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01/04/2024

Year-on-Year Growth in Numbers of Rated Players

 

Below are numbers of ECF-rated chess-players in the downloadable monthly ECF rating lists analysed by speed of play, both for the list as a whole and for Yorkshire.

 

2023

2024

Apr-Apr

Apr

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

% Inc.

ECF

Std only

8,303

8,441

8,677

8,393

8,414

8,486

8,629

9,147

9,369

9,499

9,697

9,857

9,968

20.1

ECF

Std+Rap

6,153

6,358

6,659

6,887

7,144

7,254

7,451

7,818

8,115

8,444

8,830

9,169

9,400

52.8

ECF

Rap only

7,849

8,263

9,266

10,733

10,963

11,125

11,393

11,792

12,371

12,677

13,003

13,396

13,792

75.7

ECF

Total

22,305

23,062

24,602

26,013

26,521

26,865

27,473

28,757

29,855

30,620

31,530

32,422

33,160

48.7

Yorkshire

Total

3,006

3,036

3,068

3,163

3,197

3,211

3,263

3,392

3,464

3,487

3,533

3,604

3,646

21.3

Yorkshire

% of ECF

13.5

13.2

12.5

12.2

12.1

12.0

11.9

11.8

11.6

11.4

11.2

11.1

11.0

ECF

Blitz

1,793

1,913

2,072

2,268

2,539

2,690

2,965

3,126

3,184

3,317

3,454

3,648

3,720

 

The population of Yorkshire is very roughly 9.6% that of England as a whole.  The complete ECF list obviously contains some players from Scotland and Wales.  Also, the “Yorkshire” extracts published monthly on this website, whose figures appear in the table above, include players from neighbouring counties who play in Yorkshire leagues.  Nevertheless, the Yorkshire count for April 2023 as a percentage of the total list seems rather high at 13.5%.  Did Yorkshire recover from COVID faster than the rest of the country as a whole?  Did more hitherto exclusively on-line players take up over-the-board chess in higher relative numbers in Yorkshire than elsewhere?  Are the numbers too nebulous and ill-defined to mean anything? – probably!

 

What is clear is that whatever the weighting in Yorkshire’s favour, it was slowly but steadily waning.  In the rightmost column we see that from April 2023 to April 2024, the total number of ECF-rated players increase by nearly 49% but the Yorkshire total increased by less than 22%.

 

These comparisons between Yorkshire and the country as a whole lead to no clear conclusions, and can be bent to mean more or less whatever you want.

 

An inescapable “truth” seems to be that rapidplay chess has taken off in the spread of its appeal at a rate 3 to 4 times as fast as standard-rate chess.  The likely reason for this seems to be an expansion in junior chess.  Before the proverbial “teachers’ strike” (there was actually more than one) the cities and major towns had schools’ evening leagues, alongside the adult leagues, but these were played at standard rate whereas so much (most?) junior chess now is played at rapid rates.  The downloadable ECF rating lists specify no indications of age (or gender) meaning they provide no guide as to whether the burgeoning of rapidplay chess is due to an expansion in junior chess, but that seems at least part of the explanation, though another factor seems to be that would-be new congress organisers are perhaps opting more frequently for the simpler one-day rapidplay rather than a longer standard-rate congress.

 

A seemingly modern innovation is “blitz” chess.  This seems to be a reworking of the old lightning chess (played with a 10-second buzzer), upgraded to take advantage of modern timekeeping technology.  The Yorkshire Chess Association used to run annual individual and team lightning championships, and Ilkley Chess Centre plans to run a “Yorkshire Blitz Championship” (seemingly open to those outside Yorkshire, so not quite eqivalent).  There were never grading/ratings for lightning chess, but the ECF now rates blitz chess.  Included above, therefore, are monthly totals of people with ECF blitz ratings.  Currently, 3,720 players have an ECF blitz rating of whom 228 (6.1%) are “Yorkshire” players.  (The above blitz totals are separate from the standard/rapid totals.  Some but not all players with blitz ratings will have standard and/or or rapid ratings.)