be covered in the same way.

 

That’s what I think, anyway.  Feel free to differ!

 

Steve

 

Following on from that, Peter Ackley responded with his own views, which constitute a formulation along the lines of what was envisaged above as option C.

 

Dear All

 

We are the Yorkshire Chess Association, not the British Medical Association and, as such, our role is to promote chess in Yorkshire which meets the laws of the country.  As a result the plan we offer should be:

1.     To work with clubs to build a league which maximises the playing of chess in Yorkshire

2.     To ensure that all relevant non-chess laws are followed

3.     To use 1. to support 2.

 

1. Building a new league

 

Firstly we need stop trying to save 2019-20. It's dead.

 

We need to consult clubs around such areas as:

•       Interest in entering

•       Team volumes

•       Team sizes

•       Ideas on divisional compositions and splits (eg North/South)

•       Time limits

 

Once this is done we need to come together to agree a proposal to send to clubs for them to express interests.

 

We need to be clear that we will not be setting any non-chess rules.

 

2. Ensuring any non-chess laws are followed

 

The rules need to be clear that, until post-COVID, non-chess decisions will be based on the laws in place at the time.  Thus this:

•       Removes the need to re-write the laws every time the Government changes its mind

•       Avoids a hot topic and a contentious issue (you will see what I mean at the end of this email)

•       Avoids potential legal action where laws have been ignored or amended to the detriment of an individual

•       Puts the onus on clubs and individuals to follow said rules

•       Doesn't even get started on such things as vaccination (or what do we about people who haven't been vaccinated yet? vaccine refusers?) or exemptions (real or people who just lie)

 

Thus, assuming that the current laws of the 19th would apply, players would:

•       be personally responsible for deciding whether to wear a mask

•       be personally responsible for deciding whether to sanitise or not

 

Objections from clubs to the secretary can be ignored as the law would apply.

 

Using Steve's examples of masks etc if you had two players, one of whom was happy to play without one and one who wanted to then, for example:

•       the concerned player could wear a medical mask - made with filters they are £19 and last for 8 hours and are virtually 100% effective in preventing COVID transmission

•       the concerned player could wear gloves so would not come into contact with any potential COVID infection

•       the concerned player could sanitise all pieces and the clock before the game

•       the concerned player could request that no spectators watch the game from within a certain distance

 

Thus both players achieve their desired outcome whilst also following their own interpretation according to "personal responsibility".

 

3. Supporting the law through chess rules

 

Never the less we should consider amendments to the chess rules to allow supporting the law. Such ideas include:

•       Players have to provide contact details for the team sheet as well as names in case of the need for track and trace

•       Removal of penalties where teams are short at short notice (for example player intending to play had to isolate)

•       Removal of requirement to not use scorebooks (if one exists*)
In tournaments scorebooks are banned and scoresheets must be used.  If someone is trying to minimise contact with unknown items then using their own scorebook may work for them.  [*Not actually relevant to the YCA League. SJM]

•       Removal of requirement for handshakes (if one exists)

•       Waivers for board order discrepancies to accommodate players who have strong beliefs (two players who both want to wear masks? pair them)

•       Minimum board orders but the ability to increase if both teams so wish

•       North/South divisions to reduce travel times

 

Finally...

 

On a separate note whilst I respect Steve's views on how we should handle this I feel I must haul up the point that the reason for the relaxation of rules was economic.

 

Yes partly it was economic but it's not just the current economic situation but also the economic situation of the future which needs to be considered. Based on predictions I will be dead before the debt built up is paid off. Think about the scrimpings we will have to make every year to pay the debt back.

 

More importantly, though, is that politicians recognised the impact of the lockdown itself on individuals in some cases as being similar to that of COVID (and I am not trying to downplay the horrible effects of COVID). Politicians used examples of rising domestic violence, health issues (mental and physical).

 

From a personal point of view I know of people who have had severe COVID however I know of many more cases of:

•       divorce/separating, including the impact on children

•       mental and physical effects on adults and children

•       family issues (I lost the ability to see my father for the few months before dementia meant he didn't know me)

•       housing issues (including homelessness)

•       financial issues (as in someone who literally had no money and was facing a sleeping bag in a park)

 

Whilst we should not forget the losses and ongoing effects COVID is having on people it's too easy to say that masks, lockdowns etc are the solution without appreciating for some they are worse. On the news today, for instance, one person reported that they recommended mandatory mask wearing in all situations for at least two years. For some that's not an issue. For me, I find myself wondering what the point of continuing living in that situation is.

 

Peter

 

The trouble is, clubs will not definitely know to what extent they can participate in over-the-board chess until nearer the time.  That would be as much a problem if we assumed the existing league format can broadly continue to be used, as it would if we guessed it cannot and so went for a more radical approach such as Peter’s ideas in part 1 (Building a New League).  We may know what was best only after the event, with hindsight.  Organisationally, sticking with what we have is by far the easiest, and so pragmatically may be best.