Russell Sherwood Sunday, December 31, 2017
I was recently discussing the direction of CC with a number of friends recently. Whilst this conversation ranged over a number of areas one that came that was a little different was that of CC organisations themselves.
In general, there are far fewer Correspondence Chess players than 10 or 20 years ago. Much of this was , I believe, down to a failure of most CC organisations to develop effective strategic plans to deal with three disruptive changes: (1) The transition from Postal to Email and eventually Server based play (2) The rise of the Internet and the proliferation of playing opportunities/sites and (3) The rise of the Chess Engine. This then left the organisations scrambling to respond to the changes and many struggled. Take the response to Chess Engines. Many organisations attempted to ban their use, which felt like Horse owners banning the Automobile, rather than looking how to integrate their use or develop dual streams of play. Again short term, knee-jerk responses.
So how does a forward-thinking CC organisation move forwards and plan strategically to enhance its chances of long-term survival? This is the money question but a few areas do seem to answer at least partial answers:
Typically the modern CC player will most likely want to play on their phone? Can you site offer this? Is your site optimised for viewing on a phone?
A modern player will want an almost instant response – enter a tournament now, I want to see my name on the waiting list, not wait a day for someone to get back to me.
Do you have an active recruitment policy or strategy? If not then you are missing a trick. You will always lose a number of players each year and need new blood to come in. If these players are not being sought and you are relying on “word getting around”, then the long-term direction will be downwards.
The typical CC player is now a pensioner. This needs to change otherwise time will continue to reduce numbers. So how to change this trend. A few thoughts:
Junior CC Tournaments – Most CC organisers tend to roll their eyes due to the high dropout rates. The key to successfully navigating this is to see things through “the eyes of the customer”. One potential area is to consider why the dropout rates are so high; perhaps rapid time controls are the key
OTB Players – Since the Mid-Nineties CC has had an uneasy relationship with OTB players and organisations, mainly due to a large number of misconceptions and downright wrong ideas about CC and Engine use in particular. Any Literature needs to address these issues. OTB and CC are different, in a similar way to the 100m and Marathon being different Athletics disciplines. The same goes on about “paper” titles – again the point being that a GM Title in CC, makes you, well nothing, in OTB and visa-versa. Again some people get excited about this issue but I see it is no different to my 2nd Dan in Karate being different to my 1st Kyu in Judo – both are martial arts but both are different.
The key here is to recognise and push the benefits of CC to OTB players, which a number of documents do well and not become embroiled in a number of repetitive arguments, typically from people who want to troll a discussion.
Non-Chess Players – This may seem an odd-group, but there are parallel pursuits, which promote, Logic, use of Technology and competition. Determining this could yield results
How much variety does your organisation offer in terms of events, time controls, prizes…… If you have to think about it, then probably not enough!
CC does not have to be expensive. Whilst free as a price should be avoided for many reasons, the general pressure on your event costing should be downwards.
This is just a sample of thoughts on developing a strategic direction for a CC organisation. Some people believe even considering this approach is too professional for volunteer organisations, personally having applied it regularly in my Professional life and in a number of volunteer organisations (large and small) over the years I can say those who did it fared much better than those who did not!